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Functionalities of Business Applications

Ivan Vrbovčan, Chief Development Engineer

You have a new idea for which you need to develop a business application, or you have an old application that needs to be refreshed and modernized. Your app must be functional, safe, accepted by users, and easy to use.

When you think about the functionalities and features an app should have, you know that it should be covering the business function for which it was intended. The only question is whether this is enough and what additional functionalities and components should an app have to best meet user needs?

In present pandemic times, when a lot of people are working from home, it is desirable that an app can be accessed from outside the company, preferably without a VPN, and it is even better if the application is also accessible by mobile devices.

Out of all the functionalities an app can have, we can differentiate between those that are directly visible to users and those that are “under the hood” but still affect the users’ work.

Application Look

When you are buying a new car, it is implied that the basic functionalities of the car – moving, driving, and stopping – work flawlessly. What really affects your choice of buying or not buying the car is its appearance, the brand, its driving characteristics, and possibly several other factors like ecological awareness or the needs of your family.

When it comes to applications, the appearance is crucial, and of course, it is implied that the functionalities of the app itself work flawlessly. For an app to look nice, you need to have a person or a team of people with a sense of design who will create the look of the app, as well as people who know how to transform it into code. Another option is to buy a professionally designed template as the basis for your app. Such templates usually allow for layout adjustments, so the app might have a dose of personality and might be different from other apps.

Apps often allow users to change certain visual aspects, for example, the theme of the app or the arrangement of columns in display tables. It should be possible to save the user configuration and the display adjustments, either locally or on a server.

The first page of an app that business application users usually see is the login page. The foundation of this page is the authentication component. It can function individually for one app or it can be part of a system that combines this functionality for multiple applications such as an AD domain or a SSO (Single Sign-On) system. If the component is made within the system, then the part related to user lifecycle management in the application should also be covered – creating new user accounts, changing user data, and disabling user accounts. This is followed by an authorization functionality that manages the permissions, meaning who can see and change features in the application.

To make the user more comfortable working with the application and to reduce the need to search for relevant information by application and clicking, modern applications have introduced notifications as a functionality that allows users to be alerted to important events. Instead of the user looking at the app every 30 minutes or so in search of a new work order, the app sends them a notification when that happens. Sending notifications through the app can be combined with sending messages through e-mail and/or chat apps, but you should make sure that you do not burden the user with a bunch of messages that are left unread and end up in trash.

Communication and Collaboration

If the app’s users are working on the same subject matter but are not physically on the same location, communication between them is established by telephone and other communication channels. For the sake of easier involvement of other colleagues in the work or for later analysis, it is good if the communication is visible from the app. Such a functionality can be obtained by integrating with an external collaboration system or by incorporating collaboration functionalities into the application itself. For example, this could be a system for chat that stores the communication related to a specific project in one place. In an internally developed system like this, it is possible to determine which of the messages related to a project will be able to be displayed to the customer, and which messages will remain internal thanks to the authorization system.

In addition to the project they are working on, users often want to attach materials and images that are needed to work on a project or that are the result of work on a project.

Such materials can be saved within the application or as a link to an external document management system.

As a means of communication with application users, sometimes it is necessary to show news and notifications to users. Such a functionality usually displays some of the most important news on the homepage of the app with the possibility to show details as well as past news. Through such a functionality, information related to the application can be given, such as descriptions of new functionalities that have been introduced into the system, planned works on the system due to which the system will not be available, and the like.

Good Old Reporting

Creating reports and different views in the application and exporting them in .pdf, Excel or some other form is a basic functionality that almost all business applications have. This functionality usually uses a ready-made component that is built into the application. This component should allow development engineers quick and easy report design, while some more advanced ones allow users to create and modify reports themselves. Created reports can be saved as attachments to relevant subjects. It is furthermore possible to digitally sign the created reports and include information to determine the authenticity of the report.

When users of an application speak different languages or if the application is intended for an international market, it is necessary to introduce a multilingual functionality. This functionality should allow the user to select a language in which they want the app to run; the pages and forms of the application should be displayed in said language after selection. This functionality should also affect the data, which should also be able to be displayed in multiple languages.

Under-the-Hood Functionalities

Applications should have functionalities that contribute to easier installation and implementation of the app, supervision, and management of the app in everyday work, but also functionalities that contribute to the good experience of development engineers in the development process itself.

The quality and stability of the application should be ensured during development through an automated testing system that should ensure that the functionalities that worked before still function after changes to the application have been made. Once the application is put into production, the application monitoring system provides insight into whether the application it is working correctly and whether something needs to be further adjusted.

All of this, of course, should be accompanied by quality technical and user documentation. I hope that this description of what an app should have did not deter you from starting to realize your ideas through application development. In this article, I have tried to describe what functionalities a modern business needs to have to meet the needs of users. Just like with cars, it is no longer enough to have a certain business functionality; the focus is on improving user experience with additional features and functionalities to make work more comfortable and ergonomic for users.

What are your experiences? We will be glad to discuss it.

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