4 Things Enterprise SaaS Companies can Learn from Pokemon Go

pokemon go black 2

If you are anything like me, you have spent a little too much time over the last week capturing Pokémon. And you have spent less time working out and more time in the Pokémon Gym. And if you are in the B2B Enterprise Apps space, you might think that time was a complete waste. But take heart, if you read on, I will tell you what we can all learn for our Pokémon Adventure.

1.It’s a Mobile Only App

Pokémon Go is a Mobile App! It’s not a Web App with a subset of functionality for mobile. It’s not a mobile first app. IT IS A MOBILE ONLY APP! Sure it has website with some promotion and education material, but you can’t play the game on the web.

Nine years after the launch of the iPhone, Enterprise Tech is still struggling with the mindset of building great mobile apps. And while there may be fewer business apps that need to be mobile only, we really need to “action” the concept of mobile first. We talk about it, but we don’t do it.

We need to grasp these concepts. The primary computing device of most business people is a mobile phone. There are 2B active mobile devices connected to the Internet and connected mobile device numbers eclipsed desktop in mid 2013. (3 years ago!!!)

There are some jobs and applications that need a big screen, but they are increasingly the minority. I think most people still often feel they need to be a desktop or laptop to “get serious work done”. But IMHO, that’s because we make substandard enterprise mobile apps. Salespeople would adopt CRM faster if our mobile apps were better. Service applications would be better loved if customer service people could do their work on the phone. Marketers would use the Marketing automation systems more if the mobile apps did not suck so much.

There are a couple of enterprise apps that have a decent job here. Email for Microsoft and Google have pretty damn good mobile apps. Outlook is particularly good in my opinion. There are times when I am sitting at my desk with my laptop in front of me, doing email on my phone. Mobile is actually a better interface for quickly scanning, archiving and doing quick replies. Another shout out has to go to Expensify. It’s a very good mobile app that allows you to get the job down quickly. And lastly Slack. Great mobile app. Period. Full Stop.

 2. Pokémon Application Design is Awesome

No training needed for Pokémon Go. No Tutorials of video instruction needed. The app is intuitive in a way that great consumer and gaming apps are. The major functions are intuitive and all the functions are easily discoverable. I am not a gamer, but it was pretty clear to me that the game navigation was done through walking. I was not clear how the landmarks, gyms and Pokémon capturing worked, but you could easily learn it by doing. I clicked the landmark, spun the disc and then it became obvious to me that I could collect the Pokeballs and eggs. I tried to get in the gym, but the app told me I needed to be at a higher level to get in. Captured my first Pokémon after my phone vibrated and alerted me to its proximity. Throwing the Pokeball took my about 15 seconds to learn and once I captured my first Pokémon the app easily helped me discover the Pokedex and other functions you need to play the game. Lastly, one of the key usability features is that the game is easier at the beginning and harder as you play. If I immediately wandered into a gym or tried to capture a Pokémon that keeps bursting from the ball, I would have more easily given up on the game.

Lets face it. We don’t design Enterprise mobile apps like this. We tend to need tutorials; we cram a lot of features into the apps. Usability and discoverability are usually treated as second-class citizens to function and business process.

 3. Partnership was key!

Pokémon Go was created through a deep partnership between Niantic Labs and Nintendo. It’s actually more than a partnership; Nintendo owns a big part of the company that produced the game. The technology and application created by Niantic Labs is incredible, but this phenomenon does happen without the incredible worldwide Pokémon franchise built over the years. We know this for sure, because Niantic built a similar app without Pokémon. It’s called Ingress. It is by all accounts, a great game and it has a cult following. But it has 1M users compared to the 26M users of Pokémon Go built in only 12 days!

Enterprise software firms are not usually great partnering companies. We like to create our technologies, stacks and ecosystems. We like to keep things under our control and we have a hard time creating deep and meaningful partnerships that create new intellectual property.

4. It takes time and patience.

Enterprise startups and technology companies are famously impatient. We tend to launch products, measure them and if they do not meet with success, we move the engineering resource to another project.

Pokémon Go is being called an overnight success, but it was  a long time in the making. I remember meeting with John Hanke in the Google SF office 4 years ago. He had already been working on this geospatial gaming thing for a while. I am not exactly sure when he started working on it, but it was not built in June. He built an App/Game called Field Trip that I downloaded and tried. Field Trip lead them to other products and then to Ingress. And Ingress led to Pokémon Go.

It takes some time to build an overnight success. It reminds me when I was part of the Google Apps launch. We started with Apps in Education and then after we launched the commercial enterprise product, we did not sell a single license to a large company for 13 months!!!

I understand and support the concept of failing fast, but we need to remember that most initial product concepts will not have immediate success. We need to be able differentiate between failure and “market not ready” or “we are short of minimum viable product”.

So, if you in Enterprise tech and think you are just wasting time by playing Pokémon Go, take heart. Learn these lessons and it will more than justify your Charmander chasing time investment.