Many people are saying that mobile development is easier than ever, which is true. But knee replacement surgery is also easier than ever. Meanwhile, you wouldn’t rush to a surgeon to have your knee replaced if you banged it on the coffee table. Likewise, companies shouldn’t rush into building a enterprise mobile app without first asking the right questions.
Analysts and thought leaders are telling the enterprise about the importance of mobile applications. They base their ideas on the fact that we live in a digital age, and they have a lot of stats and anecdotes to back it up. Satish Meena for Forrester, for example, writes: “The number of global smartphone subscribers is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2019.” Those are numbers simply too big to ignore. Customer and customer-facing mobile moments will drive a significant portion of your firm’s business technology agenda. Let’s face it, mobile is the future.
Likewise, vendors have pushed the frenzy from the supply side — coming up with many ways to soak up IT budgets. And the excitement isn’t just expensive hype. As Galen Gruman wrote in InfoWorld recently about the IBM and Apple partnership: “IBM has done a great job creating apps that take advantage of iOS’s user interface and functionality, as well as the Apple hardware. These are not Windows or Web apps roughly ported to iOS, but the real deal.” Basically, three trends are converging at the same time. The first is a big shift in culture to mobile. Secondly, we see many examples of organizations transforming themselves into digital companies. And finally, we see new software and hardware platforms that are making it all happen.
But as things heat up in the enterprise mobility world, there is an increased risk of disappointment and wasted money. The current rush to mobility is an opportunity to choose what’s important, not to port all of your old IT to a cooler platform. Also, business leaders who fall victim to the temptation to simply accumulate cool features are doomed. Knowing what mobile applications to develop requires a strategy.
A good strategy starts with focusing on the right things. Don’t start your search for that amazing enterprise mobile app by thinking about operating systems and code (although, that will come in due time). Begin by understanding the communities of users that could benefit from an app. At the same time, start looking at the business activities that mobility could improve. Finding that combination of easing lives for employees and improving business outcomes is the special zone where great corporate mobile apps thrive.
Every organization has its own challenges and opportunities, so investing in a mobile strategy phase is time well spent. A good start is a Mobile Opportunity Assessment and Roadmap. These projects consist of a business-focused analysis of your organization’s mobile needs and wants. One of the main goals of this effort is to produce a prioritized list of mobile opportunities based on business value and ability to execute. The roadmap charts the timing for implementing the top opportunities, an estimate for the cost to implement the roadmap, and a set of design concepts or light prototypes.
It’s also important to understand how your users will interact with your mobile app. If step 1 is identifying which apps to build that would provide value, then step 2 is building an app that actually delivers that value. The importance of understanding the user experience cannot be underestimated, as many mobile apps fail due to poor adoption in the work place. Testing multiple designs and providing working prototypes of your app through a service like AppXpress allows you to demo your app for stakeholders in order to get critical feedback and will further ensure that your mobile investment is not all hype. This is an exciting time in corporate IT history. Finding those mobile apps that transform your organization is less about technology, and more about good thinking.