Friday, March 13, 2015

Mobility does not mean Usability – Despite What You May Have Been Told

I think that it is easy to say that the mobile device has become the focal point of our lives. It gives us instant access to information and contacts and allows us to stay connected wherever we are – do we ever leave home without one these days?

In business, enterprise mobility has become the general trend; increasing numbers of employees are working away from the office and using a range of mobile device to perform a full range of business tasks.

Nowhere is this is more prevalent than within sales forces:  The days of populating and updating our CRM from a desk top computer have been consigned to the annals of history. Virtually every CRM vendor now claims mobility as part of their features and benefits (advantages?) My personal view is that far too many people read the word “mobility”
in an offering and automatically think “usable.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some very effective and usable mobile business apps available many are anything but.

My advice? Before making your final decision about any type of mobile application, is to try it, try it again and even try it one more time after that.

I suggest that you begin by making a list of three critical things that you want your sales reps to accomplish using the app. For example, submit sales report, update opportunity, create a new client, assign or update a task, update a forecast, retrieve historical client information etc. then try that yourself.

Once you have completed this task, ask yourself: “was it easy to learn, was it fast and easy to use, was it intuitive in its function, did I need outside support, was outside support available and effective, did it help me improve my productivity?”

Whatever your personal results were during this try it yourself trial, you must assume that your sales reps experiences will be worse. Why? Because logically, they are less motivated and less tech savvy than you are and as a consequence, will have extra challenges in order to make it work.

During a recent implementation for an organization with more than 200 sales reps in the industrial supplies industry, we had (to say the least) some interesting support challenges. To give you a flavor, below are some of the calls that were logged into our customer support division – the guys that were dealing with these sales reps. While some of these calls may be
deemed amusing, my intention is to assist you in understanding the critical importance of usability. Never before has the “kiss” principal been more important than in dealing with sales reps and technology. Here we go….

·         “What is an app?”
·         What is an apple account and can you create one for me?”
·         I’m in my car and ready to get the app, where do I find the app store?”
·         It’s asking me about a data package?”
·         I loaded your app yesterday and now it’s gone”
·         “Ever since I loaded your app my phone doesn’t ring anymore”
·         “I use an I-pod Touch and its asking me about a data package”
·         “I don’t want any of your techno mumbo jumbo, just fix it”
·         “I think your app has a virus, every  couple of minutes my screen turns black”
·         “My fiancée loaded the app for me and I don’t know what it looks like”
Never before has the “kiss” principal been more important than in dealing with sales reps and technology!

The second step would be to ask the sales rep that is selling you the product to show you how they use it on their mobile device themselves. The results may be surprising.

The third option is to try it with your sales reps on a free trial bases and obtain their feedback, this is by far the best way to find out if an app is usable and effective.

 In addition to usability for the sales force there are several additional factors you need to consider before making that final decision.

·         How much band width is needed to power the app effectively and what is the data cost?
·         How does the app function when you have no connectivity?  Is it still usable and will the app store your activity until connectivity is re-established?
·         Does the app use battery power and data when running in the background and how much?
·         How much IT effort is required to activate the app?
·         How much training and support is required to initiate and to use the app?
·         What mobile devices does the app function on and what devices do your sales reps have? Very important in a BYOD (bring your own device) company.
·         Does the app have a history of crash or malfunctions?
·         Does the company have a history of providing enhancements to their apps?

But whatever you do, don’t let any of these challenges keep you awake at night. Simply email me –  We are here to provide restful nights for time constrained sales managers seeking to achieve total control of their sales operations.