The need for a new approach
More and more opportunities have been arising in recent years for Salesforce consultancies and solution providers to build enterprise mobile applications. Unfortunately, for various reasons, they’re often either having to turn these prospective clients down, or are taking on the projects and failing – and this is happening far too often.
This can largely be attributed to a lack of available guidance when it comes to the more intricate requirements of these apps, and more importantly, what is takes to deliver them successfully.
Due to our position within the market, we’re seeing this problem take shape first-hand every day here at MobileCaddy. In working with some of the leading businesses within the Salesforce ecosystem, we’re learning just how difficult it is for consultancies to deliver on the growing demand for more impactful mobile applications, and a much higher volume of them, in order to meet the needs of their clients.
Using our experience of helping ease the pain of this inevitable trend, we’ve defined five distinct classifications for mobile apps, which will allow consultancies to evaluate their suitability for such opportunities and react accordingly. To succeed in overcoming this challenge, those involved must begin to separate each mobile app they come across into one of these five ‘Classes’, and evaluate each prospect based on their overarching definitions. So, what are the current Classes of mobile apps which have emerged over the years?
The evolution of enterprise mobile apps
Industry Example: Salesforce Classic Mobile
In their earliest iterations, business users only had access to apps which were almost entirely limited in functionality to a way of simply reading or consuming information.
These apps were mostly number or text-based conceptually, with very basic use for storing and viewing content, and would not be built with any speed or efficiency in mind.
Design principles and ease-of-use would have been almost completely absent from these apps, as they would have most often been the result of taking a desktop interface and smashing it down into the smaller screen of a mobile device, with no consideration for differences in specifications.
Industry Example: Salesforce Chatter
Class 1 was followed quickly by apps which served as a means to communicate and collaborate, opening doors for sending and sharing information from one device to another.
This would mostly occur in the form of using email on a mobile device, but would have included other forms of file or content sharing, some direct messaging, and so on.
With the introduction of these apps, users were able to create new new things, and update existing information, meaning there was generally more time spent on task whenever an employee would open an app. This shift drove mobile productivity further as it meant users were able to do much more in a mobile working context than before.
Industry Example: Salesforce1
The most common apps for business users today are still those in Class 3, which allow the completion of specific professional tasks to be translated into the context of a mobile device, via an app.
This has produced some more dynamism in the user interface (albeit still very little), and facilitates interaction with other systems, but the apps themselves are still extremely limited in capability.
The opportunity to mobilise processes which are traditionally paper, desktop, or browser-based in this basic way, allowing simple tasks to be completed independent of a fixed location or time period, is what many still incorrectly view as the full extent of enterprise mobility.
Some of these apps will draw on location-based services, some data processing or analytics, and some may even provide features that eliminate the need for almost any desk-based working in certain use cases.
Industry Example: Salesforce Mobile SDK (used to mobilise tasks which are fundamental to the daily running of the business)
Apps built for business users to quickly and easily access, share, input, and analyse far more sensitive or important information will fall into the ‘Business Critical’ Class, where unflinching reliability and consistent app performance become imperative. When the app uses data that is critical to the organisation, it simply cannot afford to fail. As a result, these apps will ideally be built with an offline-first architecture by default, to anticipate any need to continue working if connectivity is unexpectedly lost.
These apps are often developed with significant underlying complexity, but it’s important to note that critical doesn’t necessarily always have to mean complex.
The key here is that Class 4 apps have the power to provide an employee’s entire workflow within their functionality, tailored to reflect the fleeting interactions users now crave in a mobile working environment.
That also means they must be designed for an optimum mobile-first experience, disguising that complexity behind a highly simplistic user interface.
This will often incorporate features which only a mobile device can provide to aid the completion of tasks, such as photo capture, advanced location-based services, video content, a touchscreen interface, and many more innovative examples.
Because of the emphasis on intuitive user experience, and the mobilisation of processes critical to the daily operations of an organisation, business leaders often struggle to visualise where apps of this nature could be introduced.
However, when executed and delivered with a strategic approach, focusing on long-term success, they can provide complete freedom to work in the most effective, efficient way possible for employees.
Consultancies and project teams alike should plan to incorporate a clear roadmap, including regular iterations and upgrades, to allow these apps to deliver continual business value even when priorities and expectations change elsewhere.
Industry Example: Salesforce Mobile SDK (in unison with other technologies to create an entirely new kind of enterprise app)
This phase marks the ability of mobile technology to transcend its conventional role of streamlining workflows, to create entirely new processes, by unlocking something that was previously not possible without a mobile app, and transforming the business in doing so.
This is where the true value of an enterprise mobile app really exists, because it enables employees to do things which were simply not achievable before, whether that’s driven by the user interface, specific features of a device, or highly advanced logic built into the app.
Class 5 is still a rarity outside of the consumer space, because businesses and consultancies must first fully grasp the finer details of what it takes to succeed with Class 4 apps, something that is still a challenge for most. Once sufficient knowledge, skills, and understanding of Class 4 are established among the wider market, a shift in thinking will soon emerge to reveal more opportunities for reimagining entire business models with the power of mobile applications.
The Salesforce perspective
When it comes to building apps specifically for Salesforce, the general expectation for consultancies should be that any app within Classes 1, 2, or 3 can be built with Salesforce1. However, it’s crucial to realise that any app with requirements beyond the characteristics of Class 3 must utilise a custom solution, most likely the Salesforce Mobile SDK. As we’ve seen personally a number of times in recent years, if this isn’t the case, the app won’t be technically sufficient, nor will it be able to maintain the level of performance its users need to do their jobs.
For consultancies, attempting to advance towards more complex, custom mobile apps will have a number of significant implications. While existing skills will generally be suitable for apps up to Class 3, Class 4 apps will require:
- A technical shift – to an offline-first, performance-focused architecture
- A shift in delivery – to a methodology which aligns all the key mobile-specific considerations
- A shift in UX design – to a set of principles defined by the needs of the mobile user
- A shift in attitudes towards support – to a long-term, strategic, agile approach
- A shift in understanding – to realise the full extent of what mobile apps can achieve
Demand, without supply
In light of these fundamental shifts, the majority of consultancies are currently only equipped to deliver mobile apps within Class 3 or below, and anything beyond that results in the aforementioned project failure or loss of client business.
But the value of mobile apps in the enterprise really lies within Class 4 (or beyond), and more and more organisations’ investments in mobility are being influenced by this fact. Many members of the global Salesforce ecosystem are now in desperate need for their apps to move past the limitations of Class 3, where they’ll be able to drive genuine positive change. The time for consultancies to take action and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they’re able fulfill those needs is now.
Making apps easy and accessible for all
This disconnect is exactly why MobileCaddy exists today. Our goal is to help Salesforce consultancies evolve and prepare to move past Class 3, confidently building the mobile apps which the end user landscape is currently in urgent need of.
With MobileCaddy, consultancies are given a fully integrated solution for designing, building, and supporting these complex apps across their entire lifecycle. By making Class 4 mobile apps easily accessible, we remove the difficulty from providing clients with significant business value and differentiation in their mobile investments.
Those facing challenges with the delivery of enterprise mobile app projects for their Salesforce clients can’t afford to ignore the importance of these classifications, and the roles they play in today’s mobile landscape.
If you need to learn more about how to deliver mobile apps which can meet the enterprise-grade requirements of the current market, contact our CEO Justin Halfpenny to discuss how MobileCaddy can help.