By James Hobart

April 2015

Leveraging Big Data For Mobile Solutions

Many of our clients are implementing the next generation of their mobile solutions with great success. They have learned and applying what works best for employee and customer engagement with mobile solutions.  A key strategy has been to leverage big data, turn the data into actionable insights and deliver targeted solutions through mobile interfaces.  This trend will continue in the near future as phones become smarter, and wearable technology becomes more widespread.  Mobile solutions are also an excellent way to leverage large enterprise applications by making key data accessible to users when and where they need it.

Here are some key things to consider as you plan out your next generation of mobile solutions.

How will you turn data into insights? 

Gaining key insights from data has been around for years. The shift in strategy now has been to gain these insights much faster and looking much broader at your organizational data ecosystem to drive these insights.   Our clients are spending less time creating detailed analytics reports within specific domains and instead quickly analyzing data across organizational boundaries and incorporating structured data with much more unstructured data made available through on-demand big data technologies.

This data is then used as an input for traditional user experience research to validate key assumptions about users (both internal and external to the organization).  Field research is then used to further understand high-level insights derived from enterprise data.  The research is driven to lower levels of fidelity by interacting with actual users to balance out both qualitative and quantitative data to help define the best mobile strategies.

Scalability of your enterprise data is a key challenge in providing these insights.  While many companies are moving to cloud-based storage solutions, this alone is not enough. One of our clients in the travel and entertainment space is planning on data needs expanding 3,000% in 2015.  We are currently laying out roadmaps for the next 24 months on how to adapt our research strategies for gaining and implementing insights based on the rapidly growing set of data resources available.  It seems the more data we have, the more we need to refine and execute on these insights.


How will you turn insights into actionable triggers?

Turning insights into actions that drive change is a key strategy all companies desire, however few implement well.   Improving your organization’s ability to access data across the enterprise regardless of organizational barriers is key to success. In addition, it is important to truly understand the full user ecosystem and how to identify the key digital touchpoints where you can provide solutions to drive the desired outcomes.   


How will you leverage mobile to drive user behavior? 

The best mobile solutions are derived from truly understanding user needs and leveraging the insights from our existing users.  Translating these insights into great mobile solutions is difficult and requires a deep understanding of the user psychographics and the ecosystem in which they will use your mobile solutions. As companies have launched and relaunched mobile initiatives, they are now using these insights to rethink the goals of their mobile solutions and getting much more specific in what the solution needs to achieve.


Here are a few strategies we have been using with success

Keep the user tasks simple and direct.  Do not try to fit the existing data or transaction into the mobile space without rethinking it first. Instead, get laser-focused on specifically what the user needs to see or do and only show data relevant to the task.  First-generation mobile solutions often tried to quickly adapt existing solutions into a mobile framework using responsive design techniques.  This strategy can work, however your designs need to leverage the ‘Viewport’ variations and limit data displays based on media detects for each appropriate viewport.  For instance, instead of providing a full report in a mobile solution, consider the 3-4 key pieces of information the report provides and come up with a mobile solution to quickly provide it. 

Use as much contextual data as possible to ease input and reduce steps needed to complete the task.  Mobile devices are becoming smarter every month.  Leveraging GPS, notifications, and existing contact information can help you provide key information with very little effort on the part of the user.

A good example of this approach is a mobile business app called ‘Refresh’.   This app connects with your existing contacts, Linked-In, Facebook and other social media tools.   When you are about to enter a meeting with a person and you have this listed in your calendar, the app connects to your calendar and sends you a summarized dossier. It summarizes your past interactions and the recent social profiles on the person you are about to meet 15 minutes before the meeting.  After the meeting is over it prompts you to quickly capture something memorable about the person for use in the future.  Contrast this with the current typical mobile CRM solutions.  In most cases, you would often find yourself trying to log into the app, find the person via a search and still likely would not have key information drawn from social media and other sources.  The other  typical scenario is you would be quickly searching through prior emails to recall what the last interactions were as you prep for your meeting.

Use a limited messaging and notifications vs. email.  Many people are overwhelmed with the growing volume of daily emails resulting in lower open rates and unread emails.  Also, younger workers often consider emails more formal and cumbersome than instant messaging.  Be careful however to avoid overuse of messaging with your mobile app.   On a recent flight I took between two cities there was a one-hour delay due to weather.  During the delay, I received 15 SMS notifications from the carrier..for one delayed flight.  While they were trying to keep passengers updated on flight status their system automatically sent a message every time the flight or gate changed. This resulted in an overload of messages and complaints from passengers. 

In-app notifications are concise, instant and easily transfer into wearables as user begin to embrace smart watches for quick information.


How will you know if your mobile solutions are achieving the desired results?

Even with great insights, diligent user research and a team focused on great mobile solutions, it is important to iterate and constantly improve as you learn more from actual usage. 

This is best accomplished by spending time with users in the field, documenting how they are actually using your mobile apps and  evolving your design solutions based on true behavior vs. guessing what features or data is most important.  Since data usage for mobile users is very different than traditional web applications, it is important to continually study and evolve to meet this need. Users do not see or care about the traditional boundaries of applications, business units or structured vs. unstructured data. Once you have an idea of the user’s needs we recommend you build simple mobile prototypes and usability test them with users.  This approach will lead to new discoveries and further iterations in your design.  Once you deploy your application you will need to head back out into the field and again study how users are actually using the application and use this knowledge to refine and improve your designs.


Interested in learning more about how to create great mobile solutions?

Our company has been designing mobile and web-based applications for the world’s leading companies for over 20 years.   Our UX (User Experience) professionals work directly with clients on large-scale deployments to assure usable, effective and innovative solutions.   The UX workshops we offer reflect  this pragmatic approach from the lessons learned while working with our clients.