The evolution of mobile computing has been a bullet-train ride to a future that many of us could not have foreseen. Was it not only yesterday that we were still exchanging thought fragments via interoffice memorandum and flipping through catalogs or – perish the thought – going to a bricks-and-mortar location to purchase a product?
Our progression from PC to laptop to “dumbphone” to a smartphone has been swift and paradigm-changing. Consumers who have first eschewed setting foot into a store, and more recently, abandoned the home computer, are now expecting – no, demanding – that their mobile, internet-connected device serve as a primary portal into a world of product acquisition – or offering value as an employee of an enterprise.
And if 2014 was the year of the mobile “Tipping Point” – when Internet access via mobile bypassed that of desktop for the first time, according to ComScore; then 2015 is shaping up to be the year of the “retail apocalypse” – when the major chains acknowledged the superior powers wielded by the tech-savvy – and deal-seeking – consumer and shuttered stores by the thousands.
If this “harsh reality” feels like the sting of a Band-Aid being ripped off, then one could say that the typical reaction of marketers – to employ the easiest, cheapest and quickest fix – would, in fact, be like using Scotch Tape to close an incision.
Believe it or not, there is a difference between a slap-dash, triage-style mobile solution; and one that has been pondered thoughtfully and developed strategically. And your consumer? They certainly know the difference.
Without a mobile development strategy, businesses have experienced catastrophic failures, including:
- Adoption problems caused by uneven and inconsistent user experience that differ from platform to platform;
- Incongruous, use-inhibiting designs implemented by multiple studios or various departments working independently of each other;
- Frustration caused by a lack of a common support and maintenance strategy to support the portfolio of applications;
- Missed development deadlines or incomplete work caused by business leaders who underestimate the complexity of developing, deploying and maintaining the app.
Fortunately, you don’t have to “mobilize” your enterprise just for the sake of being on mobile. Our recipe for a mobile development strategy consists of eight steps you can take right now to plan, prioritize and map out a roadmap that will result in true, and lasting benefits.
8 Critical Steps to Secure Your Mobile Development Strategy
1. Focus on Value
Here is where you ask the key question about what you’ll achieve from your new mobile strategy. Are you simply looking to add value to your user’s journey? Do you want to reduce your operational costs or reduce your risks? Or is it as black and white as simply increasing sales through the added convenience of a mobile platform? Is it a combination of all of these factors? Once we list and rank these priorities, we have the needed starting point that will ensure your map is both purposeful and actionable.
2. Develop Use Cases
Here is where we will more specifically pinpoint the key benefit to your mobile user. A great app is clearly defined by the way it addresses the consumer’s most critical need. Companies that have clearly defined use cases for their apps include Starbucks (easing transactions), Zillow (marketing homes), Evernote (extension of a desktop platform), Facebook (content consumption) and Yammer (productivity). At this stage, you’ll also want to define details like frequency of use, performance considerations and device resources that the app will utilize.
3. Target Distribution, Devices, and User Personas
Who in your customer base should absolutely download the new app, the moment it’s available? The use case we defined in Step 2 should be a big help in determining this. Once we define the personas – e.g. moms with kids, teenagers, or realtors – we can make some decisions about how they will interact with both app and device, and plan our development and marketing strategies accordingly.
4. Develop Your App
Now, we’re ready to build – and to address the key technical decisions: should it be a native app – downloadable from an application store? Should it be built to spec for a particular device? Do we want it to be a scaled version of our website, using responsive design across platforms? Or do we want a hybrid?
5. Understand Platform Considerations
The Enterprise needs to make a host of platform choices develop a support strategy for their portfolio of Applications. Examples of this include Test Automation to reduce the cost and complexity of testing across multiple devices and form factors, as a means of preventing bugs and improving time to market; crash detection to pinpoint the factors that trigger App crashes in the field; performance monitoring and testing to ensure app speed is as desired; analytics to measure user behavior including -- if necessary -- A/B testing and cohort analysis; integration of advertising and other monetization strategies; and infrastructure testing to ensure whether you can handle a doubling or tripling of traffic without a hiccup.
This “support infrastructure” around App is a huge cost factor and is also a large determinant of whether you can compete with the leaders in your category.
6. Assess Your In-House Development Skills and Budgets
Do you have the human and financial resources to support your mobile development strategy? Budget considerations are certainly clear during the buildout phase, but have you allocated for the type of maintenance and testing delineated during Step 5? If you are supporting multiple languages, do you have the personnel to interact fluently with native speakers? Now is the time to determine whether you wish to hire to these capabilities or contract with subject-matter experts.
7. Ensure Your Consumer’s Security
Have you found – and plugged – all of the holes that can let nefarious people penetrate your armor? Often, hackers can even exploit a mobile weakness to bring down an organization’s entire technological backbone. Understanding – and planning – for the specific security needs of your company and your consumers is a key consideration.
8. Provide Maintenance and Support
Though we are constantly testing and analyzing the app, there will always be something for which we have not planned. Apple may make changes to its operating system or app store rules, and we may need to react quickly to avoid obsolescence. A subset of users may uncover a bug that we didn’t know about. A solid plan for maintenance, support – and the next edition of your app – is absolutely critical to protect your investment.
Finally, applaud yourself for having the insight to consider a comprehensive mobile strategy. Many companies encounter paralysis by analysis – but the cost of doing nothing can often be much greater. And once you plunge ahead, don’t be afraid to experiment or to fail – so long as you can learn from your mistakes. Iteration and cheap experimentation are the keys to learning what works and what will not work for your Enterprise. Ultimately, the eye needs to be on the prize. If so, the payoffs can be huge.
*Header photo by Japanexpertna.se on Flickr