Developing mobile applications for external use versus internal use

By Karin Kelley

In today’s cloud-oriented, hyper-connected world, more users are accessing data and services through their mobile devices. As Smart Insights reports, a 2015 study found that 80 percent of Internet users have smartphones. Most users today are already taking advantage of a wide variety of mobile applications in their daily lives, whether they are customers, vendors, partners or internal employees. As a result, they have high expectations for how they are able to interact with these apps. In light of this mobile atmosphere, it’s crucial for developers to fully understand their audience’s needs and how to provide them with an easier, more intuitive experience.

Understand your users

The first — and arguably most important — step in design and development is gaining a clear understanding of who your audience is and what they need to get out of a mobile app. In order to do this, developers and UI designers need to conduct usability tests. If the app is on the complex side, they might even have to conduct multiple rounds of tests. Web app analytics platforms can also help you gain insight into typical behavior, usage patterns, adoption rates and how much revenue the app is driving overall through different business objectives and strategies.

When thinking about your audience, it’s important to remember that external customers, partners and vendors are looking for different functionality than internal employees. External users that are accessing the app from outside the corporate network typically have very targeted, specific tasks that they need to perform, such as making a purchase, ordering services, accessing their account histories, seeking out customer support or managing cloud service-level agreements. In order to achieve customer retention, mobile applications for external users must function flawlessly. Most important, external-facing apps need to be designed to promote your brand.

On the other hand, when you’re developing internal-facing mobile apps, the ultimate goal is employee productivity. In this case, rapid time to deployment is important. If your development team spends months trying to create the perfect app for your employees, you have the potential to lose valuable time and revenue. It’s important to remember that productivity applications for internal employees don’t have to be perfect before they are deployed. They just have to be good enough to keep your mobile workforce connected and engaged.

During the development and design phases of internal mobile apps, organizations also need to understand the user’s role, whether he or she works in the field, operations, sales or another department. Then, they can map out the dependencies that these users have on multiple internal systems.

Best practices for developing both external and internal apps

Of course, information security must be a major priority when you’re developing mobile applications for any user. After all, in a mobile, BYOD world, it’s critical for you to be able to control the data and information that users can access from various devices on the network. In addition, as mobile apps need to be deployed rapidly and user requirements tend to change quickly, agile programming frameworks are necessary to be able to remain competitive. In all cases, it is of the utmost importance to understand your user base, their needs and how they interact with your app.

Today, businesses cannot afford to ignore the demands of technically-savvy users who have higher expectations than those of the pre-cloud era. But it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to developing and deploying mobile programs. As such, organizations need to take different approaches for external- and internal-facing apps.

Written By

Karin Kelley

Independent Analyst & Writer

Karin is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years…

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