The biggest mistake when it comes to your business’s mobile strategy is not having one. (And, no, just making your website responsive doesn’t count as a strategy.) So, technically, what we’ll be discussing here is the second biggest mistake. Since mobile technology is still in its infancy—the first iPhone hit the market in 2007—many people respond to devices and apps with an acquisitiveness and awe that’s a bit child-like in its own right. The thinking goes something like, “Whoa! That’s an awesome app. I better get it before my competitors do.” And we’re all encouraged in this type of thinking by all the talk about how mobile and the Internet of Things are the next frontier for business technology. But, to develop an effective mobile strategy, you have to get away from the idea that an application, no matter how cool it seems, is going to drastically change the way your business works—or that you would even want it to.
Technology-Driven or Process-Driven
The biggest mistake businesses make with their mobile strategies (assuming they have one) is to start with the technology and then try to adjust their processes to that technology, or to force their customers to adjust their behavior to it. What this means is that when you hear about a mobile application development your competitors are using that sounds really impressive, you have to resist the impulse to develop a similar app and deploy it to all your workers or customers—at least for a while. Before deciding whether this particular app is a good investment, you must first look into how well it’s actually working for the business that’s already using it. Has it increased employees’ efficiency? Improved sales? Led to greater customer satisfaction? Then you still have to ask whether it makes sense in the context of your particular company.
As likely as not, that other company with the super cool app did the same thing you were tempted to do when you first heard about it. They thought it sounded neat, wanted to make sure they got it before the competition, and, after some painstakingly thorough planning, began development. No matter how impressive the functionality seems, though, and no matter how thorough the planning, the app isn’t going to do much for your business if it isn’t a good fit for your existing processes or doesn’t help customers do something they’re already trying to do.
Whether you’re creating a line-of-business app for employees or a tool for customers, your plan should begin with what users are actually doing and move on to the question of how the technology can help. In other words, you shouldn’t go from technology to process; you should go from process to technology.
Planning Based on Use Cases
If you simply deploy some flashy new apps, people will probably have to alter their behavior to accommodate them. But, if you start with some sort of discovery process based on analyzing existing processes, behaviors, and goals, you can create apps that cause minimal disruption and lead to maximum pay-offs. It’s true that you’ll want to involve someone in this discovery who has a good sense of what all a mobile app can do. The goal, however, shouldn’t be to rearrange your business to make way for what’s supposed to be the best technology; it should be to find ways to use technology to create efficiencies for employees and provide value to customers. That all starts with figuring out what users are trying to do and designing applications that make doing it easier.
DevOps and Continuous Develop
Even if you plan properly and develop one or two really effective apps, though, that still doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good mobile strategy in place. You still have to make sure all your people have the right kind of device, or that the apps work on multiple device types. You also need a reliable way to deploy the app so everyone has access to it. And you need to make instructions or training available as well.
Business processes and customer engagement alike are becoming ever more integrated with—and dependent upon—technology. So businesses are competing to outpace and out-innovate each other with their development projects. And that means that the most successful businesses will be the ones who go beyond focusing on a single app at a time and create a process for constantly working on the next update for existing apps and the next plan for developing future apps.
Once you break away from the mindset that you should wait for some groundbreaking technology to come on the market and change the way everyone operates, you’re free to focus on the smaller gains that can be made through development projects that are better tailored to the specific circumstances of your business. Following the lead of some of the major players in the tech industry including Viet Nam software outsourcing companies, many businesses are going on what are essentially continuous development cycles, merging the roles of operations people with those of developers into a practice known as DevOps. What makes this such an effective approach is that it doesn’t simply begin with analyzing business processes and end with an app or two to improve them—it tracks and analyzes how those apps are used so upgrades and new apps are always in the works.
You don’t necessarily have to go all in with a continuous development process to have a mobile strategy that works for your business. The key point to remember is that if you try to impose an application on people whose current behaviors aren’t conducive to its success you’re courting disaster. To get the most out of your investment in mobile development, you have to start with an understanding of what people are already doing, what they’re trying to do, and how an app can make it easier, quicker, and more enjoyable for them.