Monday, February 25, 2013

How Organizations Can Address Mobile App Backlog without Mobile Developers

The Mobile App development challenge:

Today’s organizations are being inundated with increasing customer and employee demands for customized enterprise apps. These apps must be robust and integrate with corporate IT systems.  They must also work on any mobile device that customers or employees may use. App development requires that developers learn many new programming languages and tools. Objective C, for example, is only used on iOS devices and was not popular until Apple mobile devices became popular, so few programmers know the language. This is the same with Java for Android, even though it is a little more popular, most programmers are not Java programmers. Therefore, the big issue is that 97% of developers in enterprise-size businesses do not yet have mobile programming skills, which is a key reason why app requests are being addressed so slowly.
Another reason mobile app development takes so much time is because there is no single mobile platform. Developers must develop apps to work on each platform separately with different languages and tools. SDK’s provided by Apple and Google only work for their own platforms.  Additionally, the development tools provided by Apple and Google require very low level programming. Some enterprises are leveraging more productive web-based tools but even with technologies like Java, Scrape and Mobile J Query, app development is still too time consuming. As well, with no single mobile platform, app development requires programming knowledge in Android and iOS SDK’s, Java, Javascript and Objective C. These are time consuming and costly development methods and present significant challenges for ongoing app management.

The glut of app development issues leaves companies faced with hiring in-house mobile programmers or outsourcing. Mobile developers are costly, scarce, and in high demand and outsourcing can often mean giving up project control. Additionally, the majority of existing enterprise developers have not yet had mobile app training nor is the time or money available for that to happen. Most organizations do not have many trained developers in mobile programming technologies. This limited resource should be used to enable other programmers in the company to create mobile apps. As a result, organizations are now faced with a huge backlog of app requests and the challenge of somehow building and delivering apps with their existing programming staff.

The solution to the mobile development challenge:

SnAPPii is an online mobile app building platform created to allow companies of any size to easily and quickly make custom apps for their business without requiring any mobile programming skills. Utilizing the SnAPPii platform developers can now build native apps without needing any training or experience in mobile programming. The visual drag, drop and configure method lets developers build apps once and deploy across all major mobile platforms. It also provides a rich library of pre-built features and functionality for building sophisticated enterprise apps that access data from back end and cloud based servers. This allows development of integrated, feature rich native apps easier and 30 times faster than using SDKs and Frameworks. Organizations can leverage developers trained in mobile programming technologies to extend the Snappii platform even further with capabilities specific to their enterprise. What takes mobile app developers months to do using SDK’s can be done in days on Snappii. App updates and changes can also be immediately tested, submitted and distributed to all user devices with a click of a button.  

One of the biggest challenges with mobile programming is that app requirements are not known up front. This requires a lot of prototyping and validation with users, which is very time consuming using SDK’s and Frameworks.  Developers can quickly release new versions and enable QA and business users to immediately see the prototype apps on their devices. This saves huge amounts of time and enables design, build and test work to proceed in a parallel. The Snappii platform also acts as a content management system allowing continuous updates, with immediate distribution, and monitoring of performance and usability.

Using the Snappii platform, organizations can address their mobile app backlog by leveraging their existing programmers to provide faster, cost effective, cross platform app builds and easy app management. The Snappii platform is open to all developers online and we encourage you to begin building your enterprise apps now. You will shock yourself with how easy and quick app development can be. In a matter of hours you will be able to build a cool app and show it to your boss! Build an app today and be a hero in your organization!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

10 tips to successfully launching your enterprise mobile app

Building your enterprise mobile app for iOS, Android and HTML5 using the Snappii Platform is not the only concerns we have for you and your company. We also want to provide you advice to help ensure you effectively are able to market your app and encourage your customers to download and use it.

While I was at Apps World recently, I came across these 9 suggestions by Max Rabinovitc of ComboApp and felt you’d appreciate me sharing them with you.

“Like any other product, applications need the support of solid marketing copy and eye catching visual advertisements. Whether it’s via social media, right on the app store, or anywhere online, these materials are normally the first point of consumer interaction and they need to pique their interest.”

“Your copy needs be engaging, built around effective SEO keywords, and optimized so shoppers are primed to stumble across it searching the app stores and the web for products like yours. The following components are crucial to address before you begin marketing your mobile app."

