Nitin is a technology enthusiast with several years of consulting experience working with companies across the gamut, to craft solutions that focus on delivering value on their key initiatives. He shares a passion for emerging technologies and trends, and blogs about its ever-changing landscape; discussing current issues, trends, and best practices. Blending a sharp business acumen with strategic thinking, Nitin has helped companies navigate their path from ideation, all the way to implementation. Nitin can be reached at [email protected].
My last blog post discussed the mobile app development challenges faced by many organizations. In this post, we take a look at how to build a solid foundation to address not only current mobile initiatives but also future mobile opportunities through 6 tips for getting started with mobile app development. The idea is to have a framework on which companies can build and grow their mobile footprint in a controlled and focused manner.
6 Tips for Getting Started with Mobile App Development
The following are 6 tips that company embarking on mobile development efforts ought to keep in mind:
Before building a mobile app, we strongly recommend that you identify your company’s strategy business drivers and put your app through a litmus test to ensure that the app you are building aligns with your overall business goals and objectives. These drivers should be the criteria on which the value of all mobile app you develop are measured. Additionally, these drivers can be used to prioritize the influx of mobile app ideas to make sure you are focusing your development effort on the best ideas.
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Understanding the target users’ needs, ways to reach them, and their motivations and pain points are a few of the key characteristics that can help companies design and develop a mobile app that is best suited for its audience and thereby reduce friction in adoption. Depending on the app, target audience can be either external facing like customers, vendors, suppliers, partners, etc. or internal facing like sales, human resources, finance, marketing, field ops, etc.
As discussed in my previous post – there is no silver bullet when it comes to choosing between HTML, Hybrid, or Native. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages and companies are better off driving the decision based on a set of mobile use cases. As companies are making the technology decision, it is also critical to set standards so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel with each new mobile app. Here’s a recent webinar that delves into the detailed decision making process.
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There are several infrastructure components that need to be put into place before building a mobile app. Ensuring that companies have thought through the necessary infrastructure requirements for their mobile initiatives is imperative. The infrastructure needs could include managing security across devices, apps and content, a mobile app development platform, an app distribution mechanism, the creation of development/test/production environments and much more. With several vendors in the market, companies need to perform thorough vendor evaluations to partner with the right vendors. When evaluating options make sure that the solution is reliable, scalable, and flexible. Vendors that not only have a solid product vision but also can integrate with the company’s existing infrastructure are ideal options. Finally, companies should seek solutions that leverage non-proprietary standards to prevent vendor lock-in.
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Build vs. Buy
While this post focuses on mobile app development, with nearly a million apps on the iTunes app store alone, it is well worth considering off-the-shelf options. Mobile application development can be complex, costly, and resource-intensive, so starting from scratch may not be an option for every company. However, by establishing a build vs. buy decision matrix, organizations can weed out mobile apps that are readily available for use or require limited customization to fit their needs. A few questions to consider when creating a decision matrix are:
- What is the opportunity cost of building the mobile app? In other words, how else could the team use its resources (time, effort, and money) on other projects?
- Does the team have the technical capabilities to build a mobile app or will the company need to hire/train a team?
- Does the team have the availability to work on a mobile app development project?
- How quickly does the mobile app need to be available? In other words, what is the time to market?
- Are there existing solutions in the marketplace that can be customized to fit the company’s needs? If so, what is the complexity of the customization?
- What is the cost of developing a mobile app compared to buying an off-the-shelf solution? This question is a topic in itself, but here’s a whitepaper by Larry Lauvray (Co-founder, Propelics) where he discusses the primary cost factors and how to size an enterprise mobile app.
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Standards and Tools Library
Having a standard set of tools across the organization significantly reduces onboarding and training costs. By creating a standards and tools library, teams can design, develop, and maintain a vast array of enterprise applications effectively.
Generally speaking, the standards and tools library should cover the entire application development lifecycle including items such as: UX standards to create prototypes and wireframes as well as lay out interaction flows; development tools to develop mobile apps; testing/QA tools to capture any functional/UX/performance defects; deployment standards to distribute apps through various channels. Companies should invest in reliable source control and project management software (if they haven’t done so already) to efficiently manage their mobile application development projects. Moreover, this consistency enables companies to utilize resources across multiple projects with minimal friction, yielding a significant reduction in development time and cost.
As the enterprise mobility space evolves, companies must gather feedback from teams and assess the framework at regular intervals to ensure that they are not behind the curve. In the final post of this three part blog series, I will discuss best practices around mobile application development.