Bay Area Biopharma Firms Evolve Their Mobile Apps

I recently attended the Apps World North America Conference on Feb. 5, 2014 held at, San Francisco’s Moscone West convention center. The event is driven by the huge interest in mobile apps by mobile device users, developers and device makers.   Since mobile apps are a core technology that makes mobile devices so useful, the subject of developing and commercializing mobile apps has become an important business topic to over 8000 visitors to this interesting event.

Apparently, a number of healthcare companies were doing some work in the mobile apps space that might benefit many kinds of enterprises.  Paul Lanzi, Senior. Manager of the Mobile, Web and Portal Team, Gilead Sciences, gave a talk about the Evolution of mobility in the enterprise. Paul’s team provides the infrastructure to support mobile solutions at Gilead. Paul said that he started in the tech industry in 1994 and worked at Genentech in a similar job prior to his Gilead role.

Lanzi cited recent mobile milestones by saying that change has come rapidly and best practices were learned from various experiences.  In 2012 his company’s apps development grew from 1 to 100 enterprise mobile apps. By 2013, they were creating enterprise apps that employees actually want to use. Going into 2014, he expects to see more of the evolution of enterprise mobility.  Paul said that the most common mobile devices ten years ago were the Motorola Razor and the Blackberry. Lanzi said that developers need to use the idea of Mobile First and said that “In the Net, Net things change really fast.

There are four evolutionary stages of mobility in the enterprise.

Brochureware. He gave an example of his local restaurant took their paper menu and put it on the web. That’s all they did.  He showed that pharmaceutical firms like Gilead or Genentech make brochureware of Rx package inserts. People can go online and read the drug package insert online.  It adds value above a paper version, its low cost, fast to deploy and easy to update.

Paul said that enterprise app developers need to watch out for certain things by saying that it is best to avoid making an evolutionary dead end with mobile apps. Paul used a biology evolution example to make his point that crocodiles and chickens have something in common.  At some intermediate points along the evolutionary path, dinosaur-like birds with teeth emerged that became evolutionary dead-ends and went extinct.  Similarly in the PC apps evolution, the keyboard driven command line interface evolved into the familiar windows and mouse click interface.

 Snackable Apps. Its best to mobilize a key subset of business processes, “instead of providing the whole ocean.”  For example, Lanzi said that a business app that enables “Review pending transactions, approve pending transaction” is a very simple user interface. Users at Genentech said “I approve with gApprove even when I’m sitting in front of my computer.”

He said that sometimes you get some surprises.  Once they need to needed to assign support tickets on mobile devices for facility power plant workers.  They had a new app designed, but no one used it. It turned out that a 37-yr-old designed it, but the average age of end-user was 58.  What happened is the workers at that age had worse eyesight and could not read the app. The app had 12 point type.  Lanzi said that mobilize the right part of the process,  get a deep understanding of process, and keep adjusting the app.

Full Business Processes. Paul said that Concur is a complete business process at his company designed for expense reports. Concur has done a great job of adapting with Blackberry and IOS devices.  Lanzi said that developers need to choose the right process and never stop evolving.

Mobile First Enterprise.  Paul said that developers need to consider mobile first, the philosophy, and leadership, procurement, finance, hiring, and so on. Lanzi said that enterprise app builders need to design for change. For example, when Paul was working at Genentech, he said that the sales team in Spain was given iPads to replace laptops. The sales people had to get used to doing work on that device instead of on their laptops and so forth. He said that you can contact Paul on Twitter using @planzi.

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