While mobile application adoption in traditional industrial manufacturing corporations has lagged some other industries, many people in manufacturing today have begun to realize the vast potential mobility has to benefit their organization. Many different types of manufacturers have already “taken the plunge” and enabled their employees to accomplish a wide variety of tasks with the help of mobile applications. For example, sales productivity applications can enable sales reps to access customer and product information with mobile applications that offer a more engaging sales process and speed purchasing decisions. Back at the warehouse and distribution centers, receiving and storage operations can now provide inventory visibility immediately at the dock with the help of mobile devices, providing a real-time look at availability. And in fulfillment, manufacturers can give their customers the ability to track and trace orders while optimizing their own delivery routes and fleet management. These are just a few examples of the multitude of tasks in which manufacturers across all types of different markets can now accomplish with the help of mobile applications.
For those manufacturers still on the fence about implementing mobility solutions, the options and process can seem a bit daunting. There is the option to build an application in house, buy a solution to develop an app, or hire an external third-party to create it. Within each option lie additional critical decision points and questions to answer –should this application be built for one specific, corporate-issued device, or developed to be used across multiple device platforms? Do native applications, web applications or a mixture of both constitute the best deployment option?
With tough questions like these and when competitors start developing great applications, the temptation for many is to simply “get an app out there.” But similar to any major software deployment, manufacturers must think through these multiple questions and consider the entire lifecycle of that app deployment and put together a mobile app strategy, paying particular attention to the deployment and management of that application. Application development is an important first step, but how applications are distributed to the enterprise or customers is even more crucial, and itis critical that once an application is built and deployed, it can be easily managed, updated, and analyzed. Without this kind of careful planning, ROI will be difficult to achieve. The risk of ignoring these areas of the mobile lifecycle is they risk developing costly apps, which do not provide bottom-line value to organizations and/or are not ready to keep pace with the rapid innovation of mobile platforms and technology. Development for applications is an important first step, but what lies beyond building the applications will unlock the real value of mobile for manufacturing.
Steps For Success
By one estimate, most apps will experience at least four major update cycles from 2012-2014 and 70 percent of all mobile apps created during 2008-2011 will become obsolete, making them candidates for redevelopment. One explanation for this is the intense focus which most organizations place on the front end – designing the look and feel and user experience of the application. This is an important step in the process, but manufacturers also must recognize the backend integration, security and management – which are the parts of the app lifecycle that drive value for an organization over the long-term. Achieving the desired ROI from a mobile deployment means placing as much, if not more, focus on running and managing applications as on building the software.
When developing a mobile application strategy for deploying and managing a given application (or multiple), there are many factors to consider but three of the most important are: