Throw That App Away!!

In the business world, many have come to rely upon mobile apps to help achieve digital transformation of their organization. As a result, we’ve come to think of mobile apps with a certain amount of permanence. We’ll all come together, spend six months defining requirements, talking to subject matter experts, outlining the integration with our ERP system, and only then we’ll start building the thing. A year later we’ll have a solid version 1. It’ll resemble a Swiss Army Knife, and possibly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we’ve created something we can use for the next ten years until it becomes the next generation’s green screen.

What happens when we have a near term business need? We don’t have a year and a committee, but we have a real-world problem that needs to be solved. The answer tends to be somewhere between break out the clipboard and call the resident Microsoft Excel expert. Neither are good mobile solutions, but this is the world that business analysts tend to turn to.

It should be our job as an industry to fix this. And it needs to start with the way we think about mobile apps. Mobility isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean every app must live a lifetime. If our problem can be solved in a month, then our app only needs to last a month.

Let’s look at an email someone in a technology company’s infrastructure group might receive:

Hi John -

I figured out what's happening with the new fiber cabinets. Looks like the techs didn't know that the new 4800 switches need 150 watt power supplies, so some of them got installed with 120 watt units. We're going to have to send someone around to check them. The supplies look the same, but the 150 watt ones have serial numbers 315xxx vs 312xxx for the 120 watts. Also, the 4800s need to be wired from the back or it interferes with the signal. Can we have the tech get photos for me to review? Thanks -- Tim

This problem needs to be solved quickly to satisfy customers. We can’t spend months or even weeks to design it, and if we can get it out to the technicians today, they can start work immediately. But it’s not a trivial survey either. In addition to text data we need to capture photos, verify serial numbers (ideally via scanning their barcodes) and though we trust our technicians, we’d like to gather location data to verify they are where they say they are. We’d like the reports of each inspection emailed to us and if we get CSVs we can feed our BI tool.

How long do we think this would take to build? Well, after a bit of training and practice I can build it in 5 minutes and have it deployed on iOS, Android, and Windows devices in 5 minutes more. Our technicians can be collecting data faster than you can get a Unicorn Frappuccino®. You might think I’m exaggerating, but the scenario above is now one of our standard demos. Even sales can build it in 15 minutes. Even if we round up to an hour, our total cost of deployment could be less than 0.1% of an “enterprise mobile app."

Of course, what happens after all our fiber cabinets and power supplies have been inspected? The app we spent so long building? The app that’s now sent back hundreds of records and saved the infrastructure project? Well…then it’s time to throw it away. It really is that simple. If the job is done, and the problem is solved, just get rid of it. There need not be any tears, angst, or heartache.

To be fair I should be a little more environmentally friendly. Rather than throw it away, feel free to recycle it the next time a business-critical problem comes up.

Mi-Corporation’s Mobile Impact Platform is known for helping organizations transform their mission critical data capture processes by providing solutions that enable fast and accurate data capture, thereby ensuring that key KPIs are being met. Mi-Corporation can also keep your workforce agile and able to meet the ever changing needs of customers and the market with the ability to quickly and easily build “throw away apps.” For more information, please contact us.