Pre-Launch campaign:
o An App Name - Preferably a small title that rolls off the tongue and sounds memorable. Avoid using more than 1 or 2 words maximum and be original, names that sound like riffs on other product names tend to be a turnoff.
o An App Icon - Seemingly a no-brainer, designing an app icon that’s both eye popping and representative of what your product’s goal/ function is a must as it’s the first visual reference point for consumers.
o A Good SEO Keyword Set - Take time to figure out what terms your target audience searches for when looking for solutions or experiences your app provides and integrate them in all of the written content associated with your product.
o A Professional App Marketplace Description - Going beyond a few small blurbs on the quality of your app, you’ll need to create:
o Promotional Screenshots that visually highlight your product’s positives.
o Analyze the Mobile marketplace you want to launch your app in thoroughly and pick the right category to submit it under to maximize potential traffic & interest.
o Develop a well designed landing page for your app that can attract browsers and funnel them directly to its app store page where they can download it.
o Social Media Accounts - Your app needs them to maintain a presence in the digital world, and it will if you use them to actively engage and update potential consumers on news regarding your product, special promotions, and most important keep them in the loop on when launch day is. At minimum you need to create accounts for your product on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
o Promotional Video - Apps exist in the digital arena and likewise the best place to advertise them is online. Promotional videos are a powerful and cost effective way to introduce the world at large to your product, what the concept behind it is, and why consumers out to be interested via popular outlets such as YouTube and Vimeo.

When these suggestions were shared on Linked In, Saurabh Saxena shared this important additional points related to preparing a press kit prior to the release of your mobile app.

One more useful strategy is always preparing a Press Kit. To make it as easy as possible for journalists or bloggers to write about your app, prepare a press kit with all the essential materials they may need for the story. Your press kit can live on your website as a downloadable zip file.

 It should include:

  • A brief description of your app. Be sure to state why it is unique – what sets it apart from other apps?
  • High quality screenshots of your app in action.
  • High resolution logo and any other essential graphics from your app.
  • Contact information.
  • Important links to the App Store, Youtube, and social media channels, etc.
We at Snappii look forward to working with you on your next Enterprise Mobile App Development project and helping provide any insight we might be able to offer to ensure your app is successfully downloaded and used by your current and future customers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

7 Reasons Your Business Needs A Mobile App

While the number of SMART phones and Tablets continues to grow, many businesses are still left with the questions, "Does my business really need a mobile app?"

In a recent article on The APP Entrepreneur, Pratek Patel wrote on this specific question and offered these compelling reasons why it is important for your business to develop a unique enterprise mobile app.

1 - A growing business needs publicity. 
An effective, well designed enterprise mobile app can imprint your company's value in the minds of your potential customers. An app is a way from you to personally reach your customers.

2 - A Burgeoning Mobile App Economy
It has been estimated by experts that the mobile app industry produced close to 18 million dollars in revenue in 2012. Simply, people are spending more time on their smart phones than on their PCs. Your clients want easy accessibility to your business.

3 - An Added Platform for Advertising
With exposure for your business on mobile devices via an app, you can advertise and promote your business. Making your app available for platforms such as Android and iOS your customers use will help you reach current customers and gain new ones.

4 - An Edge over Social Networking
A dedicated app for your business on the Smartphone of a customer means that you get more direct control. Facebook, Twitter and scores of other social networking sites may help in this process, but nothing gets better than immediate attention. Rather than battling it out with competitors on social networking pages, you can now, directly talk to your customer.

5 - A Lot More Information Sharing
If you invest in a good mobile app for your business, you can decide what information you can share with your potential clients. Useful links to product information, videos and service options placed skillfully within the app can provide information from your site in a easier ways for clients to use. You can also attract attention by announcing new deals, innovations or any such information via your mobile app and directly connected unique Twitter feeds for specific departments. This way, you can ensure the information has a greater opportunity to be seen by your customers.

6 - Immediate Feedback
Feedback for any business is crucial. At a time when the customer is literally the ‘King’, your mobile app can help you understand the direction that your business is taking. Customers who frequently use mobile apps are also involved in feedback. This feedback, positive or negative, can help you improve as you now know your customer better.

7 - Repeat Business for You
If you invest in a quality mobile app, there are great opportunities to generate repeat business for you. Imagine a customer who has done business with you. He liked your service and wants to benefit from it again on their next purchase. What do you think will be more convenient for him? Logging in via the internet, calling your customer care, sending you an e-mail or simply tapping on your mobile app to contact you? With the many functions your enterprise mobile app has provided he and his business. Your app may play a key role in the very reason your customer continues or even extends their business relationship with you.

What are some of the benefits you and your company have found that have really improved your customer relations?  I'd like to hear them and perhaps, if you're willing, share them for others to benefit from as they develop their enterprise mobile app.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hotels Using Mobile Apps for Better Guest Experiences

A recent article in The New York Times by Jane L. Levere states "Some hotels have begun to expand the definition of concierge to mean more than just a knowledgeable employee." Among the services hotels are beginning to make available to guests and potential guests through their enterprise mobile apps are "restaurant tips, flight arrivals and departures and driving directions.

One benefit to creating Mobile App Concierges is it lets midtier hotels offer these services offer these services, where they might not have had the staffing resources to offer them to guests in the past.

