Making Sense of Going Mobile
General Dwight Eisenhower once said, “in preparing for a battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Likewise, in preparing for mobile development, app ideas are useless, but a strategy is indispensable. So the first step for a company willing to go mobile, is to define a strategic plan.
Going mobile is a far more serious task than simply writing an iPhone application. Companies investing in mobile need a strategy long before they need a mobile site or a set of mobile applications. Outlining a mobile strategy essentially consists of reviewing the current business processes and aims at identifying the future direction of the business.
Going mobile can be summarized as taking any necessary steps to offer your services through new devices, as it makes most sense for your business and as new devices hit the market. You should always be looking for new opportunities and new ways to provide your services with the primary goal of making your customers’ lives easier and more pleasant. Sounds like an easy plan after all? Well, it’s much trickier and more challenging than it may sound at first.
The challenge is in finding the right balance between the services you already provide, new devices that users may be using to consume your services and new services specifically created for new devices. A new device that comes out is not necessarily a nudge into having an app for that device too. At the same time, some new devices may really be a breakthrough for your business and significantly expand your horizons. As an example, consider smart TVs.
If you’re a financial institution (e.g., a bank or an insurance company), then having a smart TV-optimized version of the web site, or a specific app to check accounts, may not really be your most urgent need. Smartphones and tablets are probably handier for most operations and most users. On the other hand, if you’re in photography, you can’t just ignore that the larger screen of a smart TV may boost sales of printed pictures if you can provide an applet to order from TV as users browser local, Flickr or Facebook albums.
Going mobile is an opportunity of growth and not simply a necessary expense to keep current users. An effective mobile strategy is a way to attract new customers and not simply a defensive move to preserve existing customer base. Having a mobile strategy is not a choice either; by not going mobile, you seriously risk alienating customers from your brand.
Mobile apps are often relatively simpler than classic apps and they often consume smaller amounts of information. That’s precisely what makes a customer’s life simpler—the application is more focused and personal and is able to give users what they need at a given time.
Architecting the system around these new needs is the effort that companies should invest in. It’s not simply a matter of software architecture, though. It’s more a matter of insightful business analysis and vision to select the most appropriate use-cases that really put more information at the user’s fingertips and make life easier.