There was a time when software companies reluctantly ventured into mobile – or even if they did, it would just be a mobile website with a catalogue of their products – solely to appear current. The crude attempt to stay updated would show through poor design and lack of an engagement strategy.
However, the mobile app market is growing at an extraordinarily fast pace and is slated to become a $77 billion industry by 2017. Infact, every few years, new mobile technology comes along and disrupts established systems, making it more agile. While several software companies want to get on the mobile bandwagon, they have trouble converting their strategy to reality because of the dynamic nature of the mobile market. I’d like to outline just a few pitfalls you absolutely must avoid, to ensure that your mobile app strategy is a resounding success:
1.) Not getting a thorough picture of user requirements and feedback: The first step in strategizing should be to obtain a complete understanding of the challenges faced by the target user and devising solutions that address those needs. For an enterprise mobile app, your target users would be field force, sales team, technicians, and so on, depending on who your mobile app is catering to. Figure out what features of your website or application they would like to access from a smartphone, what platform they are on, which websites/apps are currently helping them accomplish their work, what aspects of their work can be simplified through a mobile app and so on. In addition to asking questions, getting feedback should also include getting your target users into a room and watching them use a demo app to accomplish real world goals.
2.) Lack of prioritization: Identifying user goals and setting them in order of priority is vital. Prioritization should be done based on the users’ goals. Focus on building solutions that meet the high priority goals first and then move on to the lower priority ones. Setting priorities will help build a quick MVP (Minimum Viable Product), with which you can gather feedback internally that will help improve your app as development progresses. The mobile app strategy should distinguish very clearly between the must have features and the nice-to-haves so as to put a timeframe around the project. Also, when prioritizing, don’t fall into the trap of placing higher priority on a feature that you want done, as opposed to the users.
3.) Not selecting the right platform: The platform on which to build the app should be very carefully planned based on the type of problems being addressed. Within an enterprise, there would be varying challenges that are sought to be addressed with a mobile solution. The chosen platform for development should be in alignment with these business needs. For instance, in a field setting, where technicians have to visit customer sites, or have to be in an area where there is a risk of contamination or water, you would require a rugged device. In such a situation, it would be advisable to avoid software-oriented platforms such as an iPhone. The user experience varies depending on different operating systems (Android, iOS, etc.), OS versions (Jellybean, KitKat, iOS7, etc.), carrier networks (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.) and devices (Samsung Galaxy S3, iPhone 6, 6S). When mobile apps fail, it’s usually because the app strategy doesn’t take into consideration target user performance around these different use cases.
4.) Not involving stakeholders from the get-go. Project requirements keep changing; people's expectations keep changing, so it's important to keep everyone in the loop as the project begins. It is crucial to have stakeholder buy-in and ensure that everybody approves of the project requirements. Have stakeholders involved at every stage of the app development process.
Strategy should not just be an “item” on the checklist, instead start thinking of it as an action. It is often just assumed that strategy should be decided at an annual meeting by an elite group of people who are secluded from the rest of the organization. Instead of taking such a top down approach where the management is pushing an edict onto the other employees, the entire company should own the strategy. Behind every good app is a good mobile strategy.
5.) Choosing the wrong development model: In an attempt to cut costs, several companies outsource mobile app development as a time bound project which affects agility tremendously. Speed and time to market are important, but so are constant iterations in making your product better as the project progresses. The best apps are developed and tested in an Agile environment and undergo continuous delivery and faster time to market. When you are restricted to a time-bound project, you aren’t agile enough and when any changes are made to the app, it will most likely overstep the timeframe, resulting in increased overheads. Also, in a project-based model, once the app is developed, you are done. There is no scope for improving the app based on user feedback or developing more versions of the app with improved features. Instead, you can opt for building a dedicated team for your mobile development that understands your strategy from the start and will grow along with your app and the user base.
When devising a mobile strategy and taking it to production, time-to-market, quality and scalability, should all be key elements. The market for mobile apps is already big -- and it’s just going to keep getting bigger. There is no better time than now, for software businesses to start planning out how to put their app strategy into production.