In a recent article we discussed the benefits of having a mobile marketing strategy that includes a custom app for clients and customers. When it comes to developing external apps that are geared towards consumers, the expense is justified by the ROI that comes from increased brand loyalty, stronger client relationships and of course, direct sales.
In contrast, internal “private” apps do not result in a direct revenue stream, so the cost of development needs to be weighed against the longer ROI cycle that comes from increased efficiency and productivity.
Seeing the long term benefits, a growing number of large companies and enterprises — such as GE, Cisco, IBM and Standard Chartered — are building private apps to handle a wide variety of in-house and job-related tasks.
“The app-ification of corporate software is yet another example of how consumer behavior is influencing enterprise information technology: Executives who enjoy easy-to-use apps in their private lives are demanding the same tools in the workplace…” CNN Money
Needless to say, corporations and big businesses have the resources, both in terms of finances and man-power, to build apps to custom specifications, but what about small business and entrepreneurs who are working from limited budgets? Are there ways for SMB to use private in-house apps to help cut expenses, without breaking the bank?
The answer is absolutely yes!
Consider for a moment, how much money your business is currently spending on print materials such as product specs, marketing collateral, training manuals, project plans, order forms, time sheets and sales contracts – you get the idea.
By moving these things to an app format, you could immediately cut down your printing expenses by enabling your organization to share information through their mobile devices. Private Apps can be distributed and downloaded through your businesses intranet or password protected section of your domain. For businesses that work outside of a single location, this is a great way to better serve your clients and save money at the same time.
Switching over to a “paperless” work environment is just one example of how a small business can use a private app. Basically just about any task that needs to done can be adapted to a mobile application — it just depends upon your budget and whether the increase in productivity is worth the investment.
Before you put any money into having a custom application developed for your business, take a look to see if there is an existing tool to achieve what you want done.
For example, if you are looking for an internal instant messaging/social media app for your business, Chatter.com from Saleforce allows you to create a free private social network for your business. USA Today has a good article that describes how small businesses can use social media tools to help boost productivity. The article includes a video of a business owner who discusses how his company uses Chatter.
If you want to develop a catalog for your business, take a look at Padalog. This app lets you put your company’s products and information into an interactive catalog and make it available instantly via iPad, iPhone, Android and other mobile web devices, quickly and easily, without programming or special knowledge.
To start researching other apps that could help to make your business run more efficiently and cost-effectively, check out GetApp, a free app marketplace that helps businesses discover and evaluate the best cloud-based apps for their needs.
“Small business owners eager to create mobile apps — whether to market services to customers or improve internal productivity — are finding a growing array of alternatives to hiring professional programmers.” Business Week 2/6/2012
In the next article in this series about Mobile Apps for SMB, we will talk more about the different DIY App programs that are tailor-made for the needs of small businesses.