Developing an App Roadmap

In the same way that the iPhone achieved 80 percent penetration of the Fortune 100, the demand for mobile apps is being driven by the users themselves, not necessarily the IT departments within the enterprise. Additionally, marketing departments have discovered that apps can be a very powerful tool to connect with consumers, reinforce a branding message, and even enable self-service functionalities in both a business-to-consumer and business-to-business environment.

DevApp1In most large enterprises where mobile development is occurring, applications are being developed in isolated groups around the organization. As a result, there is often a lot of "reinventing the wheel" as issues like security, user authentication, back-end system data access, or branding standards must be addressed by each app's development team independently. In addition, many times there is no enterprise-wide strategy for apps, which can leave gaps in functionality or communication to both internal and external users. As a result, organizations both large and small can dramatically improve their return-on-investment for mobile technology by developing a holistic enterprise mobile strategy and application roadmap.

Typical types of applications, both internal and external, as part of an enterprise mobile strategy.

Create an enterprise mobile strategy

The key to any successful mobile strategy is to tie the capabilities of a mobile app directly into specific business objectives. For instance, if your goal is to improve branding and acquire new customers, you should focus on external applications that engage your prospective customers and give them a mechanism to perform transactions directly from within the app. For example, the Pizza Hut or Chipotle apps do just this by allowing their customers to order food directly, driving millions of dollars of sales from their mobile apps.

If your goal is to improve sales force productivity and reduce errors in sales orders, your efforts should be geared towards developing an app that gives your sales team a way to keep track of customers and interactions. Customers should be able to place orders directly into the app to eliminate redundant error-prone paper work and data entry. 

From a strategic standpoint, identifying the business objectives and mapping those to apps that represent the "low-hanging-fruit" will drive the most significant return.

External apps: Consider your goals

If your organization is looking to develop external-facing applications, think about how apps can be used to achieve your business goals and objectives with your customer base. If your goal is to increase sales, you need to determine the types of functionality that would be valuable to potential customers of your products or services. If you want to improve customer service and increase customer satisfaction, look for aspects of self-service functionality that can be provided to customers. Nationwide Insurance has done both of these quite successfully with apps. One app gives existing customers the ability to file claims from the app. The other successfully attracts new customers through an app that gives car shoppers access to free VIN checks for used cars, along with an easy way to register for car insurance once they make a purchase.

Internal apps: Enhance workforce productivity

The availability and demand for consumer apps that do just about everything will only continue to penetrate the professional and corporate space. Why should workers only have access to corporate e-mail and calendars from their mobile devices? Why not be able to access workflow, sales order entry, and knowledge management applications? Forward thinking organizations like the Fortune 500 biotech firm Genentech are embracing this demand for internal applications and have developed multiple apps for all kinds of internal functionality, from tracking customer interactions to managing pharmaceutical samples. Significant workforce productivity enhancements can be realized through mobile apps for your internal users.

Moving forward

As your organization continues to mature in the apps it develops and its overall mobile strategy, both struggles and benefits will result. Although mobile apps have gone mainstream, they are still early in the technology adoption life cycle for enterprises. As this arena continues to develop, there will only be more and more dramatic examples of how iPhone and iPads are being used to bring bottom-line benefits to organizations that strategically look to leverage mobility.

Understanding the options for app distribution

January-February 2011
Creating Apps
TOC Weight: