BlogAn App Is Not an Application

An App Is Not an Application

March 19, 2014, Mobility / Service Support

I was on site at a client’s office a few weeks back discussing the mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) app they are working to roll out in the next three months. They had rolled out Point of Sale (POS) applications before, but this was their first attempt at going mobile and we wanted to help make it a successful project. I knew the client understood what they were up against when they asked how an mPOS app was different from other POS applications they had successfully deployed in the past. It’s not that the applications are vastly different; but rather that we have different expectations in how we interface with them.

In the old world, IT had full control over the device, network, and connectivity. There was little concern that the device, often a desktop computer, would walk off mid-shift. Your staff would go on site to install and likely fully train employees. It’s a business tool through and through. Moving it to a mobile device, the application becomes more personal. It goes everywhere (disable those cameras :)) and does everything from report stock levels and sizes to connecting socially. Most importantly, it makes a tighter connection with your employees and customers.

The hardware is obviously different, but that is part of what makes it personal. It’s a cool device, it’s desirable and often employees have one at home. It’s an instant connection. I’m sure your mind jumps immediately to physical security. You are moving from a 20+ pound piece of hardware, hard wired to power and network connectivity to a tablet or smartphone that moves around the store and potentially to client sites. It needs to be charged regularly and may or may not have consistent, reliable internet connectivity.

Because of its mobility, the device could easily be damaged by careless handling and is an easy mark for unscrupulous customers and employees. The device should be in a protective case, which still allows for easy charging. You’ll likely need a compatible 1D or 2D barcode scanner and of course a mag strip reader to process credit cards. The OS should be configured to restrict access to most applications and device settings as well as locked with stringent passcode requirements. Just as important, the device should be able to be tracked via GPS and remotely wiped to protect its contents. And just like your old POS app, the mPOS should be able to be upgraded and configured remotely.

The app itself needs careful consideration as well. Gone are the days with long manuals and extensive training. People expect mobile apps to work and be intuitive. They want quick access to information and easy to use navigation. When the app doesn’t work, who will the employee turn to? Will your staff be able to quickly and correctly troubleshoot the device or will you need outside expertise? Mobile devices have a higher level of complexity because there are several, interconnected break points: network issues, carrier issues, device configuration issues, app settings and most importantly general “how to” questions. Finally, when something does break, how will you quickly deploy a fully function replacement and recover defective equipment? An app isn’t an app anymore. It’s a personal tool that must work. Our job is to deploy, redeploy and make sure it keeps working.