Focus…it’s all about the UX

by Brian Katz on October 29, 2013 · 2 comments

I’m sitting outside in a park on a Sunday afternoon in NYC. It’s quite a beautiful day and more than a few folks are here soaking up the sun and atmosphere. I, like a few others, am soaking up the full WiFi that is available here contemplating some of the discussions I have had with friends in the past week, both vendors and enterprise end users. It’s become readily apparent that as the enterprise continues to struggle with how to integrate mobile successfully, more vendors are honing their pitch to confuse and scare organizations into moving forward with their solutions.

focusIt’s enough that we hear plenty of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) when talking to vendors. The real problem is the cacophony of noise that has risen around old solutions which have existed but are sold, as always in the last slide, as a way to enable your users. The issue being that usually none of these solutions have anything to do with enablement.

Look at data leaks, they happen. The goal is minimizing the risk to the organization when they do. Completely owning and controlling the device is a non-starter except in a few situations (DOD for example). People don’t want to use a device that is hobbled and won’t let them get things done. Ask most people what they use everyday on their smart phone. Once you get past email (standard PIM), texting, and social networking, you discover the real tools that enable users. They may talk about the weather app they use (amazing that you can get better weather from an app than you ever could on a laptop or desktop), or the sports score tool they use, the GPS, or maybe it’s just something to follow their fantasy football league. You see, giving people the opportunity to get done what they want/need to when they want to empowers them. They are looking for great user experiences.

This doesn’t mean scaling down a windows app or touch enabling outlook. This means sitting with your users and getting to know them and what they want. All to often apps are designed in a room based upon business requirements and nothing more. Anyone who has used a non-smart phone optimized expense app can attest to this. Is it any wonder that most people don’t like to do their expenses? Try doing approvals as well. People want to be able to see what they’re approving and click yes or no. Yet we build apps that start with an email, then require you to be connected to the internal network, possibly open a word document, sign in twice to prove you are you and all so you can click yes. A ten or fifteen minute process begging to be optimized and only requiring sitting with a few users to figure out what you are doing wrong.

The vendors, on the other hand, if they’re not in the EMM (Enterpise Mobility Management) space are now in the MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service) space. Inventing new acronyms for what is basically middleware that allows you to connect your apps to back end data sources easily. For these vendors its all about making the developers lives easier and yet the focus still isn’t on the people using the product.

I’ve talked about the idea of freeing your data through the use of APIs and building your apps against the APIs (wait a sec, is that essentially MBaaS?) but the point isn’t just to make it easy for developers. The whole idea is to give people the power to get their jobs done by giving them the knowledge they need when and where they need it. This means they can access the data they need with an application that allows that data to become information and then knowledge to get whatever job done they need to. What we are truly enabling by doing this properly is a more flexible and agile workforce that can be more productive and happier.

Let’s face it, people don’t care whether their phone cpu has a two cores or four. They don’t care whether their tablet has an AMOLED or IGZO screen. They care that it does what they need it to do. If they can’t talk to their daughter who needs to be picked up after practice gets rained out or can’t pull up their travel itinerary when they are trying to figure out which flight they are on while standing in the airport, then they will raise holy hell. They don’t worry about speeds and feeds because they care about results. They want an experience where the device and app are invisible, its just part of getting their stuff done so they can do other things. There’s a reason why one in four apps is opened only once and never again. They didn’t help the user get stuff done by being simple and focused, they made the user experience and live the process more than they should of.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie Simpson October 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm


This is a fantastic post, not only for enterprise businesses but also for all the acronym stuffed businesses marketing to these companies. Understanding the end user is paramount, one that my company, Canvas tries to do with our customers (although easier said than done!)

Also, I saw you’ve done some posts on crapplications (love that word), enterprise mobile app issues, and the ongoing struggle with apps and BYOD. My organization provides mobile apps to organizations of all shapes and sizes. We help them move from paper forms to mobile apps, helping streamline data collection while saving time and money.

We’d love to do a guest post about the benefit of mobile apps for data collection, or perhaps a giveaway of our product to your readers. Would you be interested?

If you’d like to learn more about us, please feel free to reach me at katie dot simpson at gocavans dot com or you can check out our website:

Once again great, blog and I hope to hear from you soon!


Technophil November 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Isn’t usability easier said than done? In some cases, there are real technological issues hindering usability. This is especially true for security where “easy for the user” often means “easy for the hacker.”

As for sitting down with users, it’s like Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” You can make a single-purpose app usable, but what happens when customers ask for more features or you have 10% of users performing a task one way and 90% doing it another way?

On the marketing front, people obviously care about specs or well-researched, seasoned marketers would not persist in using that kind of language. Sure, a lot of people just want a phone to be a phone, but other people want a desktop PC replacement or a status symbol.


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