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The art of the app

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Developing an app is easy, clearly seeing as every business is doing it, however understanding the purpose of the app is a different story all together. BRADLEY ELLIOTT, MD of Platinum Seed explains the essentials of an effective app strategy.

The proliferation of smart phone and tablet apps has transformed the way consumers interact with brands and service providers. This presents a huge opportunity for companies to deepen their relationship with customers. Bradley Elliott, MD of Platinum Seed explains the essentials of an effective app strategy.

The number of apps that enjoy ‘viral’ popularity is narrowing, but the amount of time users spend engaging with them is growing. This was confirmed by a Gallup Panel survey across the US which found that nearly three quarters of users check their smart phones every hour.

What’s more, according to research by the Japanese IT giant Nomura, app downloads in the US dropped more than 20% between May 2015 and May 2016, and US market intelligence firm Sensor Tower says that, apart from the biggest apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Twitter and Gmail, most consumers aren’t looking for any more.

This all means that that brands setting out to engage with their customers via a mobile application need to make sure that their strategy is on the money, and its execution is top notch if they’re going to reap the returns on their app-dev investment that they hope to.

Apps require a meaningful investment, before, during and after the development process, especially in South Africa where the necessary skills are in short supply. A developer with the combined knowledge of the various programming languages in use today is also rare, adding complexity to the development process. The variety of devices on the market means different sets of programming code need to be developed (mainly iOS and Android) for different manufacturers, which means double or even triple the work.

What steps should brands take before they take the leap from web to mobile device, moving their relationship with their client from a more distant and larger format one, to an intimate, hand-held engagement that moves with the consumer wherever they go?

1.            Brand strategy

The brand strategy is the most important step and should be thoroughly interrogated from the onset of any development project. Out of this phase, it will be quickly determined whether an app is even the right tool for the brand in the first place.

The brand strategy should, in turn, be closely tied to the overall business strategy – users must always feel a strong connection between past experiences of the brand and the app. The strategy is the blueprint for the development of the application, ensuring that every business objective is matched to the technical functionality – the essential is emphasised while the superfluous is discarded.

2.            Who are the users?

Notching up millions of downloads can be impressive on a performance report, but the risk of managing millions of irrelevant people can easily detract from the ultimate business goals.

3.            Add value to consumers

More than anything, apps need to add value to the end user. Just like having millions of downloads is meaningless unless the right people download an app, having millions of users who never engage with it is also pointless. Apps with the highest level of active engagement are often the ones that enable their audiences in a critical way.

This need not be in the form of money or giveaways – if it isn’t personal information, opt-ins and sales promotions, apps often will just simply eat up time and space – but immediate and useful features that users can make people’s lives easier in some way.

4.            Be functional

Apps need to be functional and integrated directly into as many transactions as possible. It would be pointless to create a beautifully designed, entertaining user interface while the functionality fails to deliver real, lasting value to the user.

In the end, an app must be evaluated, not just on its beauty, but on its ability to meet business and consumer needs. Poorly designed and developed apps that don’t add value will simply never be downloaded, or, if they are, they’ll just damage the relationship between the consumer and the brand, scoring an expensive own-goal.

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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