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WellPoint: Use Experts to Help Build Better Mobile Apps

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SAN FRANCISCO -- CITE Conference + Expo -- Rickey Tang, CTO of WellPoint, wants you to take a look at his company's mobile app. And not because it's good. In fact, just because right now it's the opposite.

"It's not too good," said Tang, talking about the WellPoint mobile app during his speech here Monday at the CITE conference + expo. What the app is, Tang said, is proof that while WellPoint may be very good at big-data functionality, the company is not an expert at building mobile apps -- which is why they're going to lean on their partners for the new apps coming very soon in WellPoint's future.

Tang's short talk here at the CITEworld conference packed a lot of power when it came to providing advice to enterprises looking to develop mobile apps for either their customers or their own employees. One key overall takeaway was that since the pace of the world is moving so fast, trying to do your own development and testing is pretty much a hopeless case.

You could feel Tang's pain when he talked about trying to test an internally developed app against the huge number of devices and possible use cases among WellPoint's 36 million subscribers. What was refreshing was his admission that WellPoint, a huge health care concern with big infrastructure budgets, couldn't get out of its own way when it came to developing a mobile app that people could really use.

"We're really good at crunching data - we're not good at usability design," he said.

But for the new versions of WellPoint's mobile apps coming out later this summer -- and then again later this year -- Tang is relying on partners to help enable things like video chats with nurses to help diagnose if patients need care, and where the best place might be to get it. Phone trees, he acknowledged, are a thing of the past. Everybody knows they're useless. What's needed is mobile access to doctors, data and information that will help WellPoint's subscribers get the information they need, using the device they rely on most -- the mobile phone.

To get there, WellPoint is relying on standards and partners (like IBM) to help it take advantage of the huge opportunity coming its way courtesy of the country's health care reform. Is your enterprise ready for its new-business opportunities? Is it willing to admit it's not a mobile-app development expert? If so, are you following WellPoint's path, or still trying to go it alone? Can you really afford that choice?

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