Why Mobile Apps Could Be The Key To Unlocking Omnichannel Success

IBM’s Martin Gale explains why apps tailored for employee use could be key to helping your business succeed

Thinking of mobile apps in the consumer domain, we often focus on the end consumer (self-service). Nonetheless, the reflected interaction of the consumer-facing employee is just as critical when aiming for a compelling omnichannel experience, especially due to the fact that engaged employees drive better service (which leads to increased sales, in return – kudos, commission – further engaging employees). This is where employee tools come into place,  given their impact on the engagement level:

  1. Well-designed quality tools based on employee requirements communicates to them that the organisation values them, turning employees into stronger brand advocates.
  2. Conversely, if the tools add difficulty, increasing employee stress levels, then their negative experience could become visible to the consumer, leading to lower sales and satisfaction.
  3. The tools themselves become key in projecting an organisation’s positive image through its people.
  4. It is important to note that every employee matters in providing timely service: from front of house employees to operational functions and fulfilment.

Mobile apps have become the primary vehicle for digital engagement, and the consumer consumption model in mobile also translates into workplace behaviours. Consumer apps are highly competitive, with short typical session lengths and focused on completing specific tasks, so workplace apps should be task-focused for each role, instead of a monolithic “Swiss Army knife” app that does everything.

shoppers high street ©ABC Photo/shutterstockMany organisations begin thinking mobile with e-mail and calendar, the existing infrastructure being fairly mobile-ready, and this is a leap forward for those looking for more flexibility. Next, you can embrace productivity tools, enabling on the move review, creation and sharing of documents. There are also many useful off-the-shelf apps in public app-stores.

Nonetheless, it is the tailored apps that connect directly into the organisation processes and change the way people work. The organisation must have this as part of the vision to drive benefit from apps for their employees and the least risk and most benefit might be in starting small and progressively refining.

martin gale ibmLast but not least, employees must be engaged as sponsors throughout this journey. They know how the business works and will be the agents for change. This transforms the traditional business-IT relationship: both parties have everything to gain, leading to better directed IT efforts, and reducing the risk of “shadow IT”. Similarly, the business cannot achieve the transformational vision described above without access to the systems that IT controls – shadow IT may be quick and tempting, but its benefits will ultimately be fundamentally limited, and fragmented point projects are the enemies of the omnichannel initiative.

So it is an exciting time to be thinking mobile in today’s digital business-to-consumer world, as platforms are maturing, lessons have been learned and employees are more comfortable with technology than ever before. By recognising the role that all users of technology have to play, the omnichannel vision looks now more achievable than ever. As a consumer and as an IT professional, I’m looking forward to being part of that journey.

Martin Gale is UK&I CTO for Mobile at IBM.

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