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Mobile Apps: Necessary to Drive Business By @Dana_Gardner | @ThingsExpo [#IoT]

Mobility moves from 'nice to have' to 'must have' for large US healthcare insurer

Mobile Apps Are Necessary to Drive the Business

The next BriefingsDirect enterprise mobile strategy discussion comes to you directly from the Kony World 2015 Conference on Feb. 4 in Orlando.

This five-part series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.

Our next innovation interview focuses on how a large US insurance carrier, based in the Midwest, has improved its applications’ lifecycle to make enterprise mobility a must-have business strength.

To learn how, we welcome our guest mobility leader, Scott Jessee, Vice President of IT for this Illinois health insurance provider. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Where is your organization in regard to mobility? Where do you stand?

Jessee: It’s important to think about where we came from. When we started off in mobile, it was not an imperative. It was not something where we had to get in. It was a nice-to-have that was in the forefront, but there wasn’t enough return on investment (ROI) in people’s minds. That shifted quickly in our business model when -- from a sales’ perspective -- it became an absolute requirement that we needed to have mobile in order for us to complete our sales.

Jessee

So fast-forward to where we are now. We've been running with this for a little bit and we're primarily focusing on the consumer market, which is also exciting for us. We're in healthcare, and with the Affordable Care Act, and with lot of shifts and distribution channels, there has been a stronger need for us to have to focus on the consumer.

From a mobile perspective, most of our feedback and requests are driven in that fashion. We had to ask, "What could we do to engage through mobility? What could we do to give them more value as a product through mobility? And, how could we give it to them in a fast manner?" All those dimensions are hitting us pretty heavy right now in terms of what we are trying to think ahead for.

Gardner: Are you delivering mobility on an application-by-application basis? Or can you create a significant platform or reuse benefit in how you produce mobile applications?

Focus on multichannel

Jessee: For us, one of the biggest things from that point of view is getting a mobile application at the consumer level where we permanently focus on multichannel. That's huge for us, because the market is demanding you to have multiple devices, and there are more-and-more devices each and every year.

You have Samsung for the Android side, you have your iOS Apple on your Apple side, and then you have the tablets and smartphones and soon-to-be wearable devices. There is a plethora of different demands that people want to consume the information transaction that you get them in order to have the experience that they want.

From our perspective, we try to be as savvy as we can with that, and we leverage the Kony Platform to help us achieve that. We wouldn't be able to have as lean of a staff as we do to help support and drive that forward. And it’s primarily because the fact we can do some level of "develop once" and then deliver out through these different devices over a period of time. So it’s been big gains for us.

Gardner: What are the business benefits of going with mobile apps?

When they come to us with new pieces that they want, we can typically do it in six to eight weeks, compared to a three- or four-month cycle on the website.

Jessee: We get feedback on from our business folks that it's different than the web. We're able to deliver faster than we can in the web apps space. They're more satisfied on delivery time and cycle time. When they come to us with new pieces that they want, we can typically do it in six to eight weeks, compared to a three- or four-month cycle on the website. That’s just the nature of what we are doing. So they smile with us a little more in the mobile space, which is good.

You hit on metrics. We have good analytics we could provide in terms of page-views that they see. If they're trying to deliver a new content or something to that effect, we could show them that this worked, and this didn't work. We also have individual plans/states that own their marketing efforts. Based on their individual campaigns, we are able to provide them metrics of a particular state is seeing an uptake in downloads or usage of the mobile app.

So those are the two key things I think that they like about what we are able to deliver with them as relates to those two concepts.

Gardner: We're here at Kony World 2015 and one of the things we're hearing about is the importance of the user experience. Now that you're dealing with the Affordable Care Act, you're in more of a marketplace. The way in which your application comes across to a prospective insurance client compares to the other insurance organizations that they might be perusing. So how does the user experience factor into your development and deployment strategy, and how is Kony helping you with that?

Jessee: The big thing this week here at Kony World that was exciting to us is seeing the further enhancements of their Visualizer 2.0 product. Visualizer 2.0 allows marketing and communication leaders to sit up front and design the look/feel of a mobile application using an Adobe Photoshop-type experience. Our marketing communication teams demand this, because user experience is king.

The new imperative is consumer experience. You need to have something that people can use easily.

The new imperative is consumer experience. You need to have something that people can use easily, efficiently, and meet the demands that they're looking for as it relates to the functions they need to accomplish, and then beyond that what's your other value opportunities.

Kony does a great job of setting us up for success in that regard. In addition to the productivity gains we get out of this, they have good tools that will help us provide this customer experience in ways that we could show marketing communications to ask, "What do you think. Let's tweak it. Let’s alter it."

 

We could leverage agency input in a more efficient streamlined manner for the user interfaces that we create. So all those things are really going to springboard us forward, so we are not spending as much time doing it. From the visual consuming perspective, it should be a better experience, and that’s what we are hoping to get out of it, and showcasing the future opportunities there, too.

