Don't have any mobile app strategy in place yet? If you're reading this, the pressure to build one is probably mounting but the good news is that you don't need to spend seven figures and six months to get your first mobile app out into your enterprise. Internally-focused digital business solutions can be a lot easier (and cheaper!) to build than B2C apps.
Here are 5 tactical ways to ease into your first enterprise mobile app project:
1. Find the low-hanging value
Many of our clients have started off in mobile with a modest budget and the goal of addressing a relatively simple need that affects a large population, such as providing a library of up-to-date sales information or communicating critical company news to a wide audience.
Low-hanging value can be found in areas with:
A wide audience. Within your sphere of influence, greater opportunity exists where the need is universal. It's far more difficult to develop, gain usage of, and build on the success of specialized apps for small sub-populations. If you can only build for a small audience, be sure that the results are apparent to other audiences and make them jealous.
Well-understood needs. Where is there a high rate of error in an existing tool or lackluster compliance with an existing process? What are the basic frustrations of internal life in your organization? Having a hard time getting your employees to request vacation in a timely manner? Is your sales team losing deals because they're selling products that don't exist anymore? Pinpoint these needs and figure out how an app could best solve the problem.
Digestible metrics. Metrics that are both easy to gather and easy to understand can illustrate success or failure. In the B2C world, this might mean number of paid downloads, monetization from ads, or in-app purchases. But in the enterprise, metrics such as completion rates for compliance training or days taken off of the average sales cycle can help prove the effectiveness of the app and justify expansion into other areas.
Inside the enterprise, it takes less effort to find this value than in the B2C space and, let's face it, you have a captive audience.
2. Do fewer things, but do them well
There are thousands of devices that run Android, Windows, Firefox, and iOS platforms, but your first app doesn't need to work on all of them. What are your employees using? What is your company supporting? Pick a few of the most-used devices within your target audience that fit these criteria and create an app that works perfectly on them. Address the others as a Phase 2 or with a less-expensive responsive mobile website.
Certain features can be trimmed that lower the costs, too. For instance, sticking with a portrait-only view of an app can cut 20-30% of the budget and timeline.
Whatever features you end up choosing, be sure that user experience is defect-free, enterprise integration is smooth, and usability is intuitive. These are areas where skimping will have a large, negative impact on your success.
3. Work with a partner
Are there others in the organization that have led app development projects or share similar goals? Enterprise mobile apps usually create value that cuts across departmental lines and you might find strength in numbers, even if those are just budget numbers.
And, of course <plug > companies like Celerity can help, too</plug >.
4. Prototype and iterate
It's a lot cheaper to test out features with a prototype instead of a fully-developed app. Don't take it to the whole audience; segment off with an ahead-of-the-curve department to discover the nuances of the problem and the best way to solve it using a quick and dirty functional prototype.
For a number of reasons, we typically advocate for building throw-away prototypes instead of building a production app on top of prototype code; but regardless, iterating through feature additions, removals, and refinements should be done based on active and passive user feedback.
5. Plan to pull the plug, but have a vision
Enterprise mobile solutions don't need to be carved in granite. With user expectations evolving at a rapid pace, it's both unreasonable and very costly to expect your first app to last for decades. Trying to anticipate every possible scenario over a long lifespan will add time, cost, and paralysis to the project. Non-permanence can free the mind to focus on immediate needs. Remember, your goal is to SHIP!
With that said, you should still have a vision in the back of your head. In the B2C world, the “freemium” model provides value through an app at no cost to the user, but additional features must be purchased. A similar model can be applied in the enterprise context by providing what your employees want and what they need in an app that they might not be inclined to use without the former. Build for the “want,” get users bought in, then add in functionality to solve for the needs.
If you get to the point where things aren't working out, remember, you built this on a modest budget. You've probably learned a lot in the process and if the app's shelf-life is short, at least you don't have to worry about maintenance costs.