Got a Backlog of Apps to Build Avoid Boiling the Ocean!
|Aygun Suleymanova in Enterprise Wednesday, March 25, 2015|
An iterative approach to mobile app development can accelerate time to market and ease your mind.
Do you feel like your business is behind in the mobile app arms race? Are you concerned about spending too much time collecting apps and staffing up before you start? Time to change your approach.
Let’s face it; no matter what plan you have in place prior to development, the end result probably won’t be exactly what’s needed at first launch. In truth, it probably won’t be perfect three releases from now. For mobile apps that help your enterprise run more efficiently, creating quicker, leaner iterations may make more sense.
The days of large, comprehensive spreadsheets for complex development projects are ending - especially when it comes to mobile apps, which are by nature, streamlined, simple and user-friendly. These apps lend themselves to lean development. Such lean development employs multiple iterations to help you better approximate user requirements based on ongoing user feedback—a perfect approach for creating mobile apps.
Start Small, Develop As You Go
Rather than trying to tackle a monolithic project with a multitude of features for your fist mobile app, startby building a useful app with one or two key functions. With a simple mobile app, the minimum viable product (MVP) - your first iteration - shouldn’t take more than a few days to develop, and you can start testing it on actual users without delay.
Just be sure that the one key feature you’ve identified for the app is working as intended. It can be as simple as a list view of approval requests assigned to a user that appears on their mobile. A simple functionality centered on a single, but important task. Ignore the additional 12 things the app can do – unless you first validate each use case.
The user feedback you collect after releasing the MVP enables you to update the functionality and workflow to meet user needs. In this second, more complete iteration, your app should be pulling from a data source. For now, you can use dummy data from sources such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make sure the functionality is working properly, but at some point during development, you’ll need to pull real data. Be sure your development tools enable you to expose the app to existing backend data.
Once you have the data working, you can spiff up the UI and deploy the third iteration of your app to a wider audience. Collect additional feedback and keep improving your app as you go. By the fourth iteration, you’ll have a solid understanding of how your app is used and whether it’s resonating with users. Tools with analytical capabilities can offer rich insight here, enabling you to determine what to build into your next iteration. You’ll be able to prioritize new features based on their value to the user, then add them in as you continue to iterate and ship.
Three Steps to Getting Started
It’s time to jump in and get going. Here’s how:
2) Choose a non-critical app. Choose an app project that isn’t critical to the company’s business model/valuechain. At first, this may seem counterproductive, but you don’t want to experiment on a new development strategy with a business-critical application. Instead, a non-critical app will help you get your developers motivated and proficient with the chosen platform and tools, and you’ll be able to define are peatable process for subsequent projects.
3) Leverage user feedback. Have your developers talk to users directly, eliminating intermediaries that may distract you from refining the key app purpose. Users will let you know which function is most critical - develop the app prioritizing that one function.
Remember, the first iteration doesn’t have to be pretty - in fact it can be pretty ugly. You’ll make improvements to the UI in subsequent iterations, once you’ve collected actionable user feedback.
With Practice Comes Proficiency
Having used a lean approach to app development once, your developers will gain experience. They can begin to document a process for mobile app development that can be repeated, and they’ll have a solid understanding of the development tools you’ve implemented. You’ll know whether you have the skillset you need for ongoing mobile app development in-house, or if you need beef up your staff. And you’ll know all of this rather quickly, because you didn’t have to go through the lengthy planning process to produce a perfect app the first time - which takes much more time than you can afford to spend.
Of course there will be some mobile apps that are so critical, you’ll need to outsource development to specialized teams. Those may require proper planning, staffing and a longer development cycle. But the majority of your enterprise mobile apps can start small and still be useful, giving you the time and space to grow them into richer, more comprehensive solutions, and the agility to meet the immediate needs of your stakeholders.
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