Mobile applications: The human-machine interface

By Scott Forshay

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the IoT are driving a fundamental shift in the digital enterprise. As more objects become connected via mobile applications, intelligent systems are ingesting more data than ever before. Simultaneously, AI analyzes this massive volume of structured and unstructured data to uncover relevant insights more quickly and with greater accuracy. The implications of this shift are undeniable and complement the strategic objectives of practically every industry.

When so much buzz is focused on the emerging technologies themselves, businesses often neglect to adequately consider the conduit through which users access these technologies. As powerful as these technologies can be, the catalyst that makes them truly game-changing is the human-machine interface that enables enterprise users to access them at any time, from any place: mobile applications.

Ensuring adoption through the mobile user interface

As the interface that connects human users with intelligent enterprise systems, mobile applications must provide a powerful yet elegant user experience. When this experience is optimized, the line of demarcation between human and machine begins to blur.

The omnipresence of mobile devices in the consumer space has been well documented. In the enterprise space, adoption has been slower, but change is coming. It is predicted that by 2022, 70 percent of all software interactions in the enterprise will occur on mobile devices.

Enterprises are struggling to adapt to this new reality. Until now, most IT organizations chose the path of least resistance by taking complex desktop applications and porting them over to mobile. This approach delivered poor user experiences and led to dismal app adoption rates. Mobile may be the key to unlocking the value of AI and IoT, but that only holds true if employees actually use the apps the business builds for them.

To address the ever-present concerns over poor user adoption of enterprise mobile applications, it’s imperative to consider the simple user experience value equation:

Useful + Useable = Desirable

An application is truly useful when it solves a problem employees experience on a day-to-day basis. To fully solve for the Useful variable, organizations must adopt principles of human-centered design to develop empathy for key user personas and understand the user journey in its current state; then, work with users to understand the mobile capabilities they need and allow the gap analysis between the current and future state to dictate which use cases could be most effectively solved via mobility.

The Useable variable is solved by creating enterprise application user experiences similar to the consumer-facing experiences employees enjoy in the apps they use in their personal lives. To meet the ever-increasing usability expectations of enterprise users, applications must be simple, clean and intuitive.

Delivering applications that are both Useful and Usable helps ensure high rates of application adoption, allowing the enterprise to begin realizing the transformative power of emerging technologies with mobile as the persistent human-machine interface.

Preparing for success with AI and IoT

There’s a lot of anxiety out there about AI replacing human beings, but much of this is fueled by a fundamental misunderstanding of the potential value of AI. The moniker itself is a misnomer; when we think of AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence, we can better understand its true business value.

While it’s true that bots can do certain things much better than any human could, there will always be other things that require the nuanced emotional connection only a human can provide. Connecting humans with the power of AI at their fingertips allows them to perform those tasks much better than ever before. There’s a good reason many experts predict AI will actually create more jobs than it eliminates.

It’s important to remember that taking advantage of AI is not a matter of flipping a switch and then watching the business value flow. AI is only as good as the data it interprets. Intelligent systems need to mature and be taught over time to recognize patterns and learn from experience, the same way a human would. Once again, the interface layer that connects humans with the underlying technology — the mobile application — is key to making this happen.

IoT technology will undoubtedly play a vital role in providing increased levels of contextual, real-time data. With Ericsson reporting as many as 18 billion IoT devices predicted to be in use by 2020, and each device providing a consistent stream of data, the question is not where the data will come from, but how to make the most of it. By leveraging intelligently designed mobile applications that are both useful and usable, employees can easily tap into rich insights delivered by augmented intelligence from IoT data streams. This provides instantaneous access to pivotal insights necessary to make informed decisions quickly and accurately.

For instance, IoT devices in a manufacturing plant can tell an employee when an asset is likely to fail so the organization can schedule preventative maintenance and avoid an outage. A clean, simple mobile interface — one the employee will actually want to use — will help ensure the employee gets the message and the business enjoys the associated increase in operational efficiency.

Getting started with mobile applications and more

Any organization that wants to make the most of AI and IoT must first consider the conduit they use to bring those technologies to employees. Without useful and usable mobile apps as the human-machine interface to bring people and technology together, the promises of AI, IoT and future emerging technologies will remain unfulfilled. Organizations must keep this fact in mind when planning their enterprise mobility strategy.

Written By

Scott Forshay

Senior Managing Consultant for IBM

Experienced Mobile Strategist equipped with a deep understanding and experienced working knowledge of how people, tools, and technologies come together to create superior digital user experiences - a flexible strategic thinker and planner who uses a creative approach to building and…