Awesome mobile apps, the enterprisey take 2

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed June 2, 2014
When we left off in 'Kickass mobile apps – an enterprisey take', I was bemoaning the state of enterprise mobility.

But all is not lost. In a recent world tour of the best mobile apps, Gartner uncovered some clues to widespread mobile adoption. Here's my take.

When we left off in Kickass mobile apps - an enterprisey take, I was bemoaning the state of enterprise mobility and extolling the virtues of category-busting mobile apps.

My review was inspired by content from  Ian Finley, VP Research at Gartner, who presented his global research in a webinar entitled 10 Mobile Apps that are Changing the World.

Let's pick up where we left off  - with some additional use cases and final thoughts.

Leverage mobile computing power (and sensor technology)

Rationale: There are sensors and intelligent objects all around us. We need a way to interact with them. Mobile apps provide an ideal interface when we are in the field. With the computing power of today's smart phones, possibilities are extensive - such as rethinking health care services.  Ultrasounds in the field are just one scenario, which could have real impact in poor areas, or expanding services to new populations. These medical device trends use the mobile phone to provide the main interface and computing power.

Enterprise relevance: high

myPOV: Google paid a very handsome sum for Nest 'learning thermostats' to make an Internet of Things play. In the Nest case, we can see the history of the device, see plenty of data on usage trends, and control those devices remotely. Most of these so-called 'smart devices' won't have the computing power of the mobile phone, which becomes the defacto remote control to manage an array of devices. Yes, the privacy concerns are hair-raising in some instances, as the tradeoffs between security and invasive monitoring become a pressing matter.  But in cases like Remotosope's medical diagnostics, there's plenty to learn from here.

Sample apps: AcrossAir, Remotoscope

Liquidate immediate inventories

Rationale: Despite the many discount travel sites, mobile creates room for even more immediate promotions. Many travelers are not at the desk when making last-minute travel decisions. Mobile provides an ideal outlet to move inventory quickly.

Enterprise relevance: high

myPOV: Mobile has potential to remake or extend 'last mile' processes. And: mobile is particularly ideal for monetizing perishables. As Gartner's Finley points out, there is a market disruption principle here that companies can seize. Basically, anywhere there are buyers and sellers who are out on the town and not in their cubicles, there may be a chance to create new marketplaces for on-demand bidding and purchases.

Sample apps: Hotel Tonight, Uber, CheckInTonight, and sites like eBay shifting to mobile transactions.

Meet 'one second gratification' need

Rationale: Sometimes you have an immediate need that requires instant gratification or even an emergency notification. Mobile is an ideal platform 'five second apps', but one button design and extreme reliability are a must. Example: Fightback is an app originally developed for Indian markets that allow women to immediately ping a group of friends and family when they are in trouble. In theory, these loved ones are closer to your exact location than law enforcement. The app itself can be a threat deterrent.

Enterprise relevance: low-to-medium

myPOV: When you have an urgent need, or only have a second or two, you can design a mobile app to meet that need. In my view, the 'one button' design simplicity required for such apps can be instructive for other application scenarios that are less immediate, but can benefit from the same dedication to simplicity.

Sample apps: FightBack, SnapChat, Panic Guard

Expand reach into new, mobile-only markets

Rationale: What happens when the Internet is down but services are desperately needed? Enter The Serval Project, a 'mesh' (peer to peer) network that can function even when cell phone towers are down. Another appeal of mesh networks? You can use approaches to organize beyond the purview of centralized authorities. But other areas are not easily accessible, even in the best of times. Mobile provides an ideal way to extend services reach into such markets.

Enterprise relevance: high

myPOV: 'Go where the need is greatest' is not just good global citizenship - it can lead to breakthroughs. Example: in developing countries, lack of banking infrastructure has forced the hand of innovation, leading to smart mobile banking apps, including some that function solely with text messaging (no smart phones needed). Den covered angles on this in two videos from his South African forays, Understanding Africa with Simon Griffiths and Banking for the unbanked with Standard Bank South Africa.

Sample apps: Serval Project, Nokia Life, PesaPal, M-Pesa

Capitalize on digital currencies and digital business models

Rationale: Bitcoin Wallet and beyond. Think digital products and services - what happens when we design business models from a purely digital point of view?

Enterprise relevance: low

myPOV: While thinking about digital-only business models can prod the imagination, right now, enterprise are best served thinking about pulling digital transactions into a so-called 'omni-channel' approach that provides a coherent and, hopefully, personalized experience across channels.

Sample apps: iCitizen, MagicBricks


It's now widely understood that simply porting existing functionality to mobile is at best a stop gap, and more often than not, a failure.

As you can see from my 'enterprise relevance' grades, I don't believe all these nifty mobile apps, as creative as they are, are instantly applicable to the enterprise. But they show what an upstart mindset can accomplish. And they offer clues to something few enterprise mobile apps can claim: wide scale adoption.

These apps aren't necessarily sexy from a look and feel standpoint. Sexy on mobile is still about getting things done, or being entertained even when your signal strength is shoddy.

A few final bullets for enterprise mobile shops:

  • simplicity is whipping completeness
  • smart phones have enough computing power for potent accessories and sensors
  • buyers and sellers on-the-go present new options for quick marketplaces
  • expanding enterprise reach means rethinking pricing for mobile access
  • mobile lets you invade competitors' physical storefronts with online appeals
  • mobile fuels media consumption, which is about experiences and entertainment, not tiny billboards
  • personalization wins - as long as privacy controls are transparent
  • data security is a lousy excuse to do nothing

I expect by the same time next year I'll be able to fill such pages with enterprisey apps. Let's see how optimistic that is.

Image credit: Seal of Approval from the smartphone © sandrex -

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