There’s been a lot written about millennials and their work habits. Regardless of what you think, there is one truth about them — they spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones. Now let’s be honest, it is hard to get real work done on a smart device. If timing is everything, we often lose that battle. This applies not only to millennials but us older folks “Over Thirty” as well. So what do we do to enable the new smartphone-toting business user?

Clearly the answer is to develop solutions which are mobile-enabled, which many business applications companies have done. However this problem still remains – Why? We believe the issue is that the apps are not mobile native and are merely porting the web based app paradigm to mobile, which doesn’t work. The answer lies in truly designing the experience around smart device which takes advantage of the personal supercomputer which is always aware, connected and always available. We believe that the answer is seamlessly integrated, intelligent, mobile native apps that are optimized to be in the user’s flow of work.

The Solution – Google Now for Business

Just like Google Now proactively brings the relevant insights (e.g. traffic) and apps (e.g. maps) to the consumer at the right time, the new class of business apps will do the same for the business user. The new era of business apps will bring the relevant business insights (e.g. real-time customer interest) and the right app (e.g. Salesforce) just when the user needs it.  

However the critical difference is that unlike consumers, business users have an established flow of work and less variance in use cases when filtered by role (e.g. sales). Therefore we believe the generic voice enabled search in Google Now or Siri is replaced with apps built around the user’s role and their flow of work. This provides deeper value to the business user by recommending and connecting to the next best action without having to search or remember. Just go about your work and the next best actions will be recommended to you right where you work…

What are the characteristics of such an App?

Let’s take an example of the sales user to envision what such an app looks like.  

In the flow of work

First and foremost it has to be in the user’s flow of work. SImply because they are way too many apps and too little time to maintain search, find and enter data on the go while maintaining the context. On average only 5-7 apps are used on a regular basis (source: comscore study).

We believe that such an app has to bring commonly used tools/workflow into one app contextually integrated without requiring to the user to learn a new flow of work.

As an example for “external facing” business users like salespeople who spend an inordinate amount of in their time on their smartphones, Inbox and calendar such an app must bring those components as a starting point (e.g. SmarterMe)

Now for more “internal facing” business users like engineer types who use chatting/messaging in their main flow of work the tool needs to have messaging on the desktop be the starting point (e.g. Slack)

Contextually Integrated – No more Redundant Data Entry and Constant Searching

Just like Google Now deeply integrates with the map app to bring route times into the google app right before the user has a meeting. Similarly the new era of business apps for salespeople will deeply integrate to email, calendar, CRM, social media etc to bring the right app when they need (e.g. access and update CRM after a meeting with a customer). No more having to go to multiple apps and and then re-enter the context (e..g search for an opportunity). Whether it is slack for engineers or SmarterMe for Sales – deep contextual integration is the future.

Intelligent – Data Driven and Proactive:

Just like Google Now notifies the consumer of flight delays or expected travel time right before you are leaving for work; the new generation of business apps will bring the business insights and data when the user needs it. As an example imagine a sales user being notified and presented with customer research right before a meeting (team interactions, social profiles etc). or being notified when the customer shows interest (e.g. – When and how many times they have opened, forwarded and reviewed email and collateral)

Smart “in the flow” Collaboration:

In addition to deep contextual integration and intelligent work cues/reminders the new generation of business apps will allow for simple collaboration without having to fire up another social networking or messaging app to chat.  

As a an example salespeople spend hours every day scheduling customer meetings. What if this type of collaboration could be done with 1 email vs. 20 conversations with team members and customers to schedule?  Similarly how about being able to share all your customer interactions with your entire team with 1 swipe. No longer salespeople have to schedule meetings or make phone calls just to get on the same page as their team

End User is King

The era has come where business apps will work for you, the business user, vs. you working to keep the business systems up to date.  
The net result will be happier, more effective end users, managers and IT. End users who care about efficiency and effectiveness, managers who rely on reporting from “systems of record” like CRM and IT departments that worry adoption of systems they have invested in.