A few weeks ago, the Financial Post published a story that spoke directly to a potential threat facing many Canadian businesses.

In “How to stay one step ahead of disruptors in the app economy,” the newspaper looked at how companies like Uber are competing with the taxi industry, and Airbnb is shaking up the hospitality sector. The Post suggested the stakes are high if Canadian firms don’t want to get left behind.

“To avoid disruption and to capitalize on opportunities, companies should already be exploring and investing in apps applicable to their market and relevant to their customers,” the story said. “But they will also need to be mindful of getting it right.”

Of course, “getting it right” doesn’t necessarily mean trying to act like a Silicon Valley startup. In fact, it may mean that more Canadian firms should simply look at how apps could improve the way they operate first, then develop their mobile strategy.

These are just a few of the questions you and your team should be discussing as you get started.

What kind of apps made sense for our business?

As with any project, it only makes sense to move forward with mobile apps if they benefit the business. Start internally by looking at the processes and tasks that would work even better if employees and team members had access to data and the ability to perform functions away from their cubicles or the office. According to a global study released in June that was conducted by 451 Research, the most common functions being “appified” include customer relationship management (CRM) apps for sales, marketing and services, customer engagement and general employee productivity apps. These might be some good areas for Canadian firms to think about too, particularly since there are apps like this already on the market and they don’t necessarily have to build them themselves.

How can we make sure a business app gets used?

Adoption of new technologies has long been a challenge in companies, but the rise of mobile apps in the consumer space could offer some clues about the kind of design and user experience people expect. Look at the 2015 Mobile Personas report, which profiles Canadian app usage across a variety of demographics. Among other findings, it shows that social networking, weather and gaming apps tend to be the top three categories in Canada. Study some examples and think about how employees will want to navigate through a business-oriented mobile experience. 

What kind of devices would best display a particular business app experience?

It may seem like most consumer apps are entirely focused around smartphones, but that could change soon, particularly in Canada. A few months ago, for example, mobile research firm Flurry posted data showed 14 percent of us are using “phablets,” or a cross between a smartphone and a tablet. With smartwatches, smart eyewear and other wearable devices now hitting the mainstream market, there may be business apps that make better sense for those form factors, too. Think through the entire range of use-case scenarios as you choose or develop an app.

What’s the best way to measure the results of a business mobile app initiative?

The prospect of having absolute freedom to manage key parts of a company from anywhere, anytime may seem far-fetched, but the numbers show it’s not. MobileSyrup recently reported on an Angus Reid poll, for instance, where 55 per cent of Canadian small business owners said they can run their entire operation from a smartphone or tablet. That’s more than half of your peers (or competitors) who are already mobile-first. While keeping a constant eye on sales, cost savings, productivity improvements and other areas, making sure your company isn’t a latecomer to mobile apps may be one of the first ways to think about your return on investment.

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