Unfolding plans 196 – App hype

There is such hype about apps.  Everyone uses them.  Everyone has to have them.  You’re just not out there if your firm doesn’t have an app.  A lot of people agree.  There are at least three million of the things to download onto your smartphone or tablet.  Beware however as only around five per cent of those downloaded are ever used once the first flush of novelty wears off.

I have my stalwarts that rest on the front page of my Windows phone.  I don’t have any games, just useful stuff, in my opinion, such as access to the bank, train times, news, weather, sport and of course Twitter and WordPress.  Therein lies the rub.  Apps will only be used if they are useful, that much is obvious and where that usefulness exceeds the experience from other locations such as the web site.

What I have never used, however is a council app.  I don’t even know if one exists for where I live (I live in a different authority are to where I work).  I am aware of the likes of FixMyStreet but have never felt the need.  Perhaps I am not the real target audience for the local authority.  Yes, I use their services but I don’t have anyone who needs care and my children have left school.  The last time I contacted the council was when the lid form the recycling bin broke and I needed a replacement.  Not the stuff that fantastic apps are made of.

So far, we haven’t invested in app development either.  If I can’t express the need, or the opportunity then why should we?  We haven’t had a queue of people knocking at the door, real or virtual, demanding such a thing.  This may well be a short–sighted view however.  There may be a lot of potential to provide quicker access to services to the right groups of people.

What we need is a demonstration product that let us get our hands on something that works and that allows us to see the tangible benefits that an app may bring.  So that is what we have gone and done.  Following discussions with my colleagues we have picked on a specific group of people – students.  We have lots of them, they aren’t the easiest of people to engage with as they come and go yet there are a small number of things that they should know about the services we provide.  They also all (without exception?) use technology.

Rather than specify something elaborate and complex we’ve gone all agile.  We’re knocking up an alpha product with yogurt pots and sticky backed plastic and are taking this to our Customer Focus Board in a week or two.  Hopefully they’ll like the idea and tell us that they want a bit more of this and a little less of that.  We can then go to beta and take it to some willing testers.  Once we’ve taken their feedback on board we can release it into the wild.

It’s all very exciting!

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