Kickass mobile apps - an enterprisey take

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 16, 2014
Ian Finley of Gartner sourced the best mobile apps from across the globe. Here's my enterprisey take.

Couple photographed on a cell phone skyscrapers of Hong Kong
Compared to their consumer counterparts, enterprise mobile apps continue to suffer from a profound lack of imagination. Yes - overall design is getting better, due to a focus on device-specific apps and developers, but we could use a much wider idea net.

Perhaps that's what motivated Ian Finley, VP Research at Gartner, to poll his global network for their best examples of what I'd call kickass mobile apps. He pared those nominees down into ten categories and presented them in a webinar entitled 10 Mobile Apps that are Changing the World,

Finley's examples were provocative - a reminder of the mobile innovation coming from 'mobile-first' geographic regions or the gaming industry, which has learned that sexy look and feel is not always the key to mobile addiction in its purest state (see: Flappy Bird).

Though some of Gartner's examples were enterprisey, I found that myself thinking around a few corners: what can the enterprise learn from superlative mobile apps? I broke Finley's review into nine of my own categories. For each, I'll present his rationale for selection, and then I'll provide a rating and commentary on the enterprise viability of each mobile category.

Networks over command-and-control

Rationale: Mobile' reach has extended well beyond the desktop - ideal for networked organizations and perhaps even for revolutions, such as social media's role in organizing the Egyptian revolution in 2011. Finley isn't arguing that enterprises should build their own Twitter or Facebook, but he's making the point that these trends 'turn PR and marketing inside out' - because you can no longer exert the same control over messaging.

Enterprise relevance: medium

myPOV: Gartner coined this mobile trend as 'start a revolution'. I wouldn't go that far, but Twitter and Facebook are primarily mobile applications now. On the political front, it's becoming harder for central authorities to control media; the same is true for enterprises attempting to control messaging and brand perception. This has lesser implications for mobile app development, but it does have massive implications for marketing departments.

Sample apps: Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp

Go where your customers are - even in your competitors' storefronts

Rationale: Price-checking apps like Amazon Price Check up the ante - you can no longer count on

controlling the customer experience even in your own store. Don't surrender - return the favor by creating 'indispensable' apps that provide customers with needed functionality on the go.

Enterprise relevance: high

myPOV: Bingo - though to become indispensable you may have to think beyond e-commerce and provide broader resources, or yes - even cost comparison tools that include your competitors.

Sample apps: Amazon Price Check, ShopSavvy, GasBuddy (pictured right)

Entertainment -> audience -> engagement -> sales

magic places
Rationale: Games and media consumption consistently garner the highest traffic on mobile platforms, while advertising struggles. Finley cited the example of a Angry Birds Magic Places (pictured left), a version of Angry Birds available only in China, where players can get additional game credits at McDonald's locations.

Enterprise relevance: medium to high

myPOV: Finley suggests that 'Make people happy' is a valid means to a mobile end, and he's not far off. He cites another example, a South American mobile apps, Coca Cola FM, a popular music service with limited Coke advertising, with a focus on providing a great experience and earning brand trust. Starting with 'let's entertain' and working backwards is not in the mobile comfort zone for most enterprises, but the approach has merits.

Sample apps: iTunes, Pandora, TED, Coca Cola FM, Hulu Plus

Gamify - make work more fun

Rationale: Finley cites examples such as the Race Yourself app, where you can choose from 30 fitness games, including being stalked by zombies (pictured below). He argues that mobile is an idea platform for gaming, and the goal behind this should be to make work more fun.


Enterprise relevance: low to medium

myPOV: I'm a gamification curmodgeon. Show me a repetitive enterprise task, and I'll show you a workflow that is ripe for automation or outsourcing - not gamification. Making work fun is still a worthy goal for the mobile enterprise, but I'd put it after 'make work convenient.' If I'm on the couch at home approving workflow requests on my iPad, I care less about whether I'm being chased by zombies and more about app performance, ease of use and connectivity.

Sample apps: Strava, DietBet

Note: I complete the kickass mobile apps series in part two on awesome mobile apps, boil down some final enterprise lessons then.

Image credit: Couple photographed on a cell phone skyscrapers of Hong Kong © petunyia -

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