MobileBeat: Better looking enterprise mobile apps? Hurry up and wait

July 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — But many of the panelists and audience members expressed frustration that enterprise apps haven’t advanced sufficiently already to take advantage of the new generation of mobile devices, saddling users with clunky, hard-to-use interfaces.

In fact in a survey of the audience here of several hundred people at the MobileBeat conference, no one raised their hand in the affirmative when asked if their company had a plan in place specifically for mobile app development. (TabTimes is a media partner of MobileBeat).

It’s a key issue because today’s workers increasingly spend more time out of the office and have to rely on their smartphone or tablet to stay connected.

“In some ways we’re back to the dial-up days; we’re accessing the Internet from hotel rooms and parties without a big pipe,” said Ketan Anjaria, Founder of CardFlick.

For that reason Anjaria says that while great design is important the key to creating a great mobile app is one thing, speed.

“If you have a beautiful user experience, but it takes ten minutes to do anything, who cares?” said Anjaria.

For app designers, he recommends thinking about how to create an app that lets the user do the least amount of work. “I want to push a button and be done,” he said.

Jaan Orvet, Head of Creative, at Nansen, said enterprise mobile apps are about where we were in 1984 when the Mac first introduced most of the world to pull down menus and the mouse interface. “But there’s a new understanding and eventually we’ll see change,” said Orvet. He thinks the advantages of being able to touch and swipe on a tablet device to get things done are too compelling to be ignored by enterprise developers.

Accessibility is also getting easier with the move to cloud computing. Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk said that in the next five to 10 years 90% of enterprise apps will move to the cloud. “You’ll outsource the maintenance of enterprise apps,” said Svane. “There is a new paradigm of the way apps work thanks to the internet.” β€¨Svane says a growing number of IT shops are becoming more comfortable with cloud apps as they come to realize they can get the same level of security as internally-hosted apps.

Tim Lee, a partner with Sequoia Capital, said there is some “inertia” in the enterprise when it comes to developing for mobile devices, but he sees that changing. “Things can change quickly,” he said. “Just look at the replacement cycle for mobile devices every 24 months or look at how many Dropbox accounts there are in companies that IT doesn’t even know about.

Lee said the iPad showed that a key for getting corporate acceptance is to convince the CEO or other top level execs to use the app. “You look at the iPad, it started at the C level and worked it’s way down.”

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