Monday, February 27, 2017

Building More Effective Mobile Apps with Micro apps

This article was co-authored with Saraswathi Ramachandra

Enterprise Mobile Apps have been proliferating at rapid rate. As a result, every employee today has about 40 apps, of which about 8-12 are enterprise apps.

Recent studies have shown that increasing the number of enterprise apps does not help improve employee productivity either, and employees tend to limit the number of mobile apps on their device.

In order to make mobile apps more effective and improve employee productivity, it is important to switch from mobile apps to micro apps.

Challenge with current Mobile Apps

Most enterprises have invested heavily in full featured mobile apps that mirror the functionality of desktop enterprise software. This in turn has led to a complex interface with a wide range of menu options, only to confuse the employees/users who will eventually ditch these mobile apps.

A common mistake in mobile app development is to create apps that aim to do it all. Many mobile apps are simply condensed versions of existing websites, desktop applications, or online services that are designed to perform all the same functions as their larger counterparts.

As a result, companies end up with hard-to-use, slow-to-load apps that sacrifice efficiency for unnecessary functionality.

Alternatively, micro apps offer a more consumer-oriented experience than your typical enterprise
mobile app, delivering highly targeted functionality that lets users perform a few simple tasks quickly.

What is a micro app? 

A Micro App is a collection of functions, functions that provide highly focused, task-based applications delivering highly targeted functionality. These micro apps are bundled into one mobile app such that single mobile app provide all related functions through micro apps.

For example, consider Personal Banking Mobile App. The personal banking mobile app contains several micro apps such as: "Get Current Balance", "Show Last N Transactions", "Reset ATM pin", "My monthly spend Report",  "Add Money", "Transfer Money", etc.

Dividing the app into micro apps allows customer to focus on the task at hand easily and avoid unnecessary navigation steps.

From App development perspective, each micro app can be developed independent of other micro apps, and each micro app can be updated independently. This de-coupling of application function makes it easier for the bank to upgrade and maintain the mobile app, while giving customers the plethora of task based functions. Customers can arrange these micro apps in any order of choice - which allows easy interactions and maximizes customer satisfaction.

The micro apps are built on three core principles:

1. Focused on task-specific functions
2. Build/maintain micro apps independent of other micro apps
3. Provide users the ability to perform tasks they need, i.,e Offer quick get-in-and-out capabilities

Micro Apps Architecture is essentially a framework solution - which acts as a container for micro apps. The main mobile app provides all the common services which will be used by the micro apps, and decouples the function of the micro app from the basic house keeping functions.

Benefits of Micro Apps   

The main benefit of micro apps is to provide users a more effective and productive use of mobile apps. It also offers the ease of building/maintaining new task based functions - which is independent of other micro apps.

The main benefits of Micro Apps are:

  1. Ability to provide easy, quick to use mobile apps, which makes users love & use these apps. Micro apps provide a simple one click access to information and functions needed by them. Micro apps provide a single view of multiple systems, which are bundled together based on a common business workflows or business functions.
  2. Provide personalized user experience. Users can customize the micro apps in ways to make it more easy & useful for them, minimize clutter of too much apps - by delivering a single window of all related apps.
  3. Allow agile, rapid and parallel app development - which is tailored to the mobile platform. Enterprises often tend to take an existing web app or PC app and convert it into a mobile app - which often creates a complex, confusing mobile app. Development & maintenance of complex monolith mobile apps is expensive and takes too much time to do even simple updates.
  4. Micro apps can also provide feedback on app usage. This data also can be used to know how, where & when apps are being used. This data can be analyzed by app developers - which helps them build better apps.
  5. Micro Apps can be built on legacy systems. Each of the services offered by legacy systems can be converted into individual micro app and thus make legacy systems more useful and build on existing investments.
  6. Speed up business process by providing data/reports on demand which allows employees/users make faster decisions. Provide ways to automate business workflows via mobile platforms. Micro apps provide information on demand and complete tasks on their mobiles. 


Today, enterprises cannot afford to keep developing mobile apps which go unused by employees. It is critical to build apps which are  easy to use, easy to build and easy to maintain - so that employees love to use them often - thus speed up business process and improve overall organizational efficiency.

Micros apps help organization build highly targeted apps that give employees task-based functionality and quick access to the important information they need. Micro apps are a flexible and cost-effective IT solutions that can be developed & maintained in agile way so that new functions can be added quickly and allows users to choose the functions they need to use.

Foot Note:

Google Alerts can be used as an example of micro apps - which is customizable by users.

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