|Why a Product Approach Matters for Mobile|
- Users’ Experience Expectations. You’re not just competing with competitors’ latest features; you’re competing with well-designed games, social media, music, video and other apps for your users’ eyeballs—and brand estimation. Frequent updates required!
- Stakeholder/Sponsor Expectations. They want their app to do that new thing that Instagram does. How hard would that be? Popular apps are often updated with the latest capabilities inside of monthly—nobody wants a stale app.
- Fluid Technology Landscape. New devices, new OS versions with new capabilities, security or privacy issues, integration changes, new tools, regulations, etc. The ground is constantly shifting. Keep up or risk quick irrelevance. Or worse, a security/privacy event.
- Data. User ratings/reviews, user event data, application crash data, customer service information, etc.—not to mention business KPIs—all must be constantly be monitored and analyzed to ensure key objectives are being met. Data must also be analyzed to surface insights that will drive and prioritize changes to the product.
- Missed Opportunities/Lack of Innovation. Some of the best-loved mobile apps today started as apps of a different color; that is, they made major pivots or innovated based on user feedback. Here are two classic examples:
- The founders of SnapChat struggled to attract users, but it started going viral in high schools. This discovery led to the shift in focus in customer segment. Today SnapChat is ranked as the #7 free app in the Apple App Store.
- Burbn started as a mashup of Foursquare and Mafia Wars that let you check in to locations, earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and so on. User data indicated that photos was the real opportunity so the team cut everything except for its photo, comment and like capabilities. What remained was Instagram, the #11 free app in the Apple App Store.
By the way, did you know that Android was originally conceived as an operating system for cameras?
- Wasted Investment. Analysts believe that mobile apps typically require four major version releases—and typically a pivot—before they begin to deliver on business objectives. Have you looked at a successful app’s App Store or Google Play release log? It’s unlikely you will achieve lasting success on the first try. Alas, your project budget was all spent on the first release.
- Brand Injury. Whether a mobile app is customer-facing or internal, users will judge your brand based on a wide range of factors such as effectively addressing their mobile needs (or needs not addressed), quality of user experience, device and OS support—and much more. It’s highly unlikely you will achieve the right balance of these factors the first time around. Don’t worry; app store ratings and reviews, social media, and blogs will all happily share the story.
- Customer Satisfaction. Mobile app users are often much more annoyed by a failure to improve (by releasing an updated app) than they are by an initial effort that falls short and is then improved based on feedback. When you approach mobile as a project, you’re telling your users that their feedback is not important.
How to Evaluate Your Mobile Initiative
Here’s a few simple criteria for evaluating your mobile initiative:
Might be a Project if…
Might be a Product if…
However, even if your initiative has several of the more static characteristics of a project, it would still be advisable to think through the anticipated mobile capability lifecycle. What might be necessary in six months or a year from now? The mobile app’s overall context may prove to be more dynamic over time than you think.