As John Wallis, global head of marketing and brand strategy for Hyatt Hotels put it, "we as an industry cannot operate in an analog way in a digital world." All Hyatt hotels let guests send requests, via Twitter, to customer service agents who are on call 24 hours a day. Responses are required within 15 minutes and, if the response requires more than the 140 character limit in Twitter, they are to send an e-mail or call the guest.

InterContinental Hotels, owners of 171 hotels, are testing the use by concierges of iPads with information for guests, as well as live chats between them through Skype or Apple's FaceTime. In addition, guests receive an e-mail from the chief concierge five days before arrival offering suggestions and maps.

Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Forrester Research, notes the value for properties offering mobile offerings could be their execution, "if they are not updated, authentic or appropriate for the brand of guest."

An article in CRM magazine by Leonard Klie titled, Hotels Go Mobile for a Betty Stay, shared come great ways the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club in Lenox, Massachusetts were using their mobile application to enhance their visitors stays. According to Mr. Klie, "in a few taps, app users can explore all the facilities of the resort." Among the other features Mr. Klie's mentions are a photo gallery, an interactive map which serves as an area guide showing nearest restaurants, bars, shops, cultural and recreational venues, and must-see attractions. Clicking on a locations icon can provide more information and, in some cases, make reservations.

At the Cranwell Resourt, their mobile app also allows guests to "send virtual postcards to friends and family and access their guest-relations information, anytime, anywhere."

Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), is a collection of more than 500 luxury hotels in 70 countries. "According to Robyn Fuchs, a spokesperson for SLH, their mobile app have been downloaded 57,000 times and has logged close to 200,000 user sessions."

Clearly, the use of enterprise mobile apps in the hospitality industry is just beginning. Consider all the potential possibilities that not only improve the guest experience, but help sell the properties amenities, reduce personnel costs, and improve guest check-in and check out.
Here are some examples to consider in designing your hotel mobile application:

  • Allow guests to see all room types 
    • Potentially select a specific room based on ability to display property map 
    • See all promotions currently active 
    • Making reservations 
  • Allowing Guest to self check in and install a key system that can allow guests SMART device to open the room and act as their access key. 
  • Highlight all property services and allow orders and reservations
  • View all restaurant menus, place room service order or make reservation time for the restaurant 
  • Make tee time reservation at the properties golf course or have links to do the same at local courses 
  • If applicable, make spa reservations and particular services requested 
  • Allow parental sign-up forms for properties offering child programs 
  • Link to a Twitter feed that exclusively promotes property activities 
  • Anything that can be reached on a room phone menu should be available through the app 
  • Every department, including such departments as room service and transportation should all be accessible through the app 

What ways could your hotel use a mobile app to make your stay more pleasant and satisfying? I'd love you hear your thoughts!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Healthcare Industry BYOD and Mobile Security

A recent story appeared in Becker's Hospital Review on Mobile's Impact on Hospital IT Security in 2013: How Your Institution Can Adapt to BYOD. In the article, written by Bill Ho, President of Biscom, he talks about both the barrage of new regulatory requirements, but also the widespread adoption of mobile technology.

In the article Mr. Ho cites a recent survey by Aruba Networks. According to the survey, 85 percent of facilities support their physicians' and staffs use of personal devices at work. By supporting this use, hospital employees and clinicians can:

  • check their personal email accounts
  • their work email
  • review electronic medical records
  • check drug interaction information
  • use mobile secure file transfer apps to view lab results or radiology images
  • provide signature approval on a treatment decision
  • make practitioners more accessible and connected

These changes to technology in the healthcare industry and its mobility, leave IT departments with two questions to address.
  1. How can we best integrate personal devices while still maintaining our existing security policies.
  2. How do we support healthcare professionals who bring their own device into various medical settings while still maintaining the security and confidentiality of personal health information.
I have spent much of my professional career seeking and creating solutions determining how best to solve the protection of both personal and corporate data. I have worked through the years with many hospitals and other types of medical facilities with how to protect data in their systems subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). With the increased number of devices, systems and applications seeking access to personal medical data, IT staff will be seeking to create security policies that address:
  • Rogue applications installed by the clinician or other staff that could potentially access Personal Health Information (PHI) because their devices are now tied to the facilities network.
  • Addressing the dual-use (personal, work) nature of mobile devices and tendency particularly for personal devices to eschew levels of security in favor of ease of use, simplicity and quick access.
  • Shutting off access to synchronization type apps like Dropbox until there's a way to manage them with centralized control, granular permissioning and integration  with established authentication services.
Mr. Ho goes on to provide 10 points healthcare IT departments should consider as they develop their BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and meeting HIPPA and PHI security requirements.

1. Review your current security policies for web applications (CRM, email, portals), VPN and remote access. Most, if not all of these will apply to mobile devices as well.

