Genentech has had a half-dozen failed apps; Lanzi's rule of thumb is to retire apps that fall below a few dozen users. That's not a bad track record considering all the enterprise apps Lanzi puts out.
One of his tricks is to gather user feedback just like Apple's App Store and use this knowledge to improve app development. Reviews are paramount to the App Store's success. Apple aficionados know that they can quickly star-rate an app and write up a comment. Employees also want to provide feedback for enterprise apps in the same way.
"There's a user expectation that the same App Store experience follow through to the enterprise app," Lanzi says.
Genetech's enterprise app store has a user feedback mechanism. The feedback is open, meaning users can see everyone's comments and ratings. Enterprise app feedback has played a critical role in keeping the number of app failures low, Lanzi says.
Some iPad adopters use an internal social network (think: Facebook for companies) to give employees a forum for discussing mobile enterprise apps. But Lanzi has found that iPad users don't want to spend a lot of time with app reviews. They would rather rate an app, read a few comments, post a comment and then leave the conversation, which, again, is the way Apple's App Store does it.
Doing It Right
Gathering user feedback requires some planning. Lanzi makes sure employees receive iPads with apps already installed and ready to go. People love to explore apps on their new iPad and review them. It's a kind of employee behavior previously unseen in corporate computing.
Companies would do well to tap into this initial enthusiasm. "We found that some of the most valuable feedback about our apps comes from people who have had the iPad for less than 48 hours," Lanzi says.
Validation comes in other forms, too.
Genentech has a mobile app called Peeps, an employee directory. It would be an understatement to say the app is being used. More than 400,000 profile views per month occur in Peeps. When considering that the app is available to only 44,000 mobile devices (including 30,000 iOS devices), it's an amazing amount of engagement.
"It's not to say that people wouldn't be able to contact a colleague if they didn't have [the mobile app]," Lanzi says. "But it means that they're finding it really useful and as a way to speed collaboration."
Genentech's employee surveys show user satisfaction with mobile apps hovering above 90%.
Will HTML 5 Replace Native iOS Apps?
Lately, Lanzi has been making a major shift away from native iOS apps and toward HTML 5 Web apps. It's a big move given all the existing iOS development work, but times are changing.