Over the last year I have spoken to hundreds of business users across industries and roles and there seems to be an unequivocal desire to be more productive on the go.  Why wait to go back to the desktop or laptop to get a task done (especially the simple ones) or at least make some progress towards it?  Yes there are still tasks which will require you to go back to desk, but many don’t.  However the question that still remains is – how?  In order to get to the answer lets examine how the work habits and proclivities of the business user   Email Still the Most Important Tool  for BusinessScreen Shot 2014-04-29 at 8.41.27 AMIt turns out that business users still spend an inordinate amount of time in and around email.  Despite the commonly heard chant among the tech luminaries of silicon valley that email is dying, business users continue to rely on email. In fact, according to a Radacati group report on email usage, business email volume continues to grow at a steady rate, while consumer email (no surprise here) traffic is decreasing. Business Email accounts generate 64% of all email traffic, even though they account for only 24% of all email accounts.

Email still the Killer App on Mobile

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According to Pew Research Mobile Email continues to be the top activity on smartphones and tablets.  In fact, more and more of this email usage is moving to mobile from the desktop. Research shows that 65% of all emails are  now opened on mobile.  And interestingly enough users are now spending more time reading emails on smartphones than desktops. As smartphones become more ubiquitous, mobile email continues to grow faster than even social network. According to Radacati group mobile email users are expected to grow by 54% to 1.8 billion users by 2017,  while social networking users are expected to grow at 30% to 1.58 billion users by 2017

Business Apps on Mobile are Broken

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Many of the stalwarts of the business software industry have aggressively launched mobile apps for business. However, the reality is that most of them are used as a way to sell to customers who want to see innovation on mobile because that is where their users increasingly reside.  Most business applications on mobile transfer the data entry centric web/client server software paradigm on the mobile interface and that just doesn’t work. Some business software companies, to their credit, have even created UI which is much more suited to mobile taking lessons from consumer apps like facebook and linkedin.  However, most are still very data entry centric applications, which just doesn’t work on the mobile. Furthermore, because these business applications they weren’t designed “mobile first” they don’t take advantage of the ubiquity and the sensors on the smartphone/tablets/smart devices to the extent that it is possible.

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There are so many apps that it is not easy to stand out for any app. Let alone a business app which the users have gotten used to begrudgingly using on the desktop.  I have over 300 apps on my phone most that I haven’t used more than once.  According to Gartner 102 billion apps were download just in 2013 and projected to grow to 268 billion apps in 2017. Assuming 1.4 billion smartphone users today, the average smartphone user downloaded over 72 apps in 1 year.  The average number of apps per smartphone continues to grow at a breakneck speed, however the ability of the user consume these apps on a regular basis is limited.  According to a flurry analytics research the number of apps launched per daily remains quite between 7 and 8 apps per day.   I don’t see the ability of the user to consume apps on a regular basis changing significantly.  So how does the average business app, which is focused on a particular task, get adopted and used?

What Does The “Me Generation” Business User Want?

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Facebook, Linkedin and quite frankly our society have trained the millennials to be  generation which is all about “Me.”  The “Me Generation” wants and likes things centered around them and it makes them more productive, efficient and innovative.  For the last decade enterprise users have always complained about the lack of “give and take” of enterprise systems.  The time has come where that is going to change and certainly the millennials are in the forefront of driving this change.  The user wants a simple way to interact with their corporate systems (like they do on the FB or LNKD app), they don’t want to be encumbered by work that is duplicative and non value added to them.  Soon they will want not only all the information at their fingertips, but for it to come to them when they need it based on their work habits.  In many ways Google Now is training them to expect this.  To me this means a new world of BYOA (Bring Your Own App to work) which are tuned and personalized to you.  Why not? Many of us already bring our own device to work (BYOD), your relationships (on Linkedin), your documents (on DropBox) and you notes (on Evernote)

Conclusion

So to sum it up, the business user lives in mobile email, doesn’t necessarily want to use traditional business software on mobile and has too many apps which makes it hard get used any one business app.  Top it all off with the fact that the new generation of users want business applications which help “them” be better, smarter and more productive, which they can take with them from one job to the next.  Wow, thats a lot to ask!  So what’s the answer to more productivity on the smartphone/device?