Avoid the Wild West of App Development

Part of the Top 10 Considerations for Enterprise Mobile Strategy

This is the third blog post in a series entitled the “Top 10 Considerations for your Enterprise Mobile Strategy”. To receive the rest of the considerations directly to your inbox, sign up using the form on the left.

Avoid the Wild West of App Development

When Apple launched the iPhone, it also introduced us to the world of Apps. With the brilliant “There is an app for that” campaign, we were introduced to the idea that little colorful app icons on our mobile devices could be downloaded very quickly for every possible use that came to mind. Downloading an app to interact with a business started to become more than a novelty. Opening up a browser, typing in a URL and bringing up a web page on a screen that was much smaller than what the website was originally designed for was starting to take away from the envisioned customer experience. With this change, the Apple App Store and Google’s Play were soon flooded with business apps as companies scrambled to make sure that they had their branded apps visible on these app stores. Even though this did not give these companies a mobile strategy (as discussed in our first consideration – An App is not a Strategy) it was a good way to start the journey to adopt mobile.

It seems as though the typical questions that are considered part of the justification to proceed with an idea have been thrown out of the window. This has resulted in what we can best describe as the Wild West of App Development.

However, beyond consumer facing apps, many organizations have been focused on creating internal company apps. Examples include apps for employees, apps used in the consultative sales processes, as well as apps for partners and resellers. In some cases, there has been an irrational rush to build apps; both by IT to support business demands as well as by “cowboys” within business groups. Every idea that has an app as the final result has somehow become a good idea. It seems as though the typical questions that are considered part of the justification to proceed with an idea have been thrown out of the window. This has resulted in what we can best describe as the Wild West of App Development.

In our opinion this “Wild West” phenomenon is fueled by some interesting dynamics related to the mobile space:

  • Lack of a coordinated app roadmap across the enterprise – Companies have spent significant time and energy on improving their IT readiness to support mobile needs. However, in most cases they are lacking a clear coordinated roadmap of apps that will support the business drivers of the organization. In the absence of such a roadmap, every idea that can get funded is being developed as an app. This lack of a holistic enterprise view also results in efforts that end up building overlapping solutions as well as poorly conceived point solutions.
  • Building apps is the most visible part of a mobile strategy – If you want to show some progress related to your mobile adoption, building apps tends to be the most visible aspect. Before you know it you have numerous apps popping up within the enterprise.
  • Your creative agency is driving your mobile strategy – Without the experience of creating mobile strategies, agencies are falling back on their experience as online designers and trying to offer app development solutions. The end result – there is an app for everything. Unfortunately the enterprise pays for it and many of them would never have been built if the time to optimize the portfolio was put in place and the business had looked past the hype.

With these dynamics at play, several organizations are already dealing with the “Wild West” scenario and many more will soon find that they are in this situation. For these companies we offer the following key considerations:

 

1

Create a demand prioritization process

Business stakeholders are coming up with ideas and asking that they to be turned into mobile apps. While some of these ideas are surely great, there is a fair bit of “we have a mobile hammer so everything feels like and app” type of thinking going on. Organizations need to create a process to take these ideas and very quickly prioritize the value, innovation, readiness, and the complexity of implementation before an idea can be considered for app development. The goal is not to stifle innovation by introducing a “toll gate” process but rather to infuse some discipline into the ideation process.

 

2

Create an app roadmap for your organization

Identify the various stakeholders in the organization that could be possible users of mobile apps. For each of these groups go through a process of identifying mobile app scenarios. Organize these ideas using a ideation framework that can help identify possible apps. Then, prioritize these app ideas by ranking them for business value, readiness of the organization and the ease of implementation. Caution: Organizations have to be careful to not let this turn into a long drawn out strategy project. With mobile apps, speed is critical and this prioritization process needs to be completed using a methodology that gets to an actionable roadmap in rapid timeframes.

 

3

Create a Mobile Competency Center to avoid disjointed app creation

Whether you build a mobile focused competency center using internal resources or a combination of your internal and external partners, it is clear that there needs to be a high level of coordination and consistency in the execution of your mobile strategy. This includes the implementation of the apps on your mobile roadmap using a common set of considerations for design, development and deployment. Disjointed efforts can introduce additional variables and can result in a suboptimal rollout of your mobile app related efforts. Centralizing the ownership, oversight, and implementation of the mobile app roadmap is a critical consideration in avoiding this type of disjointed app development effort.

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Shahab Choudhry

Shahab is a visionary thought leader and builder of successful companies that has been at the forefront of trying to make sense of the various technology shifts in the past two decades. He has advised several startups, early stage companies and Fortune 500 companies in making the most of these technology shifts. His focus has been on new products and platforms for the enterprise. His track record as a builder of companies includes IPOs, successful acquisitions as well as a failed startup. Shahab can be reached at shahab.choudhry@propelics.com or on twitter at @shahabchoudhry.