ServiceMax Blog

How to Avoid the Top 3 ‘Gotchas’ of Mobile App Development

The following is a guest blog post from ServiceMax partner Field Data Integrators. For more information, visit its listing in our online marketplace here.

More and more managers are besieged by requests for custom mobile apps to automate their unique business processes and workflows – and field service is no exception.

With the expansion of the mobile development ecosystem over the past few years, there is now a wide variety of different development tools and options for building apps. There is also a lot of accumulated wisdom for helping teams avoid the common pitfalls of mobile app development. Here are the top three avoidable “gotchas” of mobile app development to ensure a successful roll out:

Gotcha #1: Everyone likes your mobile app, except the workers – and they don’t use it

Too many teams invest large amounts of money in mobile apps only to see them fail in the field. The source of the issue can range from the device itself, the app layout, the sequence of the workflow, or even the size of buttons.

Workers wearing gloves, for example, typically don’t want to use solutions that require them to constantly take off their gloves to enter data. In another example, a pipeline construction firm abandoned a tablet solution, when it became clear that the only way field teams could view screens in the bright Gulf sunshine was by shielding it in unassembled pipe sections.

To avoid this gotcha, include mobile workers in your initial tests or pilot that are interested in the project’s success. You may get skewed results from doing a pilot or proof of concept with a team that is uninterested in the outcome or overwhelmed by other tasks.

Gotcha #2: Getting locked into a proprietary solution that stakeholders – such as IT – don’t like

Even though many apps can now be developed and deployed on devices or through the Cloud independent of IT teams, it still makes sense to include IT early in the process.

You can avoid, for example, selecting browser-based app development that is incompatible with IT’s future planned device purchase. IT can also help surface proprietary issues and data architecture approaches that can make it difficult to extract or integrate data into key internal systems and processes in the future.

With even the best app, the more it’s used, the more people think about improvements and send change requests. While change requests can be a pain, they are also a good reflection of mobile workers using, engaging, and wanting to improve the app. Even better when they start requesting new apps, forms, and mobile workflows to automate.

Gotcha #3: You’ve painted yourself into a corner by not preparing for change

Many teams are shocked when they return to vendors or custom app developers to make change requests. Even minor changes can result in major expenses.

It’s important to build change into your original plan – from the perspectives of technology, vendor, and budget. Complexity often comes in waves. Solutions that are complex to build, also tend to be complex for training, to use, and to update. When there’s lots of initial custom coding and scripting, then making changes later can often seem as if you are rebuilding (and paying again for) the entire app.

What if operational groups could easily make changes themselves – without creating a burden on IT or requiring expensive change fees? A good test of a vendor and their form design tools is to send them one of your forms and ask them to do a quick live demo. If it takes a lot of time or requires too much money up-front for a pre-sales demo – then that may be a future glimpse into the complexity of using their tools.

There is no one-size-fits-all in mobility

Successful deployments require teams to consider a variety of factors. While each technological approach has its own unique set of specific considerations, the three gotchas above can rear their heads in any mobile technology deployment. The good news is that they can be avoided. While every mobile deployment is different, understanding these gotchas and opposing best practices will help you find the right solution for you and your team.

As a certified technology partner in the ServiceMax Technology Alliance program, FDI enables real-time visibility into traditionally paper-based operations by providing handwriting-to-text Digital Paper solutions, as well as, speech-to-text tablet solutions for iPad and Android. See how the solution works, join us for a webcast Dec. 20 2016, 11-12 PST/ 2-3 EST.