Contextual Awareness is the new Mobile Frontier for Enterprise Apps in 2015

2015 is going to bring in a new type of frontier for Mobile Applications and Platform developers to conquer in the enterprise market. Bringing the right type of experiences to the right person, at the right time (depending on location of course) and on the device of their choice. The new paradigm for Enterprise apps for businesses must deliver information faster and relevant within the context that is presented to them by the user. True enterprise mobility apps will allow users to gain information and insight and get some kind of action from that insight.

Contextual services and design for contextual awareness is something that will take front and center stage for 2015 as enterprise apps take center stage for companies. With the recent IBM and Apple partnership, the business applications that are being built will be designed to take advantage of the new API’s that Apple has opened up for its developers in iOS 8 as well as the new kits for Health and Apple Watch.

Combining sensory data with other web accessible data and systems of recording data will allow companies to design and build new sets of business processes that will helps mobile apps learn, adapt and eventually provide predictive data to its users. Mobile provides us with capabilities now to access new types of contextual data, such as motion, location, connectivity, device type, temperature. The list keeps growing as more and more capabilities are added to our devices.

Maribel Lopez from Lopez Research describes the new breed of enterprise apps defined by the recent IBM/Apple partnerships as apps designed to:

Beautiful yet transactional. The first wave of consumer mobile apps was pretty but it took several iterations for these apps to deliver transactional capabilities. Consider the evolution of airline apps. These apps started by providing simple yet useful information such as flight status. Today, an airline app allows me to check in, change my seat and book a flight. I can reserve a car from Uber to the airport from my airline app and the app tells me how long it will take to get to the airport in current traffic conditions. This is a contextual application that links to third party data (traffic and Uber or taxi services). These B2C apps link to multiple enterprise back end systems as well as cloud resident data and services. Business to employee apps should offer the same richness of data and ease.

Targeted versus complex. Existing enterprise apps offer users every feature possible. Before mobile, it was commonplace to judge the quality of an app based on the number of features they offered. In truth, more features typically yielded greater app complexity. Most users only consume a fraction of the available features in any of their enterprise apps. The challenge with mobile is to pick the right set of features.

Intuitive. Mobile first enterprise apps require minimal if any training. You know you’ve built a great mobile app if your users will choose to use the smartphone or tablet app when they are sitting next to their PC.

Contextual. As noted above, mobile apps should incorporate contextual elements, such as location and sensor data, to enhance a workflow.

Learning and Predictive. Over time, the app should learn how a person uses it and what type of information is most useful. Eventually the app will be able to predict what data or functions would be most useful given a user’s current context.

In a recent article on UX Magazine there is a new term that they refer to, with precise location data which can provide richer insights into your users’ behavior and interest and that you can turn those insights into “appticipation.”

Having this contextual data on where and when your users are accessing your app and its functionalities can help you to design your app to become vital to the daily life of your users, with the end goal of delivering personalized app experiences.

They looked at a current app in the apple store and envisioned how to improve it with contextual data.


Screen 1:
• The app UX should change once the user enters a store.
• In the first screen (far left) we envision a new version of Store Mode: if customers have projects to work on, they can create a shopping list oriented with that project and categorize it so that company knows what their users aspire to do.
• The layout of the store you are in appears on-screen, and it automatically pulls from your project shopping list, highlighting where all of your items are located in the store.

Screen 2:
• In Help Mode (the middle screen), we envision functionality that enables users to opt into sharing their project list and allow for suggestions from store associates.
• Users could select from The Home Depot associates based on their expertise, or who is available at the time.
• With beacons enabled or apps on employee devices, users and employees can all be accessible on the layout map of the store. Employees could see what aisle the user is in, and the app could show a photo of the user to the employee and employee to the user so they know who to look for.

Screen 3:
• If the app is synced up to the correct store’s inventory, specials relevant to that store location that day could populate into the user’s shopping list so customers can use them at checkout. If an item they need is out of stock, they can see other relevant product suggestions