Making the move to mobility is a smart strategy for companies looking to stay competitive in the modern marketplace. Mobile applications, whether they are designed for internal or external use, can provide significant benefits for enterprises. They are a medium that businesses can’t afford to ignore. However, there are a lot of components to the development process that must be carefully planned to ensure successful deployment. Mobilization is best approached in a series of small steps, and the following mobile app development readiness checklist will prepare you to launch your project in a manageable way.
Know Your Audience
Arguably the most important part of the pre-development process is determining who your audience is. For example, if you are building an application for internal employees, requirements will be very different from an app designated for commercial use. Understanding the audience will allow you to make judicious use of your resources, with benefits like lower costs, control of scope and better adoption rates. And mobile users are their own breed: their objectives are very different from those of desktop users. When users visit a website, they are usually looking for a large amount of information. When they open an app, however, they are more likely seeking a few specific things. A strong grasp of the habits of mobile users, along with a clear understanding of your particular audience, will ensure that you are presenting the right kinds of content. Study your website analytics to cater to their needs. You’ll also want to decide whether your user will need access to data offline and adjust plans accordingly.
Determine App Details
Once you have established who the app is for, you will need to determine some details about the app itself. Depending on the size and type of your business, data will reside in different systems. It is important to decide which systems are relevant to your mobile project so that you can provide access from the app or mobile site. This is usually a question of internal versus external systems. If your audience needs to access company data from outside your network, you’ll want to provide a way for them to do so. The best way is through web services and clearly defined interfaces that can be used across platforms and systems. You will have to do less repeat development and will save on resources.
When working with enterprise data and internal systems, security is a real concern. An easy way to make sure data is secure in transit is by using the HTTPS protocol, encrypting data before it begins transit and decrypting it upon arrival. It is also important that the mobile devices themselves are secure. Though many business utilize a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) approach to save money, it is difficult to ensure that devices meet security standards so that enterprise data won’t be compromised. This is why some companies provide devices for professional use by employees.
Build vs. Buy
Another important part of mobile readiness is auditing your IT team to determine whether they have the skills required to build your app. You may need to hire an outside team to take over the actual development process. Vendors who specialize in mobile app development can often deliver high quality applications much more quickly than would be possible with an internal team, due to balancing core business processes as well as the new app project. If you are already working with an app, it may be time to implement additional features that better serve user needs. This could mean utilizing a device’s camera, motion sensors, microphone and other hardware elements to improve app performance and content.
Understanding Technology: Infrastructure, Security and Deployment
Before the development process can begin, you will need to know which platform you want your app to support. There are benefits to limiting the app to just one platform, such as decreasing costs. However, developing for multiple platforms will increase adoption opportunities. If you decide to pursue multiple platforms, prioritize which one you develop for first in order to optimize your process and make the best use of your team’s resources.
Native apps usually perform better and provide the best user experience. This is why native apps are the right choice for many businesses. The downside is that they can be expensive to develop because of the specialized skills required. And when you develop on one platform at a time, costs increase. If the cost-benefit analysis suggests you utilize a mobile website instead, using HTML5 is a good strategy. You’ll be able to develop one site for multiple platforms with minimal changes. However, these changes can sometimes slow down the process. Your budget and skillsets are the main determining factor here.
In terms of security, you’ll want to establish specific policies and implement a Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Mobile App Management (MAM) system. MDMs are best for corporate-owned devices because they can uphold security standards in real-time while preventing vulnerability to malicious attacks. They provide policy-based control over the device itself. These systems can also remove data if a device is lost or stolen. MAMs are ideal for a BYOD strategy because you can deploy apps internally rather than relying on a public app store. They provide security control over the app. For internal applications, you’ll need secure web services (HTTPS) to access the data as well.
When your app is ready for deployment, decide which app store it will be placed on. Options include the iTunes App Store and Google Play for Android devices, among others. This is where you’ll need to pay close attention to details, because each medium has a different set of specifications, such as registration, submission fees, assets and even sizing for icons and screenshots.
Identify Support Team
Determining the process for support and maintenance after deployment can’t be overlooked. Whether you choose to develop in-house or with a third party, the team that supports the app is usually different from the one that developed it. Because of this, knowledge transfer is vital. All relevant information must be passed from the developers to support staff, in detail. It is a good idea to begin the on-boarding process a few weeks before deployment to ensure a successful transition.
Thinking through this checklist will help you design the right mobile app development plan for your mobile project. You’ll be able to move through the process efficiently, while minimizing time loss and wasted resources. When you take the time to audit your enterprise’s mobile readiness, the end result is a quality application you can deploy successfully to meet your specific needs.