5 questions about micro apps every business should ask

Enterprise mobility has reached a crucial tipping point.

Business leaders now recognize the urgent need for mobility in the workplace. Two in five companies plan to increase their mobile app spending by an average of 31 percent this year, and the global enterprise mobility market is on track to reach $140 billion by 2020. Developers are scrambling to keep up with the mounting demand for mobile apps that make enterprises more efficient, productive, and engaging for employees. 

At the same time, IT budgets still don’t reflect the urgency of the mobile revolution. On average, businesses devote just 10 percent of their application development budgets to mobile. Scaling up mobile app development “doesn't yet appear to be a priority for most organizations,” says Gartner research analyst Adrian Leow

This puts a lot of pressure on IT professionals, who must race to develop a wide array of mobile apps in shorter time frames and with limited resources — all while providing a high-quality user experience that will spark adoption.

Micro apps have emerged as a way to take some of the pressure off and help businesses push past the barriers of enterprise mobility. Just as mobile apps are transforming the way enterprises go mobile, micro apps are transforming the way people work. Here are five questions every business leader should ask about micro apps:

1. Micro app vs. mobile app — what’s the difference?

Let’s start with the obvious: mobile apps are designed to run on a mobile OS, such as iOS or Android. As employees expect more and more mobile access to their enterprise applications, IT department are moving as quickly as they can to create mobile enterprise apps that replicate the functionality of desktop apps. Unfortunately, this leads to apps that are hard-to-use, defeating the purpose of building the app in the first place. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, too many features can get in the way, making mobile apps too slow and difficult for employees to use.

Micro apps are simpler and more targeted, allowing employees to quickly perform specific tasks from any device, email, browser, or communications client. They provide “highly focused, task-based functionality that let users get in, interact, and get out with maximum efficiency,” says technology journalist Adrian Bridgwater. Instead of spending months developing a huge all-in-one mobile app, organizations can quickly create micro apps that address a specific employee need or streamline a single business process, such as approving an expense report or checking on the status of a lead in a CRM.

2. How can micro app development maximize my IT budget?

When creating mobile apps, most companies still rely on custom app development, or paying developers to create custom apps from scratch — even though it’s a cumbersome process that doesn’t meet the modern enterprise’s need for agility. Custom mobile apps can take anywhere from 2 months to 18 weeks to build and launch. More than half of businesses pay upwards of $50,000, on average, for a single app, while roughly a quarter spend more than $100,000.

Micro apps, on the other hand, are much faster and easier to build. With the help of micro app development tools such as Sapho, enterprises can quickly create and deploy apps that cost far less than their larger counterparts – and take a fraction of time…think 15 minutes. Their lower price point opens the door for creating a wider variety of apps, while their short development timeline enables developers to nimbly respond to user feedback — “the ultimate goal of agile development,” Bridgwater says. 

“A micro app strategy can make an agile development team far more impactful for both the initial development and the ongoing support of an app,” he says.

3. What can micro apps do for my employees that normal apps can’t?

Consumers have been using micro apps for a while, even if they don’t know it. On desktop computers, the power system utility functions such as calendar alerts and desktop trays. They’re even embedded into search engines, allowing users to interact with Google searches. 

Micro apps tend to spark higher adoption rates than mobile apps because users love them. They’re simple, without a lot of features to learn, and they allow the user to quickly perform a specific action in as few steps as possible. Instead of having to sign in to different systems to complete a task, the user can take action without leaving their current environment — whether that’s a mobile device, desktop computer, or collaboration platform. And because micro apps are easy to create, designers can deliver a user experience that’s optimized for a specific user type, workflow, and mobile environment. 

Micro apps also:

  • Drive employee engagement and productivity – notifications and one-click actions keep employees engaged and able to perform tasks quickly 
  • Deliver personalized experiences – employees are only presented information and tasks that are relevant to them
  • Help employees make better (and faster) decisions – with proactive information sent to employees, they have the most up-to-date data to make a business decision

4. Who can create a micro app?

As IT professionals struggle to keep up with the demand for enterprise apps, the rise of micro app development tools has made it possible to build task-specific apps without sophisticated development skills. Using a drag-and-drop app builder, people with fewer technical skills — such as business analysts or process experts — can build apps that addresses a need within the company. These tools offer compatibilities such as:

  • Pre-built connectors to existing systems to make implementation simple
  • Micro app templates for popular systems to make building and providing your first micro apps quick and easy 
  • Visual development tools for defining workflows and building an app interface 
  • Omnichannel support to provide micro apps to employees wherever they are, be it a mobile device, a laptop or on their corporate communications client 

As the demand for mobile apps continues to explore, IT experts simply will not be able to keep up. Low code micro app development allows companies to expand their IT capacity without devoting extra resources. It’s the future of enterprise mobility; by 2018, more than half of all mobile apps will be created without coding.

5. How are enterprises using micro apps?

There are endless ways to employ micro apps in the workplace. For example, organizations can:

  • Consolidate the approvals process from multiple systems
  • Integrate systems, such as Salesforce and Jira, to report to reps when a ticket is closed for a customer
  • Deliver personalized updates to employees on the status of their compliance training 
  • Provide updates about tasks that have been assigned, have upcoming due dates, or are already overdue, in a project management solution 

These are just a few of the reasons businesses are increasingly using micro apps to streamline work processes. Understanding what these highly targeted apps have to offer can mean the difference between creating a successful digital enterprise strategy and getting left behind in a fast-paced digital world. 

Interested in learning more? Get this free Forrester Research report about how to transform your business with simplified apps.

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Natalie Lambert is the Vice President of Marketing at Sapho. She joins from Citrix where she held multiple product marketing leadership positions. Before that, Natalie was a principal analyst at Forrester Research where she was the leading expert on end user computing.

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