We’ve been involved with thousands of enterprises that have moved to mobile, and we’ve learned quite a bit along the way about those enterprises that are likely to fail at mobile, and those that help enterprises shift from mobile laggard to mobile leader.
I hope to share some of those insights we’ve learned with you in this article.
One of the common threads among organizations that are underperforming is that they now exist now in full reactive mode. They tried to rush mobile solutions without taking the right things into consideration and they are falling short when developing the mobile apps their customers and employees need. Their mobile app efforts are falling down short from both a business and user experience perspectives.
It’s not all glum, however. We do see customers that are driving mobile success. And below are the five most important lessons we’ve learned about how successful, mobile-driven development teams and business leaders engage with their enterprise to drive success.
Start with the right platform
Success with mobile apps depends largely on the quality of the platform on which they’re built, ran, and managed. And building anything on infrastructure-as-a-service takes precious resources just to manage servers and systems. Not only do these efforts not provide value, they distract the enterprise from those efforts that do.
In contrast, the right platform will provide you with a secure and trusted platform, a metadata-driven architecture, and other resources such as mobile-first APIs, a rich marketplace ecosystem of pluggable solutions, and the ability to easily integrate your data as well as your systems of record.
Focus on the mobile “micromoments”
Build the processes your users need in the short moments they need them. Mobile leaders are creating that experience by truly understanding the context of what their end user is trying to achieve at any given moment. This is especially important today as people’s work habits change from sitting down to work for long stretches to oftentimes capturing small 10 to 30 second “micromoments” to complete a task.
By helping users to create or receive value in those moments, you may have to reduce the app from 20 screens down to one. All superfluous content needs to go. Give the user five data fields instead of 100. It’s about completing one task, simply and elegantly, and only providing users with what they need at to complete that one task.
Ship the Minimum Viable Product
Many large enterprises are stuck in their old ways of developing software, and like all dinosaurs they’ll pay the price for failing to adapt. They’re building for the days when software was deployed physically and applications had to hit all of the possible specifications upfront because shipping updates was expensive for everyone.
Mobile leaders turn this around. They ship the minimum viable product (MVP), meaning the app fulfills the minimum requirements of the user. Enterprises then take the near immediate user feedback and iterate improvements from there. In this way, the MVP speeds development time, shortens app’s time to value, and enables the end user to become a central part of developing the apps they use.
In fact, the market now has come to expect that you’re going to be updating apps rapidly. People know that over time you’re going to make improvements, which brings us to a final but very important point on the minimum viable app – and that it’s okay not to ship perfect. Don’t be afraid to miss the mark in your app the first time out. It’s a chance to get a better understanding of what’s not working so you can focus on what’s working.
Prioritize intuitive design
How your mobile app looks, acts, and its workflow is crucial to success: Even at the enterprise level. You need your users to actually want to use the apps you build. And for that impression, you are competing against the experience they have with their other well design consumer apps. Why do people love Evernote, Shazam, and Uber so much? It’s because they are all eloquently designed, do what they do very well, and these apps oftentimes know exactly what the user needs to do next. They don’t drown the user with too many options. And they provide precisely what the user needs to do their job.
The thing is that the expectation around a mobile experience from enterprise built apps is no different than it is with the consumer when you download an app from the app store. There’s certainly no need for a manual to come with it. And it’d better be intuitive, easy to use, and conform with standards for the operating system they’re leveraging, whether that’s iOS, Android, Surface, or whatever mobile platform rises next.
Avoid the false dichotomy: IT vs. design
There seems to be a false dichotomy of choosing between IT departments and effective design. It’s one of the reasons why we are working with so many companies and modernizing the experiences they’ve built several years ago. Whether it’s a call center operation or a European accounts payable system, we’re spinning what they’ve built upside-down to focus on the persona and the user and the process they follow to do their job.
What we learned most importantly was that design and IT are not mutually exclusive. It’s essential to get them to work well together today. That requires a healthy respect for the job that each does. It’s not necessarily easy, and it’s taken us a long time to get to the level where the technology teams want to see great experiences and the people building the great experiences appreciate watching great technology perform.
It’s important to note that great design needs to be integrated into the overall experience that you’re creating, and it’s especially critical in a mobile device. There’s no getting around the fact that people expect apps to work as well as any app does when it’s downloaded from the app store. You don’t get a pass because your app is designed in-house.
Make sure IT has a seat at the table
With that previous lesson in mind, it’s important for other reasons to always include IT. Marketing organizations have been notorious for completely sidestepping the IT department and reaching out to consultants to create that end-to-end solution without regard for IT’s needs (compliance, security, business continuity, etc.) and the value it brings to these efforts.
We see very clearly that IT needs a seat at the table, especially when you’re talking about enterprise content and enterprise data. This includes security and regulatory compliance mandates. You not only need to create a great experience beyond the firewall – you need to take security in mind when extending out to mobile. We’ve seen what damage a single breach can cause. And it’s not just a security issue. IT is also crucial to governance, scalability, performance, and capabilities issues.
Perhaps, most importantly, IT organizations need to be able to support the business in a way that isn’t strictly beholden to outside firms to deliver on outcomes. It’s one of the reasons why we see companies building centers of excellence around mobile and with the best practices we’ve discussed here that incorporate design and technology and security and strategy all into one group. This way, companies can deliver on that value that they’re looking for quickly. But, to succeed, you need to take all of these lessons to heart. You can’t skimp on any single one.
(Cross-posted @ Blog)