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The Rise of the Citizen Developer
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In an earlier post in this series, we talked about the reduction of time that the mobile movement has offered to businesses; from quicker access to information, to the ability to make faster decisions, to more rapidly streamlining business process. All of this is true, and has made massive improvements to the speed of work in general over the past decade, but it’s not the whole story and at the end of the day, putting the same processes on a mobile device just changes the method of delivery. In order to really become agile, we need not only access to information, but context.
In an effort to become more mobile, it seems that businesses are getting too caught up in the idea of mobile app platforms, and in building mobile applications for the sake of having them - rather than building a useful business app that happens to be accessible on mobile devices for convenience. At the end of the day, all the business user expects is to be able to interact with the information they need to make business decisions (this is context), and in a platform that works (this is the delivery, or mobile application in this case). Until we can harness the right information and funnel that into mobile business applications, workers using these apps might as well have a brick in their hand.
One of the most immediate and obvious ways to achieve greater context is through location-based technologies. The mobile device itself is an enormous generator of information and with very few barriers - thanks to default setting on most downloads- we can now capture valuable information about where business users are accessing apps and how this fits into workflows (and their workday). Open source systems and integration among them takes this location-based context one step further by offering visibility into user behaviors, preferences, and access to information on where they are connected to other systems and applications. Combined, this view can provide the much-needed contest. It can help to determine the path of least resistance, or the quickest avenue for achieving the task at hand - let’s say for example getting a final signature on a contract.
Consider how many operating and management systems are now not only available on a mobile platform, but designed for that purpose, and information sharing among them seems like it should have been mastered by now. User are initiating and collaborating on content from mobile devices, sharing iterations for approvals, and pulling context from a slew of systems to complete tasks - but there is more we can be doing to keep content and apps fresh and useful.
The mobile world moves quickly - which means building an app isn’t a one-time deal. In order to keep the applications relevant, and provide some sort of improvement to the work process for the business user, continual maintenance and updates are required to ensure the most up-to-date data is available and integrated. In the contract signature example, an app might require access to the latest corporate policies or laws as it pertains to authenticating a legally binding document.
The way I see it, the next step in this evolution, and the key to continuing to build on the context available natively within business apps, will be led by big data and machine learning - to automate the ability to intelligently tap into context as it’s relevant to the user, enhancing the ability to address the task at hand and offering the right set of resources. Until then, we should be setting our sights not on building mobile apps for the sake of it, but building context into those apps for better workflow.
To learn more about the future of business apps, read the white paper: “It's a bring-your-own-app, mobile world”