Mobile apps have now become a necessary investment for any company that wants to ensure a close fit with customers’ real needs and expectations. However, firms still need to ensure they are applying an appropriate business model.
A growing number of firms are becoming aware of the potential and the opportunities offered by mobile apps, especially in fostering the customer client relationship. “Apps transform the way customers interact with services,” underlines Andrew Buss, consulting manager at US market research firm International Data Corporation. These tools can help firms understand the needs and expectations of their customers and analyse the customer experience more finely, provided that they can come up with a workable business model. Software publisher CA Technologies brought a number of sector players together in late June in order to address this subject. Eric Grotefeld, CA Technologies Vice-President, EMEA for data management solutions and applications development, argues that this issue affects all sectors, including the most traditional ones. For example, Uber, a venture-funded startup transportation network company that creates mobile apps to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services, has transformed our idea of how to organise transport for individuals. As with taxi services, the Uber customer orders a car and driver, but the disruptive idea lies in the use of a mobile app and the certainty of immediate availability, versus the traditional phone reservation coupled with all the uncertainties of the traffic situation.
Merging teams and automating test phases
There are a number of ways companies can systematise the creation of mobile apps. Merging operational services with software development is one. According to CA Technologies, which has set up a ‘DevOps’ unit with this in mind, merging these departments enables a company to streamline the relationship between the teams and give them a clearer picture of the various aspects of producing an app. The major innovation lies in the ‘virtualisation’ of the process, i.e. the opportunity to test the app without interrupting the availability of the service to users. This can be done by simulating the environment in real-life conditions. Ahmad Alayan, head of DevOps at Swiss telecoms operator Swisscom, explains that “automation of testing and the new team structure enabled us to launch our ‘TV 2.0’ product fourteen months after we first came up with the idea. Without the new structure it would have taken at least three months longer.”
Apps help to showcase company progress in digitisation
Nowadays a mobile app seems to be an essential showcase for a company, demonstrating to customers just how far along the digital path the firm now is terms of its use of such disruptive technologies as mobile channels, social media, the Cloud, Big Data, etc. Customer needs and expectations are now absolutely central to any changes made as “the user experience is crucial,” underlines Eric Grotefeld. As regards B2B, the use of apps enables a firm to increase its efficiency and so become more competitive, points out Andrew Buss. However, if it is to respond to fluctuations in customer needs, the system must be flexible, and capable of undergoing frequent large-scale modifications. So firms not only have to respond to the needs and expectations of their customers, but also to do so at just the right time. If the process is too slow, the market may have already moved on by the time the app is up and running. But fast time to market is only feasible if a company has an effective backup and recovery system, plus powerful processors to produce updated versions – what Eric Grotefeld describes as ‘technological agility’.