Are You Sure You Want to Build that Business App?

Most smartphone users download 0 apps per month. That’s right zero, zip, zilch, nada. Sixty five percent of US smart phone users download no apps per month. Yet the time we spend using apps continues to rise. The problem for many businesses is the vast majority of time spent in apps is on social media, messaging and entertainment applications, not engaging with companies. My local supermarket has an app, so has my insurance company, my optician and some of my favorite clothes retailers. I would never think of downloading them though.


Have Business Apps Failed?

The logic behind building business apps was understandable. Business want to engage with their customers, customers are using apps, therefore we need to build an app. We need to hang out where our customers are hanging out. There were however a number of problems with this logic:

It’s Personal – Smartphone and Mobile devices are for the most part personal devices. A private space away from the work environment, for communicating with close friends and families, for participating in hobbies, music, TV and movies. For the things we are passionate about. For the most part people aren’t passionate about businesses. Do we want businesses invading this personal private space?

Storage Issues – I seem to get a message from Apple every day telling me I’ve exceeded my storage limit.  Do you want to waste storage on business apps? If you need to free up storage the business apps are the first to go.

Most Business Apps are Useless – Let’s face it most business apps are useless. They are deigned to sell not serve. After all this time most business apps can’t do customer service right, throwing the user out of the native app into a browser if you want to reach customer service.

Security – what information are you sharing with businesses? – We are more paranoid than ever about sharing personal information. Do we want to share location and contact details with companies? How much personal information do we want to share with businesses?

Inconvenient – This might be a first world problem but apps are just a little bit inconvenient. It’s time consuming to have to download an app and to create another user ID and password that will be forgotten in minutes. Interstitials encouraging users to download a mobile app are also frustrating for web users and can result in huge abandonment rates.

Ultimately customers aren’t using business apps. So if you are thinking of building a business app you are probably 2 or 3 years too late. You are merely copying rather than trying to leapfrog the competition. So what’s the solution? To get a potential answer lets go back to the start of this post and to the logic behind business apps, businesses want to engage with customers and customers are mobile, so let’s build an app. But if they aren’t downloading apps how do you engage with mobile customers? The solution is that we engage with customers inside the apps they are actually using, for example messaging apps. And a potential solution has emerged in the form of chatbots.

In my next posts I’ll take a look at chatbots and their role as a next generation customer service portal and their wider impact on mobile devices.


If This Then What is the Future of Workflow and BPM?

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets users connect multiple different mobile apps based on a simple rule. “This” is the process trigger, “That” is the process action. Today the tool lets users rapidly create connections between 71 applications or what IFTTT calls “channels”. The simple workflows created between channels using the IFTTT rule are called recipes and can be shared within an IFTTT community.

If This Then That

If This Then That

So what’s the big deal?

In the BPMS suite we’ve been executing simple and complex business rules like If This Then That for years. The emergence of IFTTT is important because it does two things that BPMS does not do well; integration and simplicity.

Many business processes cut horizontally across organizations and as a result touch multiple business applications. There is thus an ongoing drive among BPM and Case Management vendors to continuously enhance their integration capabilities. This is however a continuously moving target and integration remains one of the greatest obstacles for the successful deployment of both cloud and on premise BPM solutions, often adding considerable cost and time to projects.

When it comes to the integration of cloud and mobile applications into business processes the difficulty multiplies. We are only just seeing the emergence of smart process applications and on demand business processes. Mobile BPM applications have emerged with integration to back end systems but is any BPM vendor doing mobile app to mobile app integration?

Mobile and cloud app integration is a key IT battleground. As business software users we regularly use mobile apps and on demand software to address business problems. This consumerization of the business IT landscape however sits uncomfortably with IT heavy BPM projects.

IFTTT radically simplifies the process of stitching together and automating web services and as such throws down the gauntlet to other business applications that are heavily reliant on application integration.

Consistent with consumerization IFTTT empowers users to integrate and develop their own workflows. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to expect this simple IFTTT rule to be extended to support more complex rules and events and ultimately encroach into the market for workflow and BPM applications.

IFTTT Channels

IFTTT Channels

Intelligent Process Applications

Peter Whibley

Intelligent Process Applications

Intelligent Process Applications

This blog will be about the future of business process, what I refer to as Intelligent Process Applications.

Both Gartner and Forrester have different opinions about the future of BPM and Case Management. Gartner have proposed iBPMS (intelligent Business Process Management Suites) while Forrester have proposed Smart Process Applications. So who’s right? Well in my opinion both are half right. It’s obviously true, as Gartner propose that future business processes will be deployed with more intelligence built-in. It’s also true however that as a consequence of mobility and the consumerization of IT we are moving businesses to an era of on demand business process applications as envisaged by Forrester.

However, as you would expect, both Gartner and Forrester have played a bit to their customer base and in my opinion have given emphasis to features and functionality that while important are really only a subset of greater industry themes. Rather than iBPMS or Smart Process Applications I think the term Intelligent Process Applications is a better description of where the business process management and case management market is headed.

Future Intelligent Process Applications will have four key components (I’ll discuss these in more detail in future posts):

1.    BPM and Case Management

They’ll be underpinned by a BPM and Case Management applications that act as the engine for process automation and employee empowerment. While some business process apps will be rigid and inflexible others will exhibit flexibility with more case management like characteristics and empower participants to adjust processes rapidly in response to changing business and market demands.

2.    Intelligence and Awareness

They’ll possess intelligence. By intelligence however we are really talking about awareness.  Using business intelligence, data, content, social and predictive analytics as well as integration with smart devices intelligence and awareness functionality will be used to alert businesses and employees to key changes in their environment.

3.     Customer Experience

Yes mobility is a crucial capability but it is only a subset of a more important theme, customer experience.  Our personal technology experience has changed our business IT expectations. The app. internet model we have become familiar with in our personal lives is starting to take hold in business, changing not only how enterprises acquire business applications but also how they design and execute their business processes. Mobile capabilities will be crucial to the success of future process apps but only if they are designed with customer experience in mind.

4.    Cloud

The delivery vehicle for intelligent process applications will be via a multi-tenant cloud architecture. The greatest challenge for process app vendors will be to bring the speed and simplicity of the app experience to multi-application process solutions. 

Is this too simplistic? Have I missed something? Will social play a bigger role? I’d love to get your opinion.