Why Apps are Big Business for Professional Service Firms

When you analyse the app development industry, it's a given that you’re going to come across some pretty big numbers. Take 6.1 billion – that’s the estimated number of smartphone users we’ll have globally by 2020. And what do smartphone users do? They use apps. With somewhere in the order of 286 billion mobile downloads predicted for 2017; with total app revenues projected to grow from $45.3 billion in 2015 to $76.5 billion in 2017. That’s some big numbers.

The more you dig around app market statistics, the big numbers keep coming. With a reported 85 per cent of smartphone users now preferring native apps to mobile websites, the pull of apps is hard to ignore.

With the majority of professional services firms embracing apps as a way to better engage with clients and make business improvements, many of the best known firms are using mobile app development to again an advantage over their slow-moving more traditional competitors.

In this article we explore why apps have become such big business for professional service firms; and how the most successful firms approach their development.

Apps are not a trend

Mobile devices are central to how we communicate and do business with each other. While the huge increase in smartphone users and the ensuing boom in app development hasn’t exactly come overnight, in relative terms, the learning curve has been steep for more traditional firms. When comparing the centuries-old history of the legal profession with the fact that 2016’s hottest job - App Developer didn’t even exist a decade ago, things are moving fast.

Some professional services firms have been caught napping as a result however, holding on to the belief that apps are a ‘trend’ that is marginal to their core business. Here’s the thing. Apps are not trendy. They're business as usual in 2017 and have been for some years. According to ComScore, the number of mobile users surpassed desktop users back in 2014.

We now spend the majority of our time using mobile apps at the expense of other digital channels; and that time is increasing year on year. The app stores of Apple and Google feature more than 4 million apps between them, with Gartner predicting that more than 268 billion mobile downloads in 2017 will generate an income of $77 billion. Aside from their income generating potential, the significant benefit of apps to professional service firms is how quickly they can make a difference to a firm’s reputation.

Apps make a point of difference

Many professional services firms have embraced apps as a way to showcase their expertise to potential and existing clients. These ‘customer-facing’ apps commonly provide free tools to assist clients. This may include tax calculators, timetables, diagnostic tools, business planners, or links to firm blogs and industry news. Apps are totally bespoke and flexible; and can be created to meet the needs of any industry and budget. The opportunities to make a point of difference are limitless and is certainly something the professional services industry is well aware of.

Another advantage of apps is that they level the playing field between leading industry players (i.e. the Delloite's, EY's, PWC's and KMPG's of the world) and newer smaller firms. An app that solves a problem or adds value to a clients is a useful app, regardless of the size of company behind it. Apps can be a very cost effective means of boosting a firm’s profile and enabling direct channels of communication with targeted audiences, and are proving to be a driving force behind professional services innovation in general.

Apps offer opportunities for innovation

Just as there are good and bad versions of everything, professional service apps come on a spectrum. Some meet the minimum standards required; while others have the potential to greatly improve how we complete daily tasks or adapt to a new form of technology.

For professional service firms, the primary objective over the next few years will be to innovate through the provision of cutting-edge user experience (UX) ensuring increased security and ability to process client data using real-time location based services.

For an in depth look at 2017’s Mobile App Market: Statistics, Trends and Analysis, check out the business2community blog.

Apps make professional service firms more productive

Professional services firms have been using enterprise apps to make their workforce more productive for a while now. As an example, the ability to work remotely has been standard business practice for firms who have a mobile workforce or offices in different locations. Apps make it easier for firms collaborate more readily and manage files more securely. Having secure remote access to core business systems is something we all take for granted these days, yet it’s easy to forget that apps make this possible.

OSE has developed many apps for professional service clients and it's always been rewarding to see how technology tailored to deliver specific requirements can have a major impact within a professional services firm. For example, a law firm might need an app to access, edit and save documents. Work that was previously done using text documents or spreadsheets emailed back and forth between teams can now be managed via an app to great effect, ensuring editors and approvers can work harmoniously on a project in real time.

Apps keep client data up to date

Professional service apps with the ability to process client data in real time are making big differences to how firms deliver value to their customers. Clients who have the ability to submit files from the field which allow their data to be processed in real time, have access to far greater transparency around their business activity and allow for significant reductions in time spent dealing with repetitive manual processing of basic tasks.

These types of enterprise apps have excelled at streamlining internal processes; and in most cases result in massive cost reductions. By making it easier for team members to record timesheets, bill client hours and track expenses, the likelihood of boosting billable hours generally increases.

Conclusion

From increased productivity to greater engagement with clients and employees, it’s clear that apps are big business for professional services firms. Our development team has extensive experience developing iOS and Android applications for organisations of all shapes and sizes, so if you’re thinking about developing a mobile application for your professional services firm, talk to the team at OSE.

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