Enterprise Application Development: A Lesson from the Pros at CGI

CGI Interactive is a thriving interactive agency that creates mobile apps (corporate, technical, and explorative), interactive video and animations, 3D modeling, presentations, and websites. We recently caught up with the team from CGI to discuss enterprise application development. They are experts on the topic, as they create cutting-edge enterprise apps for their clients. The team from CGI includes Mobile Account Manager Elizabeth Kelleher, Creative Director Brent Rutter, and Director of Operations Maryellen Clearwater. Check out the team’s answers to our burning questions about developing enterprise applications.

Can you give us some background on your company and your clients?

David Kelleher founded CGI in 1989 as a presentation company, designing 33 mm slides. Over the past 25 years, we have evolved with the ever-changing technology as we strive to anticipate and meet our clients’ needs. Primarily, we create visual solutions to overcome communication challenges. The digital media we create range from PowerPoint presentations to iPad applications.

Our philosophy has always been to focus on clear messages and easy-to-understand design, and this is something that cuts across any industry. We’ve worked with clients from high-tech companies looking for presentations to live on the iPad and insurance agencies looking for animated videos. We make a point to listen to our clients’ needs and individualize each project to produce a unique result. No two projects are the same.

What are the biggest challenges in working with such large companies?

Communication and education are always challenging with large companies. It is vital to the success of the project to keep those involved informed and up-to-date. However, most of our clients do not have dedicated mobile teams, and their projects are often in addition to their already full workloads. We typically develop sales tools through the client marketing team, but when creating sales enablement presentations, we encourage our clients to work directly with the top sales reps to ensure we can provide the proper experience.

Deployment is another challenge for most large companies. We’ve found that it is best to start the deployment conversations at the very beginning of the application process. Most clients need to be educated on Apple’s strict guidelines for developing and deploying an enterprise app and the different approaches to distributing an app to the internal team.

What are you seeing from corporations as far as enterprise application development is concerned? How are companies using enterprise apps?

We have seen a huge increase in the number of companies using tablets to provide their sales forces with information. Typically, enterprise apps are used for organization—sales teams are looking for an easy-to-access app with the ability to manage documents and dig deeper into client-specific content. We are also working with clients to develop enterprise apps used for interactive presentations and training materials to provide every member of the sales force with uniform information and education.

Do you predict growth in this market? Which industries seem to be adapting most quickly to mobile and interactive platforms?

The number of companies using tablets is increasing every day, and for this reason, we definitely see growth in the enterprise market. Sales and marketing teams appear to be adapting to mobile and interactive platforms quickly—specifically, the technology and the pharmaceutical industries.

Walk us through the process of creating an app for one of your clients.

Our clients use apps in very different ways, so each project is unique. We always start with a discovery phase where we determine what the client’s goals are and what content and assets it has. Some apps are closer to presentations, while others involve more interactive design. Typically, we work with the client to determine the wireframes and content structure. From there, we begin designs to define the look of the app and then create storyboards based on the content we’ve established. We find that our designers work very closely with our developers to discover and define the best places to use mag+ features and when to create custom HTML. One of the benefits of mag+ is that our designers can use InDesign, a tool they are familiar with and comfortable working in to implement the designs and functionality. Once we receive client approval, the app is deployed. We like to start deployment conversations right after the kickoff so there are no surprises once our clients get to this phase.

What are some of your favorite features?

At CGI, we frequently use image sequences. This particular feature allows users to feel as though they are interacting with the content. Pop-ups have also proven to be very valuable. For example, instead of a typical PowerPoint or Keynote presentation with stacks of slides, we can build in pop-ups or hot spots behind key text or images. This allows for a deeper dive on a particular point of interest and allows us to create an engaging experience rather than a static presentation.

What are the results? Do the apps you create for clients aid in customer relationships?

The iPad allows for sales teams to present interactive content on the go. Using mag+’s tools, CGI can design and deliver engaging interactive presentations and sales tools that our clients can present anywhere while delivering a consistent message.

For example, our client Merchant Warehouse loves its company app because of the consistent corporate messaging. It uses its app for corporate presentations that address the company’s identity, capabilities, and products. The app is visually stunning, but it also ensures the sales team is delivering a consistent story.

Merchant Warehouse_Apps_Screen 2

What additional functionalities or features do you need to continue developing successful enterprise applications?

The ability to create a custom resource center would be extremely beneficial for large enterprises. A portal that can house all of a team’s assets is something that many of our clients are looking for as well as the ability to send communication within an enterprise application. We always look forward to seeing the new features mag+ will release—with each release, our team finds new ways to push the platform and deliver more interactive content to our clients.