The New Rules for Enterprise Apps

To be successful today, enterprise software must be more user-friendly, get updated more often, and offer users outside your company more transparency than ever before.

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Rule No. 1: Make It Appealing

It's a plug-and-play world, and no company wants to invest its money and employee time in lengthy or even brief software training. Even if your company does want to spend money on training, you may have a hard time getting people to show up. A recent survey by Swedish ERP vendor IFS revealed that many employees will simply bypass enterprise software they find user-unfriendly or not intuitive. Rather than take the time to learn how it works, they'll come up with elaborate workarounds involving Microsoft Excel or other consumer software.

And if your employees won't put up with an app that's not intuitive, just think how much harder it will be to get external users to adopt it. Because, like it or not, in today's world, your largest user base may well be outside your company. "Typically, in a business strategy for application development, you need to consider three user groups: B2B, B2E (employee) and B2C (consumer)," says Bill Clark, an analyst at Gartner.

He recalls going through the calculations with one insurer that was planning a mobile app. The company had 2,500 employees, and another 1,250 independent insurance agents using its network, he recalls. But then there were 3.5 million actual customers. Of those, about 5% had accessed the website from a mobile device. "That's 175,000 people!" Clark says. "In reality, more customers will touch a mobile website than every employee in the organization, and every employee in every business partner, combined."

With no way to force these outside users to accept your application, or even control what kind of device they use to access it, IT's only recourse is to create irresistible, user-friendly apps that work well on all commonly used browsers and mobile devices. "Everyone has the expectation that they'll have access to whatever application they need via whatever device they want to use," Fuller says. "Anywhere they can have a Web browser, they expect to get to the application and do what they need to, whether from a smartphone, tablet, netbook or notebook PC."

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