Translating enterprise apps to mobile: Three companies' journeys

Firms are discovering what works -- and what doesn't.

When it comes to mobile apps, the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies has taken some risks. In 2011, the $13 billion global insurance provider rolled out two consumer-facing mobile apps, one for ordering roadside assistance and the other an auction guide for classic car collectors. Flush with its success from "tens of thousands" of downloads from Apple's App Store, the company began to see the value in creating mobile apps for some of its core processes, too.

Turns out that some of Chubb's independent agents were ready for mobile apps, too.

Since independent agents sell multiple carriers' products, details about any given policy or plan can be hard to remember. "When you're dealing with high-net-worth prospects you don't want to seem confused or have a lack of understanding of the product when standing in front of a potential customer,'' says Mike Ribeiro, Chubb's assistant vice president of enterprise architecture.

   Mike Ribeiro
Chubb put its insurance marketing collateral into an e-brochure that agents could access remotely, says Mike Ribeiro, Chubb's assistant vice president of enterprise architecture.

Chubb, the nation's 12th largest property and casualty insurer, offers products and services to businesses and individuals in 27 countries. Chubb has vast amounts of marketing materials and, Ribeiro says, it's awkward for agents to have to carry the brochures and other collateral around. So the idea was to put marketing collateral in an electronic brochure that could be accessed remotely; agents could reacquaint themselves with Chubb's products and services prior to a meeting and, while with the customer or prospect, show them some of the relevant material.

"The thought was to have it right there in front of [the agent] as a tool to show the value of selling Chubb," Ribeiro says. The app, which includes high-definition videos, was dubbed internally as "Pitchbook" but is officially called Chubb Mobile for Personal Insurance and was developed for iPads a couple of years ago, he says.

Initially, Chubb had only rudimentary analytics to measure the app's progress but can now track usage and access. Some 150 agents are currently using Chubb Mobile for Personal Insurance, but that number is increasing as agents adopt tablets, Ribeiro says.

But Chubb didn't stop there. After seeing the response to the initial three apps, Ribeiro says his group started adding to its mobile strategy, with the goal to have one app per user type. "Our customers will not want their mobile desktop to be cluttered with multiple insurance apps," he explains.

Although the primary goal is to make it easier for agents and customers to do business with Chubb rather than its competitors, Ribiero says there's a secondary issue, too. "Insurance ... isn't really sexy," he explains. "Throwing mobile at it makes it a little more fun for the employees and those working on the systems." In November, the firm rolled out an app similar to Chubb Mobile for Personal Insurance for its commercial specialty business unit; another mobile app will go live for claims adjusters by the end of March.

The pecking order

Regardless of the industry, an increasing number of line-of-business and mission-critical processes are going mobile. Observers say the BYOD phenomenon has moved beyond employees doing basic corporate functions like viewing email and calendars. These days, mobile's about porting paper-intensive, sales-oriented and time-sensitive processes to tablets and smartphones. Sometimes a company even develops a mobile app for a business process that hasn't had a mobile precursor or hasn't ever been done before, in any format, notes Ian Finley, vice president of research at Gartner.

In terms of what goes mobile first, typically, he says, the focus is on customer-facing or website apps and then employee-facing apps, as in the case of Chubb. "Which project gets funded first depends on the business you're in and who's got juice in terms of being able to call the shots,'' Finley says.

Lower on the priority pile tend to be apps for support organizations, Finley says. "The first mobile app will be to make a sales force more effective or ... [it will be] a marketing response to what some competitor did." However, a utility company responsible for 10,000 miles of telephone poles may opt to build its first mobile app for the people managing the poles "because it makes or breaks the business."

In terms of platforms, he says, most enterprises are limiting employee-facing mobile apps to iOS devices. "That doesn't mean Windows or Google [devices] aren't important," he explains. "But when security guys get involved ... management says we can't support all [platforms] and ... a lot of workers are asking for iOS."

Finley says everything that gets done on the desktop is pretty much up for grabs as a potential mobile app.

By 2015, Gartner is projecting, IT organizations will need to reallocate resources as mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1.

1 2 3 Page 1
Page 1 of 3
It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon