Sarah Woodward

Developing a Mobile App Roadmap

December 2, 2014

I recently responded to a media query about what brands should be thinking about when developing a Mobile App Roadmap. You can read the post from Cup of Joe Blog where I was quoted here. Thought I would share the entirety of what I shared with the reporter here on our blog. Some of this will info is a repeat from “Mobile App Strategy: Does my brand need an app?”

Many companies are now paying attention to this buzz term of “mobile first” and are scrambling to pull together a mobile strategy that includes mobile apps. So what does “mobile first” really mean? It’s the idea that companies think about designing products for the mobile environment before they focus on delivering the same experience for desktop or laptop. Since so many consumers are plugged into the internet via smartphone or tablet, this makes sense. Messaging will reach the on-the-go user via mobile web or mobile app before it is likely viewed in a desktop environment.

mobile app

The first thing these brands need to consider when thinking about how a mobile app fits into this strategy is “what problem am I trying to solve” or “what added value am I providing to my stakeholders – employees, customers or partners?” The best way to do this is by bringing these groups together to find out what their pain points are and what they expect your brand to deliver upon. Does your salesforce need sales tools? Do your B2B customers need mobile solutions to order fulfillment? Do your customers want to interact with your brand on a deeper level?

Some brands may find they have multiple needs for different apps; others may find they don’t yet have a business case to build a mobile app. The reason it is critical to determine whether or not you have a business case is two-fold. Mobile app development isn’t cheap. So if you don’t have a clear understanding of what the ROI will be for your app, you might be wasting your money. Additionally, failure to drive engagement with your first mobile app may ruin any future app ideas that could be critical to your business success. If your customers, brand advocates and employees hate the first one, they may never give you a chance to win them over with a second go around.

Determine who will own product management of your app. Does it live in IT? Or marketing? Or employee communications? Make sure the right person is in place to champion the app’s development and deployment.

Once you have established a go-to-development case for the app, you then must decide on the right development partner. The right partner will help you determine which platform to develop for first. They can help you decide if a cross-platform solution might fit your needs. They can also help you integrate features you might not be aware of, based on their years of experience developing complex apps.

Understand that it’s better to get to market with a working mobile app that you can get feedback on from users – don’t try to jam all features into version one – some of those features may be costly, but may never get used in the way you think it will. Additional features can always be rolled out later – in fact, most users LOVE getting a new update with new features. Think about what features might excite users down the line – show them you are continuously thinking about how to add value to them.

Set realistic timelines and budget parameters in advance. Mobile app development doesn’t happen overnight. Be flexible. Know that software development is an evolving thing, and you may discover changes that should be made in scope along the way.

Have a good communications plan in place to promote your app. Let employees and customers know it is coming. If it is targeting a broad consumer base, launch a marketing push in advance of deployment. Allow VIPs to beta test it and let you know what they think. Get an idea of how it will be received so that you can make corrections in advance of launch.

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Published December 2, 2014

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