If I told you every CIO I’ve spoken with or listened to at a conference this year was under pressure to deliver mobility applications for their enterprise, that would probably be an overstatement.

It’s more like three out of four.

Seriously, if user enablement was always high on IT’s radar of things to pursue, it’s users who are now setting the agenda. For IT, “Build it and they will come,” is now “Make stuff useful and they will use it.” Screw it up, and your users will increasingly abandon you.

If IT really wants to be in the good graces of the bosses, even for the most selfish reasons, hit them where they live experientially. Nothing looks more out of step than an old html view of your website or app or intranet where you stretch the pane on your smartphone and aim your pinkie at a tiny hyperlink. People return to good experiences, not to bad ones (unless they have to, which only sinks IT's reputation further).

These days, app developers develop directly for mobility platforms and might think later whether to port things to PCs, not the other way around. Please, IT, don’t let your Web facing efforts overlook fit, form and function of apps. Go mobility first, even if you don’t get your own work done there. (Hint: The API developers I know are becoming very popular and sought out folks by thinking this way.)

Earlier today some of the folks at Gartner dropped a list of mistakes that lead to mobile customer service failure.

Among them:

- No more than three key strokes (or screen taps) to get to required functionality.
- Account for clunky text entry and simplify for each device.
- Don’t reuse learned behaviors like autocomplete in desktop apps.

There are more obvious things Gartner's list, like making the app fit the display, making sure things are actually readable and having a scroll as well as a back button so one can correct
as well as erase text. 

Heed their warning or prepare to see this list waggled in your face by your user community.

Let me add, as a writer, the first thing that doesn’t go well on iPhones and tablets is extended text entry so make a voice app work, have smarter menus or build apps fit for data entry via scanning and QR codes. Build things that use things that mobile does well, like field reference materialsvisualizations, alerting, location, payments and uploading images.  

Now as for making things useful, I never thought I could appreciate what I’ve always seen as my company’s necessary but evil travel and expense reporting system. I found myself using it late at night after hours because it took too long to use it during the day. It was a mess of data field entry, itemizing, receipt scanning, uploading and even printing and faxing.   

But in a blaze of utilitarianism, my T&E service now lets my iPhone import travel details, automatically itemize hotel bills and take crisp snapshots of almost unreadable receipts to prove my billables. I can get most of the work entered as it happens.

I call that productivity to help me do my job more easily. Bravo, Concur! Now if we could just do the same for our sales and conference and other traveling teams. 

I could go on and on, but my point is, you will probably win as many friends and admirers with your mobile usability and presentation as you will with your functionality. Our friends at the Guess? fashion design shops will testify to that. As Billy Crystal once said when impersonating Fernando Lamas, “It is better to look good than it is to feel good.” 

Feel free to share your thoughts on the push to enterprise mobility in a comment below, but not on info-mgmt.com's mobile app because, ahem, it doesn’t allow that for now.

I’ll be visiting our Web team momentarily.

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