UX for mobile apps: Reinventing field service with an employee-centric approach

By Bryan Gillis

Traditional app development is on the decline. Previously, to deliver a mobile field service app to users, an enterprise created a mobile version of the desktop application, then installed it on employees’ mobile devices, with little regard for the user experience (UX).

This approach led to poor UX for mobile apps, and workers were unhappy with the finished products. Across industries, employees complained the apps didn’t address their needs or were inconvenient to use. According to an American research and advisory firm, fewer companies are developing these complex business apps as the workforce migrates to simple, easy-to-use mobile apps.

Today, the wise move is to design mobile field service apps not just with the user in mind, but with the user in the room. This user-centric approach has created apps for enterprise clients in the energy, utilities, telecommunications, media and entertainment industries.

Addressing business and user needs has yielded positive results. From the user perspective, employees know developers hear their concerns, and their input helps add functionality to the app. From the executive’s point of view, the business doesn’t suffer — and might even improve — as a result of the streamlined workflow.

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User-led development: UX for mobile apps

First, the mobile team defines the business pain points in a group meeting, so everyone agrees with the main concerns. It’s important to document and understand what field service workers do daily and where their challenges are so designers can consider those issues.

Next, designers take this information and distill it into a mobile wireframe presentation. The presentation illustrates ideas on how field service workers might benefit from the proposed app design. This meeting is an in-person conversation with the workers who will use the app. The workers contribute to the discussion and provide feedback, which designers incorporate into the app.

Finally, the design team moves forward with development, knowing the wireframe has approval from the organization’s workers. This agreement translates to immediate buy-in once the mobile team delivers the app. Employees help promote the app’s benefits and increase its use among colleagues because it works as they requested.

For example, a mobile app developed for a large North American telecommunications firm has helped one field service worker reduce the time he spent on paperwork by one hour each day.


Expanded services to take mobility to the next level

This process allows businesses to turn mobile devices into superior IoT devices, where developers update the back end to best use enterprise data and artificial intelligence. Field service workers want their companies’ mobile apps to offer the same level of UX provided by consumer mobile apps. Using a workflow that involves employees from start to finish produces mobile apps that streamline workloads and increase worker efficiency.

Including workers in the process makes them the biggest champions of an app because they see how it can make their jobs more efficient.

To learn more about what IBM can do to enhance your UX for mobile apps, schedule a quick meeting with me or visit IBM Mobile.

Written By

Bryan Gillis

Associate Partner, Global Business Services, IBM

Bryan has over 17 years in the mobile consulting space in which he has led clients on digital transformational journeys in technologies such as mobile application development, mobile security, IoT, cloud hosting, and data networking. He currently is the IBM Mobile executive lead on…

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