Three Critical Questions to Ask a Prospective Mobile App Vendor
Most of the time, event mobile apps are selected well after the event management software is in place. Mobile apps are relatively new to trade shows and conferences and implementing the core operations software normally takes priority. This basic chronology can cause integration headaches for event organizers unless they ask some important questions of the mobile app vendor.
Can the data from registration and the event management software be integrated with the mobile platform? To avoid having to re-enter existing registrant, exhibitor and schedule data into the mobile database, the mobile platform provider must have a strategy for transferring the data.
How will the data be transferred from existing platforms to the mobile platform? Being able to transfer data from one or more databases to another without losing data or decreasing the functionality of the app can be a challenge for some mobile providers. There are two ways to effect the transfer:
MANUAL TRANSFER: data is exported from one or more primary platforms (event management, registration) onto an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and uploaded to the mobile platform. This is a time-consuming extra step that busy planners prefer to avoid and the data in the mobile app is only as up to date as the number of times the information is manually uploaded.
AUTOMATIC TRANSFER: data is “called” from the primary platforms to the mobile platform over the Internet enabling the mobile platform to synchronize immediately with any new data (a new registrant, for example) or a schedule change. This eliminates the need for manual uploads and ensures that updates on the mobile app occur in real time.
Who will manage the data transfer? Very few stand-alone mobile apps have “plug-and-play” compatibility with the existing event management and registration systems. Because of that, event planners have to establish which of the three entities—event organizer, event management software provider, or mobile app vendor—will take the responsibility and bear the costs of data transfer.
There is another option. The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) found themselves in the position of having to scramble when the mobile app they selected for their 2013 annual conference would have required registration, exhibitor and conference data to be manually transferred (Excel spreadsheet style) from the event management platform to the mobile platform rather than simply “called” over the Internet unless additional measures and costs for integration were incurred.
NADA solved the problem by using a mobile extension of a2z’s event management software—the ChirpE mobile app—rather than stay with a third-party mobile provider. While this is an optimal solution, not every management platform has a robust mobile app extension and some organizers simply prefer to use stand-alone mobile apps. Although NADA was lucky to have the option, other organizers could find themselves in a bind or having to incur additional costs if they don’t have an integration strategy worked out in advance. By asking the three critical questions about data transfer, planners can take full advantage of the event management platforms they have in place and have a variety of options for mobile apps as well