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Business Apps: When should your company program its own apps?
Apps are a gigantic market
Smartphone applications are a gigantic and for some companies also a very lucrative market. Based on data from the market research institute research2guidance, the digital association Bitkom predicted that around 1.99 billion euros will be implemented with apps in Germany alone in 2020. That means an increase of around 24 percent compared to the previous record year 2019 with 1.61 billion euros in sales.
Although millions of smartphone applications are already available, the market continues to grow. An end doesn't seem to be in sight for now. Is that why your company should also program an app to keep up with the mega-trend?
The answer: it depends. In this article we explain under which circumstances it (no) makes sense to develop a business app.
What types of apps are there?
The term “app” comes from the English “application”, which translates as “application”. Application is another term for application program or software application. In the strict sense of the word, it is used to describe "serious" software solutions such as text and image processing programs and not games.
However, over the years the meaning has changed. With the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphones, the term “app” only stood for mobile programs, including gaming apps. Nowadays, desktop and online applications count equally as apps.
So not all apps are the same - the following distinctions have emerged in recent years:
Programs that you can download from an app store for your smartphone or tablet are considered mobile apps. The two leading operating systems are Android from Google and iOS from Apple.
If you develop a mobile app specifically for iOS or Android, it is a so-called native app. This means that the smartphone / tablet application only runs on one system.
If you use a development environment with which you get an app for iOS and Android, this is called hybrid apps or cross-platform apps.
Web applications are applications that work purely online. You don't need to download any software to your computer or smartphone to do this. Another advantage of web apps: They run independently of your operating system. All you need is a browser and stable internet access.
Progressive Web Apps, or PWA for short, are a new form of online applications. These are web apps that can access the hardware of a smartphone, for example. In this way, you can enable functions that were previously only possible with native apps - for example push notifications and the caching of data in the event of dead spots.
Note: In the following paragraphs, by “app” we mean a mobile application that you can use on your smartphone or tablet, not a pure PC program.
What can you use business apps for?
There are two broad areas of application for apps in companies: external and internal.
External means: You provide applications that your customers use. This applies equally to the B2C and B2B areas. Here are two scenarios:
- E-Commerce: You program an online shop application that you use to offer and sell your products.
- Service app: Your mobile application offers your customers special added value. They communicate with you faster (e.g. to reorder a product) or call up current contractual items (e.g. the remaining mobile data tariff).
Internally used apps offer advantages for your employees. For example for:
- External and internal sales to process inquiries and orders more quickly.
- Human Resources to facilitate the onboarding of new employees or satisfaction queries.
- the control of devices. Machines and individual parts such as sensors can be addressed via apps via the Internet of Things.
At Salesforce, for example, we have an internally used app: “Concierge”. Concierge is a mobile-optimized intranet app built on the Salesforce platform. The aim is to provide employees with the right information at the right time. In the app, employees are greeted with a search function so that the content is easier to find. This helps to make day-to-day business well and efficiently. In addition, this enables transparency and excellent organization, which relieves and motivates employees. Concierge includes, among other things, forecasting tools, self-service and help desk functions as well as a support ticket system if employees B. need programs or access authorizations - all in one central location.
These are the advantages of apps for your business
If you develop a professional and widely used application, you will benefit from these advantages, among others:
- You get another attractive marketing and sales channel.
- They offer added value in order to accelerate processes.
- You will receive important feedback and learn more about the app users.
- You have a tool to increase customer loyalty.
- They improve your image and increase the value of your brand.
- You advance the digitization of your company.
- You can reach the customer no matter where he is: on the laptop, on the smartphone, on the go, at work or at home
Does your company need an app?
Despite the advantages, don't let the high potential blind you. If you bring an app to market in a poorly thought-out way, if it has many bugs or is hardly used, the advantages can quickly turn into disadvantages. Bad application costs resources and can damage your company's reputation.
Therefore, think carefully before developing:
- Who are the possible target groups for the app? Why should they use your application?
- Are there special functions or unique selling points that can only be implemented as an app?
- What are the specific advantages of programming a mobile application for your company?
- Do you have the manpower, the know-how and the budget to program an app, develop it further and guarantee support?
- If you want to outsource development: Do you have internal resources that can competently support the external service provider? What about your budget?
- How do you market the application? How do you ensure that there are enough users and that the project does not fail?
To find the answers to these questions, you should build a project team. This deals, for example, with the target groups and customer needs. You create the concept using methods such as user stories and design thinking; the implementation is usually carried out using an agile development method such as Scrum.
The development of a business app will advance your company in terms of digitization. Learn in our free “CIO Playbook” how you can use Salesforce to further improve your innovation, productivity and corporate culture.
How can apps be programmed?
Nowadays there are different ways to program an app. The most common is: One or more programmers develop the app by coding line by line. This creates a high degree of customization. However, the so-called pro coding is quite expensive and time-consuming. You need specialists - internal or external - who are familiar with mobile application development and programming language.
It is cheaper and faster with a low-code or no-code process. This is where app construction kits and tools are used, with which even semi-professional developers, beginners and laypeople can achieve good results without having to learn the programming language in depth. You only have to write very little or no program code at all; the creation takes place via graphic user interfaces, among other things. Such app construction kits are ideal for implementing simple results, ideas or prototypes.
What else you should consider when implementing and programming
An app consists of technology and content. You have to worry about both. This means:
- Android, iOS or just for the web: For which system and provider would you like to develop your app?
- What special features and challenges do the various platforms offer?
- What does the app look like? How does it have to be designed so that the user can use it in the best possible way?
- What future functions should the application have? Do other systems, for example a CRM or ERP, have to be connected? How is that possible?
- How is the market developing? What do the new smartphone models offer? How are customer requirements changing?
- What about data protection and security? What current and future requirements does the app have to meet?
Conclusion: A business app should be carefully considered
Programming an app is not a finished project with a fixed end. Instead, you need to stay on the ball, learn from your users and update your application.
Therefore, think carefully about whether the development of an app really makes sense for your company. And whether you can implement the project with the resources available.
About the author:
Jürgen Kroder loves digitization, start-ups and marketing. That is why he writes as a freelance specialist author for well-known publications on these topics. And as a coach and consultant, he supports medium-sized companies in their marketing strategy.
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