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The Business Case for Rich Internet Applications

Software renaissance creates new opportunities to deliver a better user experience

They Increase Usability
RIAs, through their ability to create a better experience, deliver greater usability either by encouraging users to use an application for longer periods of time or at increased frequency. Because RIAs are less about the next version of the Web and more about the next version of desktop applications, business applications are able to be designed with the end user in mind, delivering robust functionality and lightening speed.

Applications that previously had to be installed on the desktop can now be delivered via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) featuring RIAs. Since RIAs are able to be migrated across all platforms and browsers, organization are able to protect their technology investments with solutions that are able to be far-reaching to support standardization across their operating regions. By deploying SaaS solutions featuring RIAs, organizations can reduce or eliminate the need for additional hardware investments and demands on internal IT resources. At the same time, RIAs provide a wider range of controls to improve user interaction with the interface and their familiar look and feel minimizes the need for additional training, reduces frustration caused by software limitations, and decreases process abandonment.

They Drive Business Results
Rich Internet applications deliver on the promise of the Internet and provide a fundamental shift in how applications are delivered. One benefit of providing a rich, engaging experience through RIAs is in reduced process abandonment rates. A report from Boston Consulting Group estimates that nearly 65 percent of online consumers bail out of a transaction and abandon the shopping cart before the transaction took place, representing significant lost sales for the online retailer.

RIAs give power to prospects by offering the best of the Web combined with the best of the desktop with faster performance, immediate feedback, and interactive features that are coupled with integrated communications such as audio and video. By allowing users to have more control and by actively engaging them in the process, that same customer is more likely to convert to a sale than abandon their cart.

Likewise, for organizations using RIAs for their back-office applications, lower process abandonment helps cross the chasm to higher adoption rates and usability, thereby optimizing the technology investment. By providing software solutions that are interactive, intuitive, and engaging, business users are likely to enjoy and understand how to use them, increasing their ability to effectively use technology to impact business results.

In a head-to-head comparison of customer experiences across four application types – mapping tools, hotel search and reservation engines, PC configurators, and product finders – Forrester Research evaluated their interactions with both RIA and HTML applications. RIAs were found to improve online customer experiences and more often helped businesses achieve their goals. Features available through the RIA making a difference include more control and easier movement within a particular process, better object manipulation, improved error handling and efficient task flow, with the whole process on one page – contributing to RIAs’ overall lead over HTML.

With RIAs, everyone wins. IT departments enjoy the simplicity of server-based deployments and the cost savings of a dramatically more productive development environment than traditional Web development. End users enjoy a truly rich application user experience that engages them quickly and keeps them engaged longer. Companies can reduce time-to-market of a new innovative solution, and enjoy greater customer loyalty and an increased market presence, which translates to greater revenues. For their business applications, they can ensure users are optimizing productivity by using the tools they have invested in to power their organizational performance.

The times they are a changin’. While competition will remain fierce, businesses that stay ahead of the curve know that experience will be the differentiator contributing to their business success. The future has arrived, and it starts with RIAs.



More Stories By Dave Wolf

Dave Wolf is a Vice President of Cynergy Systems, Inc. Prior to joining Cynergy, he held senior management positions at several major software firms including Sybase and Microsoft, where he was responsible for the development, marketing and sales of several enterprise class software products. A sought-after public speaker, he has presented at major technology conferences such as JavaOne, AJAXWorld and Microsoft TechEd. At Cynergy, he oversees consulting operations worldwide and spends most of his time interacting directly with the field and working in every time zone but his own.

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