We like easy. When presented with options on how to get something done, we tend to prefer the path of least resistance. Who wouldn’t take the elevator rather than climb ten flights of stairs? What’s interesting is that, until recently, when it came to mobile applications, taking the stairs was the only option. If you wanted to use a mobile app, you had to contend with design and deployment particulars that didn’t always seem to have been built with the user’s best interests in mind.

Mobile enterprise app UX? It was initially a passing concern at best. Developers could essentially “build them ugly” because the user had no other choice. And that’s one of the big reasons why mobile app traction got off to a slow start. If a mobile interface was counter-intuitive and frustrating, who wouldn’t rather wait until they got back to their desktop?

Those early frustrations with mobile app performance, those broad stroke dismissals of their alleged advantages came not because the intention of the app was off target. They were the result of half-hearted UX design that encouraged users to take that proverbial path of least resistance.

That has changed. Mobile UX is no longer an afterthought. It’s an imperative. As a result, mobile apps can go toe to toe with their desktop counterparts — and their bottom-line benefit is increasingly evident. Get someone to update data from the field instead of waiting until they get back to their desk, and you’ve closed the data-lag gap from weeks to days or even hours. This liberates field personnel to pursue more sales ops. That alone is a powerful validation of the app’s R&D investment, deployment and infrastructure spend, and any user training. And once that increased sales pipeline transforms in to profit, the ROI is inarguable (as noted in last week’s post).

And this isn’t just a convincing hypothetical. We’re familiar or directly involved with several situations where an organization’s investment in well-designed mobile app technology is supercharging their processes. A prominent bank loaded their loan-processing app on to their reps’ iPads, giving them the power to complete loan applications from auto-dealer’s outdoor “Used Car Sales”. Instead of tediously capturing paperwork, then processing it days later, applicants get loan approvals within hours. Customers are literally driving cars home the same day they apply and secure approval for their auto loans. Sure, this could arguably be done by other means, but can you imagine the technical gymnastics of securing terminals at a remote location? The mobile app is making it happen.

But again, the reason is not simply because of mobility itself. While that is an intrinsic advantage, it has to be properly presented to users. It has to be easy, intuitive and as convenient to implement as any familiar desktop application — if not more so. In the case cited above, the impact is easily measured in numbers of cars being driven off the lot that day.

Yes, employees will always continue to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to applications, whether mobile or desktop, but understanding this is the key to application enculturation. Mandate use of an ugly mobile app, and it will be a source of frustration and pushback. To get a genuine look at how mobile enterprise apps can perform, we have to work past the outdated ugly factor that plagued so many early iterations. Offer people a choice between a familiar desktop app and an even easier-to-use mobile option, and watch how quickly an empowered mobile workforce evolves.

Put a priority on User Experience and User Interface. Invite employees to embrace the easier mobile options. Measure the impact that has on personnel performance, operational efficiency, and organizational success.