User Research: The Key to Mobile Digital Transformation

In Enterprise Mobility, Mobile Strategy, User Research by Natalie Cheng

Did you know that digital transformation is occurring rapidly at a majority of public and private sector organizations?

This sounds great, but what exactly is digital transformation? Forbes describes digital transformation as “the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society”. In addition, in the digital transformation stage, “digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain”. At ChaiOne, we define digital transformation as the ability to enhance the business in a quantifiable way by leveraging digital technology.

So why should organizations care about digital transformation? Harvard Business Review found that a majority of organizations were participating in digital transformation when it surveyed 537 of its readers who are at large and medium sized public and private sector organizations. (45% were either executives or senior managers.) These organizations realize the myriad of benefits from digital transformation and are even embracing tech trends to “craft new business models, develop new revenue streams, or drive other material changes that lead to an increase in the top or bottom lines”.

One way to digitally transform your company is by implementing mobile apps to enhance work processes. According to the Apperian Mobile Enterprise Application Survey, “53% are creating apps to address core business processes, which includes internal app development or partners developing apps”. Furthermore, Harvard Business Review found that 51% in the utilities and technology sectors indicated that mobile devices and access are critical. These survey respondents felt that “anywhere access” to corporate apps and data was the biggest benefit to using mobile, followed by increased productivity. The study also found that a majority of survey respondents indicated that “putting mobile functionality in the hands of employees is now a key requirement, and leading companies are also leveraging the growing ubiquity of smartphones to innovate and drive top-line revenue growth.”

Of course, creating an app is easier said than done. Like Javier said in Smashing Magazine, “there’s more to designing mobile apps than meets the eye”. One important thing to keep in mind when designing a mobile app is to consider the users’ needs. You can’t just release an app without first observing and considering user needs. How do you figure out what a worker’s needs are? You’ll need to conduct user research.

Knowing the user is a crucial part of creating a successful enterprise mobile app that will help workers achieve their goals. Here are some things to consider when trying to understand users and designing a mobile app that will align with their needs:

The Environment

This is a huge part of any user need especially if he or she is working in harsher environments such as an oilfield. When designing a mobile app especially for rougher environments, consider different situations and the elements that users are exposed to. For example, do the users wear gloves? Will they be carrying iPads out into the oilfield? If the environment is outdoors, will the information in the mobile app be legible or will the sun make it hard to read text? Asking these questions is crucial to making an app that will actually be useful to workers. Remember to observe how workers do their jobs and conduct contextual inquiries. In enterprise mobility, context is everything and apps rely heavily on research before design.

Previous Experience

According to Understanding Mobile Human-Computer Interaction, previous experience has emerged as an important predictor of performance with a system. For more experienced mobile users, it will be easier to learn how an enterprise mobile app works. For workers that don’t have as much experience using a mobile device, it can be harder to learn how to use the app to accomplish tasks. Designers will need to consider the different sets of user requirements that older versus younger user groups need. The app has to be intuitive and user-friendly so that users can easily learn how to use the enterprise app.

In addition, previous experience will affect a worker’s attitude toward the mobile app. For example, Jerry has worked at XYZ Corporation for 5 years now and is used to software that is slow and unreliable. This morning, the company introduced a mobile app that should make Jerry’s work easier. Since Jerry is used to bad software and doesn’t trust it, he is skeptical of the new mobile app. Fortunately for Jerry and XYZ Corporation, the agency that created the mobile app did user research and took this into consideration. The first version of the mobile app is focused on two functions that provide the highest productivity gains for his job description. Since the app is simple and only focuses on a few functions, Jerry will be more willing to use the new mobile app. Once Jerry and others are comfortable with the first version of the mobile app, the agency can release another version with more features. By focusing on a few functions at the beginning, the agency made it easier for workers to learn how to use the mobile app, leading to higher adoption.    

User Research

Whether you’re just starting your mobile digital transformation or you’re in the middle of it, conducting user research for your enterprise mobile app will make a huge difference in success. Of course, bringing in user research earlier rather than later is always best. Wouldn’t you rather save some money and do user research at the beginning rather than waiting until after you launch the app and then finding out that you have to do it all over again?
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