It wasn't that long ago that just about any app you might download and use on your smartphone was intended for personal use. Some apps were diversions — games or other forms of entertainment — while others were designed to enhance personal productivity in some way. But whatever an app’s intent, it had little to do with conducting business.
But the app landscape has evolved quite a bit in just a few years. Many apps are now specifically designed for the purpose of enhancing workplace productivity or streamlining business operations.
That’s a trend of digital workplace disruption that will substantially impact the way many companies conduct business. It is also leading to an upsurge in the number of software companies offering mobile apps — and vendors that want to succeed in this increasingly competitive marketplace must put a renewed emphasis on testing to ensure they don’t end up selling faulty products that are doomed to fail.
An Accelerating Trend
This has been a landmark year for the release of new business apps. Vendors, including software industry giants like IBM and SAP, have been flooding the market with hundreds of new apps designed to facilitate and streamline business operations.
One example is SAP Concur for Mobile, a mobile version of SAP’s web-based Concur expense management tool.
As impressive as it was, however, the B2B app boom of 2018 is likely to be dwarfed by bigger surges in app releases in 2019 and beyond.
For example, research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that growing demand will drive the B2B apps market to $140 billion by 2023. In fact, many analysts predict that B2B apps could account for half of all mobile software revenue within just two years.
The B2B app boom presents enormous economic potential for app developers. Companies that are able to establish themselves as industry leaders in B2B app development will be well positioned to tap into a dynamic and lucrative market.
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Potential Speed Bumps on the Road to Revenue
Many companies will be vying for a share of this booming market. And, as with any new opportunity, there will be winners and there will be losers.
What will separate the two in the burgeoning business app market?
Functionality will certainly be a factor. While business apps can offer massive productivity enhancements through time savings and improved efficiency, faulty B2B apps could do great harm.
For example, a buggy app could accidentally expose confidential cloud-based corporate documents to the public. Or a flawed app could introduce errors as it transmits orders from customers. There’s an almost endless list of nightmare scenarios in which a functionality failure in a B2B app leads to disastrous consequences for businesses or their users.
Another key factor that could mean the difference between success and failure for a B2B app is the quality of the user experience that the app provides. After all, B2B app users are people, same as B2C users.
In a Harvard Business Review titled “The B2B Elements of Value,” three Bain analysts argue that “the subjective, sometimes quite personal concerns that business customers bring to the purchase process are increasingly important.”
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Thorough Testing Is Imperative
Testing is crucial for both B2C and B2B app development, and any testing regimen should assess the following five critical elements:
- Functionality: The app must work the way it is supposed to work across its full range of capabilities.
- Usability: The app’s interface must be intuitive and easy to use.
- Security: The app and the backend systems that support it must protect sensitive customer data and confidential corporate information.
- Resilience: The app must perform to design standards when it is stressed with maximum projected usage loads.
- Localization: The app must be “borderless” — it must live up to its functionality and user experience (UX) standards regardless of location or the demographics of the people using it.
Crowd-testing provides a unique opportunity for assessing an app’s performance in real-world scenarios with regard to each of those five elements. While in-house testing is certainly a useful process, it simply doesn’t expose an app to the real-world usage situations — both anticipated and unanticipated — that reveal whether an app will adequately perform as it should. Because testing is so important, you should evaluate your company’s testing capabilities and determine whether there is any room for improvement.
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Competing for a Slice of the Pie
The market for B2B applications is already huge, and it is projected to grow dynamically in the next few years. But though the profit potential for app vendors is massive, many companies that compete for a slice of the pie will miss out. Vendors that release business apps that have not proved, through real-world testing, to be user-friendly and capable of operating reliably and securely will end up getting a much smaller slice, or none at all.