Gardner: The thing that’s been intriguing for me here at Kony World is I see their application marketplace and the new application, Kony Sales. This might not be an exact fit for you and your vertical industry, but it seems to me that they're taking a step toward having a packaged application targeted at a specific industry that takes you maybe 80 percent of the way you need to be with a lot of the back-end integration in place, with a lot of the ability to customize, but still governed by the IT department.

So, as the IT person, you're going to get a control over who can do what, but you're also going to have your end users, your line-of-business customers, getting a say as to what their app can do and can't do. It strikes me that another important part of user experience is having more say in an app and being part of the development process.

A step forward

Jessee: That's a big jump. I talked to [Kony CEO] Tom Hogan yesterday and he explained it really well, and he relates well to business users, too. Think of what’s going on with Salesforce, and how those constituencies and stakeholders that leverage that are used to configuring an application base or micro-applications. This is really taking Kony a step forward in meeting that marketplace and even extend it beyond that with the release of the both the marketplace and the two ready-to-go applications.

That's the opportunity at hand for potential business folks, as they've already been doing some of this today in some of the other venues, and now they have an opportunity to do this with Kony.

As an IT person, where we could really take advantage of it, is to reduce our workload with some of the configuration components, so it’s little off our hands. We could focus more on the marketplace, which would allow us to create these micro apps, these core functional areas, that we could then showcase, drop in, share, etc. That really puts us in a good position in terms of facilitating innovation, which obviously is hot in healthcare and all industries, but helps you further move that ball forward.

Gardner: What about the issue of security? Because you're in healthcare and regulatory compliance is so important, how do you see the security with the mobile application developing, and how again does that integrated platform -- write once, run everywhere -- benefit you?

That's the opportunity at hand for potential business folks, as they've already been doing some of this today in some of the other venues, and now they have an opportunity to do this with Kony.

Jessee: That’s a really hard part, especially in mobile. If you think back 10 years ago on the web space, security was probably where mobile is now. In 2013, there were no publicized or known mobile risks that were made, but in 2014 I think there were 9 or 10. So that was a big jump from 0 to 9 or 10 of big named companies.

What’s ahead in 2015 is even scarier, but that relates to what Kony offers. Tom Hogan showed today what they're trying to drive toward, and he used the acronym S-A-U-C-E to describe the value they are driving with their solutions: Security, Agility, Usability, Certainty, and Efficiency. The first one being security in priority order, which puts me at ease.

One of the things that has helped is through some of the security components in Kony. They've been pretty up-to-date with some of the trends that we pull from our third-party auditors that are looking at our mobile applications. It showcases things like SSL pinning, including that in your code, and helping you facilitate the transactions the right way. So that’s a good thing for us.

I think an opportunity for Kony is to continue to showcase those specifics to not just the customer base but the non-customer base. Mobile is going to continue to get exponentially more challenging when it comes to security, because the threats out there are just starting to hit it and they are just getting fresh into it.

Internet of Things

Gardner: Looking forward now to what’s going to come down the highway. We hear about the Internet of Things. We're seeing more and more, in healthcare, data being derived from sensors and devices, and we are seeing closer partnership between payers and providers when it comes to data sharing in the healthcare sector. So where does healthcare and mobility go for you over the next three to five years?

There was another interesting tidbit here at the show, where they said IDC is projecting that by 2017, 25 percent of IT budgets will be devoted in some way to mobility. Does that strike you as a low ball, and how important is mobility going to be to your IT budget?

Jessee: From a budgetary perspective that’s probably a fair guess, because mobility is also being redefined over time. A few years ago, it was just a smartphone, but now it’s people moving around, doing activities, transacting against a multitude of different devices, and I think wearable is a great example of that.

Mobile is going to continue to get exponentially more challenging when it comes to security, because the threats out there are just starting to hit it and they are just getting fresh into it.

What do wearables mean to us? It’s an unknown for us, and it’s on our radar that we need to identify some potential use cases, but we haven’t seen enough of it yet. We've got the Fitbits that are out there that are pretty hot, but now you have got the watches that are coming out. Samsung had theirs last year; Apple is doing theirs this year. What is that going to look like? We are not a 100 percent sure yet.

From our perspective, it’s making sure we have a flag against it for us to see what we could potentially do. It’s a little abstract for us to actually activate against, but we're not leaving it to rest either.

Gardner: And the issue about the sensors and the Internet of Things. Do you consider that mobility or is that a separate area, big data perhaps? How do you see the mobile drive for user experience and life cycle benefits now, and how does that compare to that Internet of Things and sensors and data in healthcare?

Jessee: It’s both. When you say mobility and big data, it goes two ways. One, it’s the consuming of these different sensors across mobile devices and mobile transactions that take place.

The other thing that happens is on the big data front is that it’s an opportunity to collect data and understand your consumer base, to understand your providers, to make better decisions, to help add value along the chain. But it’s two-way information that you have to collect in order to really activate both sides of the house, but they play together. They both have to.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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