Most large enterprises are not solely focused on mobile apps as key success factors. Instead, they often treat them as tools for business development, marketing, or ancillary customer touchpoints. Nevertheless, change comes quickly in the world of mobile technology. Experiences on the web and trends in design shift slowly by comparison, while mobile embodies a constant stream of new features and apps. Customer expectations on ubiquity, consistency, and intuitiveness are constantly advancing, and it takes a lot of effort to predict where and when the next big disruption will land.
One thing is certain — disruptions will land given the explosion of mobile initiatives in the past years.
If we take a moment to look at the latest statistics, we see a stable upward curve depicting the global presence of mobile. For just four years, the number of internet users having a smartphone has grown by 14 percentage points to 95% in 2019, as per a GlobalWebIndex report. PC/laptop ownership, which stood above mobile in 2015, has in comparison now dropped to 70% from 88%.
This is, however, not to imply that mobile technology will be the end of the web. In 2019, the time users spend online is almost equally divided between their smartphones and their PCs/laptops — around three and a half hours a day. The point is rather that mobile is now a force to be reckoned with for businesses if they aim to be well-prepared for the challenges of the day.
So the logical question is: how do they do that?
The answer is actually pretty straightforward (not to be confused with simple) — through a carefully devised mobile strategy. Enterprises large and small can protect against brand damage and business disruption in the mobile space by formulating and executing a cohesive enterprise mobile strategy.
1. Make Sure Your Business Is Ready
Once a company has caught on to how advantageous potential exposure to the mobile space can be, the journey has only just begun. Even enterprises with mature IT and software development organizations have stumbled when venturing into the app space. Nevertheless, there are several key groundwork steps that can ensure that your enterprise is prepared for the work ahead.
- Product vs. Tool: What do you need mobile instruments to do for your business — will they be revenue-generating products or cost-controlling tools? What do you want them to do — show off innovation or disrupt a legacy business model? Are there already tools you could buy to fulfill part or all of your purposes? Blue-sky brainstorming sessions predicated on questions like “What if…?” and “How might we…?” can lead directly to actionable ideas for enterprises in many industries.
- Competitive Analysis: What are your competitors doing in the mobile space? Are they offering best-in-class mobile tools to their customers, or are they adopting a defensive stance toward the space? When looking into what direction your enterprise shall go and how competitors are faring on the mobile front, you will come to deal with rather crowded app stores. In this sense, it is all the more essential to develop a precise concept of how your application(s) will fit in what’s already there.
- Enterprise Readiness: Building a mobile app is one challenge. Supporting and managing it is another. Ensure that your organization is set up for both by mapping skills and gaps in technology as well as subject matter expertise from your product ownership team.
2. Understand Your Audience
Not every mobile app needs to be the Next Big Thing in your app marketplace of choice. Like any digital project, the key is understanding the purpose, ROI, and key performance indicators of the project before designing and building the application.
This means that having a crystal-clear vision of the app’s intended audience is critically important. For most enterprises, the first question in audience analysis is whether the app will serve an internal or external audience.
Internal audiences differ in several important ways from the world outside the company’s walls. These ultimately come down to different layers of control for the company:
- Control Over Business Model: Internal tools can improve efficiency and operational awareness, driving costs down and reinforcing existing business models. Externally facing apps, however, present a host of issues for brand managers, product owners, and business leaders. These issues revolve around the boogeyman of modern digital business: DISRUPTION. Once an app is “in the wild”, it is fair game for competitors and aspirants to draw inspiration and think about how they can do better. Smaller, more nimble companies can achieve competitive economic scale at breakneck speed with products centered around mobile experiences. Larger enterprises need to make relatively huge investments to maintain relevance and competitiveness in the marketplace, lest their business model be disrupted completely.
- Control Over User Interactions: With an internal audience, the company can dictate the purpose of the app and the user’s interactions with it as a condition of employment. External audiences are a consumer, rather than a producer, of the company’s product, and have a less controllable stake in a mobile experience related to it. This means that features for internal audiences can afford to lean on usage manuals and user training, while external audiences’ expectations of intuitive interactions and gestures must be respected.
- Control Over Device Profiles: The major equipment manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola, etc.) and software platform providers (Apple and Google) have come a long way in standardizing interactions between software and hardware components in mobile computing. However, when building for an internal audience the enterprise still has a greater degree of control over which devices employees will use. The most obvious example is dictating whether an app is built for Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS platform, but hardware specifications have a role to play as well. Conversely, careful audience analysis is required when building an app for public consumption to determine which platforms and devices are used by the target audience and how best to encourage download and adoption.
Case Study: Uber/Lyft
Uber and Lyft are two of the best-known industry disruptors centered around mobile apps. In completely changing the taxi industry, their businesses function under a disintermediation model, reducing friction between consumers and car rides in one direction and providing their drivers with a way to monetize the rentable capacity of their property (cars).
The companies’ apps are carefully tuned system integrations, linking GPS networks, messaging protocols, and pricing algorithms. They have created seamless experiences for two distinct audiences — drivers, who need notifications about riders to pick up, and riders, who need a ride that’s as easy as entering a destination and pressing a button.
The companies spend an immense amount of time and effort ensuring that their mobile experiences work consistently and intuitively on all major software and hardware platforms in support of a truly global audience.
3. Start Getting It Done
Once these pieces are in place, your business can start designing, building, and deploying mobile apps.
Done! Right? Well, not quite. Mobile technology expresses the modern reality that software is never truly complete.
Creating and sticking to a product management cadence is the single most important element of an enterprise mobile strategy. This cadence requires attention to the rhythm of changes in the mobile ecosystem — software platforms publish major-version updates in the fall along with flagship phone releases. Minor-version updates in the spring address out-of-band issues and features. APIs and tools are frequently updated or deprecated. Any of these changes can cause unintended behavior or disruption in apps that are not kept up to date. Aligning ongoing product management efforts around them provides the enterprise with a straightforward way to manage platform evolution and feature development on apps themselves.
It was only a few years ago when venturing into the world of apps meant simply adapting your desktop or web interface to a mobile version. Now, we’ve switched to a mobile-first (and user-first) logic where mobile is the foundation around which you can build future opportunities. With the above-named tools and approaches in hand, you can start thinking big about distinguishing your business from competitors and disrupting entire industries. Mobile technology can indeed be a vehicle for business enablement across the enterprise, but make sure your business has a sound strategic grounding first.