Develop productivity apps your employees will actually use

Employee Productivity App - Kontagent Analytics

by kScope guest contributor
Cora Cowles, User Experience Lead – Mobility at General Motors

Cora Cowles will be a speaker at Kontagent Konnect 2013 in San Francisco on May 20-21. Register now–space is limited.

When new technology is introduced, adoption and permeation by users should be watched closely. That “if you build it, they will come” strategy may sound good, but depending on how disruptive the technology is, users may have little to no experience with previous versions. They could be hesitant and untrusting to adapt, slowing the rollout process and putting unnecessary stress on previous versions.

Let’s say, for instance, that a company creates a new mobile app for their salespeople that’s designed to help them sell the company’s products. This hypothetical app makes it easier to show features and other relevant information to potential buyers.

But here’s the problem. While the app can be a powerful sales tool, generally the demographic profile for salespeople skews over age 45 and most are not particularly tech savvy. Now let’s say that through ethnographic research, we also learn that this group is self-assured of their tried and true sales methods and therefore hesitant to try new things. For many of them, pencil and paper are still the best things since sliced bread.

Differences in perspective, hardware and training

Employee Productivity Mobile - Kontagent

Companies need to consider differences in perspective, hardware and training when designing employee apps.

There are some issues with their tried-and-true methods however. Customer records and notes are not always handled with care and can sometimes be lost or not followed up on because they were not entered into the right customer database. Unless salespeople in this hypothetical company fully comprehend the ramifications of their actions, they will continue to use their methods and the new app will be pushed to the side.

It becomes an issue of conflicting perspective, while the company in this case is interested in consolidating, de-duplicating and data mining records, from the salesperson’s point of view a sticky note at the corner of their desk is all they really need.

There’s also the problem of hardware. If a company wants to encourage use of their new app, one might assume that the company should bear the lion’s share of the cost. While some employees may already have company-issued devices (which could cut down on some costs), if the app was built to only run on certain mobile platforms, they may need a hardware upgrade. Not only does that mean added cost for the new devices, but also fees for responsible disposal of the old electronics.

Assuming the issue of hardware has been resolved and all the salespeople have new, or at least, capable devices in-hand, there comes the question of training.

Recall that these users are not the most technically savvy, therefore some training on best practices for the app may be required. For many of them, prior to now, they may have been using basic cellphones for personal use, making the touch interface of iPhones, Android phones and other modern mobile devices unfamiliar territory for them.

One way to bring them up to speed would be by providing a help hotline to answer common questions about the new app. There may also be a need to provide in-house training to help familiarize the salespeople with the new technology.

Companies that don’t pay attention to these three common issues run the risk of wasting time and money creating an app that will sit on the shelf and gather dust.

Streamlining the app adoption process

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To avoid these pitfalls, prior to creating the app, a company needs to assess the actual need for it. Perhaps the pencil and paper method may not be the answer, but getting a better understanding of why employees use their particular methods could lead to designing an app that they are more willing to use.

It may also be a good idea for companies to test their new app with a small group of employee evangelists. These are users that are part of the intended core audience, but who are also eager to use the new app and will spread the word of its utility to others. While developing the app may be essential to the company, the actual users will be far more receptive to their peers promoting the app rather than their superiors.

Knowing what mobile devices your employees use will also make a difference in the app development process. While most people are either iOS or Android users, a quick survey prior to creation should breakdown the actual platform distribution. Using the 80/20 rule, a company can quickly decide which versions to develop for. The remaining 20 percent of users will likely need to be upgraded, but that can be built into the process as opposed to it being a surprise later on.

With a little planning and foresight, any company can rollout an app that their employees are willing and able to use, one that will have a fair fight at proving its value.

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