Forget The Back End – Focus On The User

Rick Knowles

Just because your business has always been done a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to do it. The digital era is urging many business leaders to rethink the way they operate, including the way they run their business applications.

Traditionally, enterprise applications were rarely developed based on an individual’s work process. Most often they started with core systems and were pushed out to employees. This method allows IT leaders to change the backend systems all they want, but if these applications don’t help employees work better, what have the companies accomplished?

Bring the customer experience into the enterprise

New technology agreements, like the Apple-SAP partnership, are flipping business on its back end. These types of agreements are about bringing the customer experience into the enterprise. They are based on using mobile technology to bring the best of the consumer world (Apple) and combine it with leading backend processes in the business technology world (SAP) to completely transform the work experience.

This changes everything. Now, companies can digitally transform their operations using mobile enterprise apps that start with the employee role and work backwards.

What does this mean for enterprise mobility?

Enterprise mobility doesn’t just mean making all of your backend systems available to your employees on a mobile device. Let’s face it: most backend legacy systems would just create more complexity in a mobile app. The whole idea behind these new tech partnerships is to create simple, easy-to-use, intuitive native mobile apps that are specifically designed to streamline a particular job or work process.

The beauty of contextual mobile apps is that they can use the functionality of an iPad or iPhone, such as GPS, camera, or motion sensing technology, and combine it with the backend systems so employees can have all the information they need at their fingertips right when they need it. The Mobile Research Council calls this type of mobile interaction a “contextual right-time experience,” Forrester Research calls it a “mobile moment,” and Google refers to it as a “micro moment.” Regardless of what it’s called, it means having the right information at the right time via mobile technology.

An enterprise mobile app can give employees all of the data they need exactly when and where they need it. A native app can even use the fingerprint ID feature on an iPhone as a single sign-on function to access confidential backend data. Just think of how all of this could change the work experience for your employees.

Why go mobile?

The global market for smartphones is already over a billion dollars, according to a recent Washington Post article. In the article, Apple CEO Tim Cook said mobile technology is going to become even more essential than it is today, and he’s convinced that every person in the world will eventually have a smartphone.

Whether or not that happens, mobility is already having a huge impact on global businesses as it continues to be adopted by employees worldwide. According to a 451 Research report, 50% of employees say they use their personal smartphone for business purposes. This shows that employees are eager to use mobile devices, even if their employers aren’t providing them with that capability. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. People use mobile apps on their personal devices all the time, so why wouldn’t they want that same experience at work?

Business benefits of mobility

The benefits of enterprise mobility are two-fold: for your company, mobility can increase productivity, improve cost efficiency, streamline work processes, and shorten turnaround times. For the employee, the benefits are even greater. Mobile apps can make their jobs easier, more productive, more engaging, simpler, less time-consuming, and simply create a better overall work experience. These benefits have made user-based mobile solutions one of the main drivers of digital transformation in the enterprise, according to the SAP e-book, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Reaping the benefits of enterprise mobility

It’s time to change the way things have always been done and reap some of the benefits of mobility for your company. In order to succesfully move forward with digital transformation based on mobility rather than on backend systems, the Apple e-book, Enterprise Blueprint, suggests focussing on the following three areas:

  1. Encourage innovation: Create a fearlessly innovative culture by encouraging employees (and customers and partners as well) to challenge existing processes and tackle potential improvements head-on.
  1. Think mobile: This isn’t just about devices and applications; it’s a new way of thinking. Existing backend systems don’t automatically work for mobile. Have a broader perspective and see how jobs and processes could change if workers were untethered.
  1. Focus on the user: Don’t allow existing systems to dictate the pace; build mobile solutions around users and provide data exactly when and where they need it to make their jobs easier.

Forget the back end – focus on the user

Focusing on the user is the most important issue when it comes to transforming the way your company operates. This means having empathy for end users and deeply understanding their roles. View your employees as customers, and flip the focus from maintaining infrastructure to finding new ways of connecting with users. It’s not about the backend systems anymore; it’s about making your corporate systems work for users (employees, partners, and customers) in new ways with enterprise mobility.

Discover how the Apple and SAP partnership is revolutionizing mobile apps for the enterprise.

Learn more about bringing the customer experience into the enterprise.

Find out why context matters for enterprise mobility.

Learn how to cut through complexity with enterprise mobile apps.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

To learn more about the driving forces behind digital transformation download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.


Rick Knowles

About Rick Knowles

Rick Knowles is senior vice president (SVP) and general manager (GM) of the partnership between SAP SE and Apple, Inc. In this role, he oversees the strategic roadmap in building state-of-the-art applications for some of the most complex business systems in the world. Rick has been with SAP for close to 20 years, where he has held executive positions such as SVP and chief of staff, GM of One Customer Experience, and SVP and chief operating officer for SAP Americas, the company’s largest geographic market. You can follow him on Twitter @RickKnowlesSAP.