2. Determine which devices you are willing to support — not all devices meet the security requirements of your healthcare organization, nor do you want to have to test all possible platforms. Also, physically inspect each device and make sure it hasn't been jailbroken or rooted.

3. Set expectations clearly. IT may have to radically change physicians' mindsets. Yes, security adds additional layers to wade through, but what amazing challenges would a security breach cause?

4. Write clear and concise policies for all employees who want to use their personal devices. Have anyone participating in BYOD sign your terms of use. Those who choose not to follow your policies should not expect to use their device.

5. Make a personal identification number, or other client authentication, mandatory. This hampers ease of use, but is the first line of defense against a lost device.

6. Enforce encryption of data at rest; any apps that download and store data on the device should protect that data. If a PIN or passcode is cracked, you want to make sure that data is still protected.

7. With hundreds of thousands of apps available, which will you permit? Are there any specific applications or class of applications you want to keep off the device? This can be hard to do, but malware and rogue apps can do serious damage without users realizing it.

8. Provide training to physicians and hospital staff to make sure they understand how to correctly use their applications, make the most of their mobile capabilities and watch for suspicious activity. Once you've embraced BYOD, promote it.

9. As mobile devices become conduits for information to flow, look for apps that include auditability, reporting and centralized management. Many current apps will not have this feature, but those that do will make it easier to trace back any potential breaches.

10. Consider mobile device management software that can provide secure client applications like email and web browsers, over the air device application distribution, configuration, monitoring and remote wipe capability. Note that some MDM providers require applications to be re-written specifically to support their platform, so you may find some of your applications will not run in the MDM solution you pick.

As a way of expanding on Mr. Ho's 10th point. I would encourage you that rather than investing in multiple different apps all created by unknown parties, that you strongly identify the benefits you most need in your enterprise mobile apps and utilize a platform and development team like where you can either design your apps yourself, or we can work with your IT department to help you ensure the proper data is available for the specific apps that need it, but also ensure is designed to complement your existing IT security protocols.

If you have more questions on enterprise mobile app development for use in a medical environment as part of BYOD policies, while continuing to maintain, HIPPA and PHI compliance, don't hesitate to send me an email.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Mobile Marketing Techniques for Restaurants

A valuable service we want to provide to all of our SnAPPii users is not just our SnAPPii Platform, but to be keen students of specific features that are particularly valuable in any given industry. As we learn more able these valuable features, we add them to our Rich Library of Industry Specific Templates. This helps ensure your enterprise mobile app meets or exceeds any other a customer might find in your industry.

I recently read an article on About dot come by Priya Viswanathan on Mobile Marketing Strategies for Restaurant Businesses. Ms. Viswanathan focused on six specific techniques and I'd like to share them with you.

  • Keep in Touch with Your Mobile Customer
Make sure that you are always keeping in touch with your mobile customers. Keep sending them SMS reminders about your restaurant, discounts, deals, special menus and so on.

  • Use Sponsored Bulk SMS Services
There are several free bulk SMS services available to mobile marketers today, which you can use to your advantage to reach the maximum number of customers. Such providers function on the financial backing offered by their sponsors and hence, their SMS’ would include ads from the sponsors.The only disadvantage of using free, sponsored, SMS services is that it may make your company appear slightly downmarket in the eyes of the user.

  • Engage Your Mobile Customer
Engage your customers with surveys, polls, quizzes and so on. This gives them the impression of being an active part of your business, thus adding the personal touch. Offer poll participants and winners coupons, deals or discounts – this will help retain your present customers, while also attracting new ones to your business.

  • Offer Location-Based Deals
Many food chains keep up a constant offer of discounts, deals and coupons on an everyday basis. This helps pull in a lot more deal hunters. Following this strategy to attract mobile customers yields much better results, as the mobile user is always online. It would get even better if you can use location-based apps to supply relevant info and offer irresistible deals to your customer, when he or she is in your area of operation.

  • Create a Mobile Website
Creating a mobile Website is vital for the success of your business. Make sure it is easy for the mobile user to navigate your Website on his or her smartphone. You should also think of making the Website compatible for different mobile devices, so that you are able to reach a wider range of mobile users. Test your Website thoroughly before release and make sure that it is constantly updated.

  • Create Mobile Apps
Mobile app branding will prove to be very helpful for further enhancing your restaurant business. Create entertaining mobile apps, with your restaurant name appearing prominently on it. Target the younger generation, as they are the ones who most use such apps and often get the final decision on where the family and/or group will eat. Link your mobile app to your Facebook or Twitter account, so that mobile users are always updated on your most recent activities.

Contact Snappii to learn more about how your Restaurant can create its own Mobile App to not only retain your current customers, but also expand your clientele among both youth and visitors to your area.