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Workflow apps are the next step in mobility

BOSTON — To truly enable mobility, organizations need to start focusing on mobile apps that fuse multiple applications into one experience.

Here at BriForum 2016, attendees learned how integrated apps can improve employee productivity. These “workflow apps” are a new concept that involves integrating the key functionalities of multiple apps into one app, said Brian Katz, director of end-user computing mobile strategy at VMware.

Many organizations look to build a single app with a single purpose. But a typical business process — take expense report filing, for example — requires users to access multiple applications to achieve one task. With a workflow app, developers could allow users to take actions for one app right from their email. For instance, when a manager gets an expense report approval email, he clicks an Approve or Reject button embedded in the email app that takes him directly to the expense app and automatically approves or rejects the report.

“Apps are experiences,” Katz said. “It’s about how you combine these experiences.”

This experience doesn’t mean a user won’t sometimes need to access the original application directly, Katz said. But by and large, it can increase productivity by reducing clicks, logins and overall confusion. Developers and administrators should shadow users to get a sense of their workflow needs from one app to the next.

Integrated apps shouldn’t apply only to mobile devices, however, Katz said.

“Mobile first doesn’t mean mobile only,” he said. “This app on my smartphone, I should be able to also use on a laptop.”

One example of this approach is Microsoft’s recent addition of the Focused Email feature in the desktop version of Outlook, which was only previously available for Outlook mobile apps.

To build a mobile and desktop-friendly app experience, organizations can create a mobile center of excellence (MCOE) — a structured group of people from the company’s IT, security, business and even legal departments. MCOEs are a great starting point to help form the best approach to mobile, but once that strategy is in place, IT and developers should be able to plan and develop apps on their own, knowing the right way to do it, Katz said.

“If you have a mobile center of excellence for more than three years, you’re doing something wrong,” he said.