More Than an App: Create a Mobile Strategy

While consumer use of mobile business apps is skyrocketing, so is use by the apparel manufacturing industry for internal and external supply chain relationships. But what many companies fail to realize is that creating a mobile app simply to create an app will not bring about the desired results. App development, just like any other aspect of marketing, requires a strategy in order to be effective.

From easing communication to improving operations and efficiency, apparel manufacturers and their supply chain partners need to be purposeful and have specific outcomes in mind. Below are four strategy markers that should be identified when apps are used to fulfill a mobile app program:

1.  Solve an existing problem.  Don't just app for app's sake! If your orders are getting delayed or deadlines are missed -- create an app to improve this process and expedite the supply chain. While some customers will continue to prefer their established ways of doing business, when the efficiency of the app is proven, they will be more likely to download and encourage this process eventually making it the norm.

2.  Offer new features and save time.  In addition to creating the app to manage the current process of order fulfillment or selection, add something that really enhances the process. If the app is designed to communicate your shipping date, make sure it also includes their anticipated arrival date.  For the enterprise to embrace app communication, they have to experience an entire process that makes sense and improves day to day operations. Bells and whistles are great but saving time should always be the key factor for a successful mobile strategy.

3.  Make sure it works and keeps working. Once an app is actively being used, it is imperative to monitor its performance two ways. First, a watchful eye must be maintained over the system, tracking response times, average CPU usage, and other measures of functionality on the back end. But it's just as crucial to monitor the end user experience, integrating a device-centric approach to performance management as well. Mobile app crashes and errors, the effects of signal strength and connectivity issues on performance, app usage, and user behavior are all only visible from the vantage point of the device, as they are not a result of the app design itself, but the outcome of its interaction with an infrastructure. As such, they must be monitored from the user's point of view.

4. Keep secure.  Your mobile strategy should include programs to ensure 4 areas of security application for the device, the app, the network, and the data.  All of these components must be reviewed and compliant individually as well as how they interact with each other. Some examples include how all devices should be set up to require passwords, and to lock automatically when not in use. Data encryption should also be part and parcel of the security set-up. The app(s) should only be made available on an as-needed basis and distributed in a protected way. Mobile app tunnels should also be created, to allow shielded communication between employees and apps. The network should have the ability to block users and devices if they are detected to have attempted to perform an unauthorized action. Finally, the data itself must be secured in a content locker, preventing data leakage while still granting access to employees who require its use both individually and in collaboration with other employees.

Kishore Khandavalli is the founder and CEO of SevenTablets, a mobile company based in Dallas, Texas, that designs and delivers enterprise mobile apps, analytics and big data solutions.
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