9 steps to pinpoint workflows that will benefit enterprise apps

June 20, 2014

It’s a common pitfall for an organization to take existing web systems and move them to a smaller screen as apps. Unfortunately, these kinds of apps don’t really deliver incremental value. That’s because they often don’t take into account the different workflows mobile workers need to get the job done.

It’s very likely that someone using apps in a mobile setting needs to do different things in a different order than the person sitting at a desk.

Take metal and supply chain solution distributor A. M. Castle, for example. The organization’s inside and outside sales teams function differently from each other. The obvious apps would have focused on the sales team in the field. A price quote tool, for instance, seems like a great resource at first.

Instead, A. M. Castle decision makers did the work on proving the value of their apps. They found that the biggest impact could be made equipping the inside sales team with better tools. A mobile-first redesign (and subsequent suite of apps) for the organization’s slow inventory-and-order-management web apps was the better option. It cut time spent using web apps by a startling 96 percent.

To find apps that are right for your organization, you first need to identify how work is done. By analyzing current workflows, problem points become apparent. You can begin to see the inefficiency of certain workflows and pinpoint where mobile apps can help streamline processes.

(Submit your best business and enterprise apps to the Tabby Awards /Business 2014 competition – Now welcoming submissions)

Here are nine steps that will help you analyze workflows and identify opportunities to build the right apps, not the most obvious apps:

Step 1. Break work routines into steps. Divide the major pieces of a worker’s week into overarching categories—the main tasks that go into completing a process. For example, the tasks for sales may include cold calling, face-to-face meetings and writing proposals.

Step 2. Record the number of times a workflow is performed in a period. Some workflows are repetitive, while others may occur once or twice a month. Recording how often a worker typically performs these tasks is important for understanding time commitments and where major efficiency improvements might be made. For example, being able to reduce the number of follow up face-to-face meetings can speed the sales process and give sales reps more time for other tasks.

Step 3. Estimate how much time each workflow takes. Saving time means saving money and freeing up resources to drive more revenue. Understanding just how long each of these workflows takes will help identify where workflows can be streamlined. Look at the time a single workflow takes, then multiply that by the number of times the workflow is performed to get a true picture of its time investment.

Step 4. Split steps into actions. Break down workflows further into the actions that make up a workflow. For example, a face-to-face meeting might include preparing material, driving to the meeting, meeting with the prospect, and follow up.

Step 5. Identify everyone with a role in each action. Look for workers in supporting roles—people preparing reports, consulting on projects, performing administrative tasks, etc. Mobility sometimes frees up supporting workers from workflows owned by people in other roles.

Step 6. Locate where actions take place and the travel involved. Transit can take up a significant amount of time. This is an especially important concept for field service organizations. Every service call costs money. Remote diagnosis of problems or self-service capabilities for the customer can offset this. Estimate the cost of the travel: how much time is spent in transit, and gas and vehicle costs.

Step 7. Estimate how much time each action takes. You already understand how long each workflow takes, now calculate the time needed for each action that makes up a workflow. The goal is to get an average for most actions. If you don’t have much to go on, estimate the percentage of time needed.

Step 8. Estimate how often the workflow is performed successfully. What percentage of these workflows actually yields bottom-line success? In some cases, almost every workflow accomplishes its goal. In others, there may be a very low completion rate.

Step 9. Record the costs involved in each action. Record any recurring costs outside of the worker’s pay—materials, gas, consultants, etc.–to get a full picture of costs associated with a workflow.

Record your findings on a spreadsheet and you’ll quickly be able to identify the workflows that take up time and money. This is the launching point for a discussion about which mobile apps can make the biggest difference for your organization.

A free chapter of Billion Dollar Apps” can be downloaded at returnonapps.com. The print book can be purchased from amazon.com, and is available as an iBook on iTunes.


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