Sapho’s micro app approach aims to keep it simple and social in enterprise app fight

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.


Sapho, an enterprise mobility and micro app platform provider based in San Bruno, California, has an interesting story to tell.

Regular readers of this publication will already be aware of what they do, as well as being aware of the company’s recent membership of the AppConfig Community initiative. Yet if you dig a little deeper, Sapho’s model arguably makes them stand out in what is becoming an increasingly crowded space.

Log in to the product (below) and you’re presented with a Facebook-esque social feed of actionable micro apps that sit across all a user’s individual systems, be they purchase orders, expense reports, or anything else. Tasks can be completed quickly and easily and, most importantly, without becoming tangled in a plethora of legacy systems. The apps can be tailored to specific job roles and specific users, and can be delivered to various locations, from desktop, to Slack, to Microsoft Teams.

Natalie Lambert, VP marketing, arrived at Sapho 10 months ago as the company’s first marketing hire. The company’s two founders, Fouad ElNaggar and Peter Yared, had been spending their time previously in stealth – “they did not tell a soul”, as Lambert puts it – building up the product and potential customers. For those who have read Dan Lyons’ excoriating descriptions of his time at HubSpot, where he said the company “started out as a sales operation in search of a product”, Sapho’s approach feels somewhat refreshing.

Lambert’s enthusiasm and ability to tell Sapho’s story comes through loud and clear – not entirely surprising given she previously spent seven years at Forrester as the go-to analyst on end user computing – as she describes what the company is trying to do.

“What’s really interesting about Sapho is the idea that we are focusing on the micro tasks, those micro flows, and delivering them to employees wherever they are,” she tells Enterprise AppsTech. “We would never say we’re a mobile app development platform, we would never say we’re desktop app development. It’s that ability to create those similar experiences simply and deliver them across devices wherever the people are.”

Of course, the differences in the mobile industry between now and when Lambert was at Forrester – she had spent seven years at Citrix in between before joining Sapho – are stark. The past few years have seen moves from BYO PC, to BYOD and beyond, from MDM to EMM, and from device to data in enterprise thinking. “I was an analyst when all the heavy-handed approaches were coming because things were new,” Lambert explains, laughing. “I think that we’ve now rolled back a little; now that we understand what these trends mean we can now start to think about doing things in a better way both for IT and for users.”

The key lesson from the past, as organisations are now realising, is that mobile doesn’t just mean fitting as many people with a device as possible and doing nothing else. Nor is it shoving a desktop app straight onto mobile without any changes to workflows. But Lambert argues it’s a two-way street; having an app which is simple on mobile but useless on a desktop isn’t much use either.

“You have this conundrum where employees are sitting there and they have two options – they can log in to this totally awful system on their desktop, or they could actually just open their phone and do something there,” she says. “It’s easier – even though they’re sitting at their computer. That’s the shift.

“Mobile taught us that there is a single purpose app for anything we want to do, and when we open it up, we don’t need to be trained; we just open it, it just makes sense, and you go for it,” Lambert adds.

Hence where Sapho comes in. Part of what makes the product interesting is that it monitors for system changes and surfaces relevant data and events in real time – and leaves little else. Take business intelligence (BI); companies may invest heavily in BI tools, but if they’re all-encompassing, they may take a long time to load, and even longer to find what you were looking for. This is particularly the case in products such as Salesforce; Lambert explains that when she was at Citrix, she was one of the many employees around the world who wasn’t a regular user of Salesforce, but wanted to check in periodically. “This makes it significantly easier for me to get that information and not have to navigate these completely archaic systems,” she explains.

The social aspect of the interface leads naturally to the importance of gamification in Sapho’s strategy, and towards enterprise apps in general. As this publication has previously explored, gamification can’t just be something tacked onto a mundane task in a futile attempt to make it more enjoyable. Lambert sees it similarly, although she admits some customers do like the ‘poking the bear’ aspect of the product.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the full intent…but if you start to look at what the best apps are doing today, it is the gamification, it is the social aspect,” says Lambert. “You start to look at the type of data – sales reps are a great example. They don’t want to go in and look at these reports every day, but boy do they want to know how they’re doing against quota and how they’re doing against their peers, [so we have] a whole card on where you are compared to your peers. It’s not gamification per se, but that ability to surface this information much more easily than ever before which will drive people to do more and do it faster.”

For 2017, the plan for Sapho is to evidently continue on its current path, while making sure the product is fully scalable and can connect to anything, as well as more strategic goals. The company secured $9.5 million in series A funding back in June, and this will continue to shape things in 2017, alongside membership of AppConfig. “For us, joining the AppConfig Community was simply a mechanism to make it as easy as possible for our customers who have a mobile initiative to bring Sapho to their mobile devices,” says Lambert. “To us, it’s just one piece of a very large puzzle.”

A puzzle which Sapho hopes by the end of this year will have significantly more pieces in it.

Main picture credit: Sapho in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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