From corporate strategy to handheld reality, we present the best practice guidelines for app development
The trusted pen and paper looks very old-fashioned in an age of tablets and touch-sensitive applications. Appearances, however, should be the least of your concerns – after all, a reliance on paper-based administration could cost your business a competitive advantage in the digital age.
Just ten years ago, companies were taking a tentative approach to the web and organisations shied away from creating transactional sites. Huge increases in broadband capability mean it would now be anathema not to create a great web presence – and, in the digital era, that type of access means mobile first.
Your workers and consumers have powerful pocket computers and they want to interact on the move. But to make matters even more complicated, the creation of a mobile-ready site will not be enough. Research suggests as many as 85% of consumers using a mobile device prefer to use apps to interact with a business, rather than a web site.
Apps, then, are what your clients want. Any created apps need to meet an identified business objective. And once you start creating apps, you must set apps at the core of your IT strategy. Put apps at the centre, and you will be able to cope with future changes in consumer and worker mobility.
What are the differences between internal and external apps?
There are two main types of app: those that provide a new channel for businesses to interact with end customers, and those that allow internal users to use corporate information on the move. Customer-facing apps boost client interaction, while employee-facing apps improve workforce efficiency.
Customer-facing apps must work across multiple channels and, probably, operating systems. Consumer preferences mean your organisation must consider all mobile eventualities. Internal apps, however, should be aligned to your corporate device strategy – will you standardise on one particular system or will you, at more cost to the business, choose to keep your options open?
There are a number of different frameworks that businesses can use to develop apps for individual, or cross-platform, mobile operating systems. Long-term maintenance costs can be high, so executives need to make the right decisions early because there is no point supporting a niche platform or device.
Businesses working in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system should make the most of the Xcode environment, which includes a series of development tools for iPhone and iPad. A large amount of development effort for your public-facing apps will be centred on user experience and look and feel, such as corporate branding.
Apps that move into transactional elements will require special attention. Such transactions will need to operate with the application programming interfaces (APIs) that connect your app into your backend processing systems.
Look and feel will be also crucial for employee-facing apps and will help dictate whether your tool is used. Data management and verification will be particularly important in the case of internal apps. Pre-filling forms with regularly used data, for example, will help ensure workers are able to update information on the move and without the need to return to the office.
How can your business create an app?
The huge amount of already-verified tools means your business might be able to take advantage of an existing app. The size of the Apple ecosystem means that, even if an app isn’t exactly what you need, it could be fit for purpose with a small amount of modifying.
The end of the line, of course, isn’t reached if a tool can’t be found in the App Store. You might need to engage with specialist developers or you might decide to produce the tool in-house. In both cases, external expertise is available to guide you through the process.
The crucial matching of technical capability to business need must be kept close to home, so you should make sure functional specification is understood in-house. The intellectual property – the area of the app that will provide competitive advantage – must be internally controlled.
Whatever parts you choose to develop or manage in-house, you will need to ensure your employees are trained and up to date. The Xcode development environment includes a series of tools and helps IT workers operating in iOS to hit the ground running.
But large elements of app development and support work can be externally managed. Just as in the case of traditional IT outsourcing, a specialist external partner can help ensure non-core elements, such as technology development and app delivery, are realised in a cost efficient manner.
How Jigsaw24 can help
You need to make apps central to your business strategy, but your executives will want assurance that the move to mobile is going to work out well. One sensible approach is to reach out to external experts who can help the organisation make the right decisions regarding potential app developments.
Jigsaw24’s ‘A Day in the Life’ programme evaluates your current business processes and customer experiences, before making recommendations on where creative IT solutions could provide a business benefit. Our team of analysts spend a day analysing your options around mobility, data availability and information processing.
Executives can use this specialist advice to ensure any proposed app meets broader business plans and can deliver a return on investment. When it comes to platforms for app development, Jigsaw24 holds expertise in Xcode and can help you make the most of the mobility offered by iPad and iPhone devices.
Jigsaw24 can also help you engage with developers who have undertaken work in a related field of app development. We can assist you as your team develops its iOS app in-house. And if you need to make this new app cross-platform, we have the contacts to create a true multi-channel tool.
Want to find out more about iOS app development and how Jigsaw24’s in-house app team can help you? Get in touch with us on 03332 409 234 or email CIO@Jigsaw24.com.