Key Challenges in Enterprise Mobile App Development: Customer-Facing Apps
This is the second of two articles on the key challenges of enterprise mobile app development. The first part discussed the challenges to developing and shipping employee-facing enterprise mobile apps.
Customer-facing enterprise apps carry many similar challenges you would face when creating employee-facing apps, but with notable differences. This article will look specifically at the biggest barriers to successful deployment that organizations face when creating enterprise mobile apps meant for their customers rather than internal use.
Finding The Right Internal Team
Mobile is a new competency for most organizations, and whether creating employee-facing or customer-facing enterprise apps, companies are struggling to find the people needed to fill talent gaps. Even between the two, competencies can be quite different from internal apps, and the roles can be unique.
Customer-facing apps can be an expensive undertaking and lead to significant change within an organization. You need product managers who not only really understand the mobile space, but also your business and its problems in order to solve them from a product perspective. These people are extremely difficult to find and in high demand.
UX/UI designers are also key roles that need to be filled. Customer-facing apps are a reflection of your brand: they need to not only function properly but also delight users. Therefore, design and user experience is a much higher priority than it is for employee-facing apps.
Organizations seeking to create customer-facing enterprise apps also face the resourcing issues we talked about in our last article about internal enterprise apps. It’s difficult to fill and retain technical roles, like mobile engineers and architects, necessary to create and maintain a successful product.
A strategy that 55% of enterprise organizations are currently using to successfully deliver apps is adopting a mixed sourcing model, where some of the work is outsourced to a trusted mobile app development partner while some is kept in-house. This approach gives enterprises the ability to reduce internal costs and build up internal knowledge while also benefiting from the expertise brought to the project by a mobile-focused firm.
Native Development is King
Customer-facing enterprise apps need to be pristine. They reflect the brand and are a major touchpoint between the company and its customers. As mentioned above, delight to the customer is absolutely essential, so the user experience needs to be unparalleled.
Further, the delivery of customer-facing apps is different than internal apps because you have to be cutting-edge to attract and retain users and to outpace the competition – which is increasingly coming from mobile-first startups and industry disruptors.
As a result, native app development is highly recommended. While in many cases native development is a costlier endeavor, there are a number of important advantages that include:
- Better app performance and speed
- You are able to leverage the UX and UI conventions that are unique to each platform
- New platform features can be integrated more quickly as they are available as soon as they are released
- Native apps work better with the hardware
What it ultimately comes down to is the user experience, which is simply superior on native apps. Developing a native application that follows specific UX and UI conventions not only allows you to take advantage of all of the unique functionality of that platform, but provides a faster, more fluid user experience.
Creating Mobile-Ready Services
The ability to power apps requires the creation of mobile-ready services. APIs will be needed to expose business functions that enable the app to accomplish specific tasks. For example, a travel app might need an API that would allow a user to enter a booking number and bring up their booking information; a gift card app may need an API to check and manage the balance on the card.
It’s important to have an API strategy in place for your customer-facing application in order for the app to function as expected, and to help inform the development efforts and associated costs to achieve what you want. Companies should evaluate their current services to see if they are adequate for powering the mobile app, and identify in which cases they will need to create APIs from scratch.
Building a Culture of Continuous Delivery
With customer-facing enterprise apps, you need to have a process of delivering successfully, continuously, into the market. Constant product iteration needs to become ingrained. Unlike web properties, which can be outdated and still work, mobile is evolving constantly and if your product doesn’t keep pace it won’t function.
Furthermore, continuous delivery allows you to collect feedback and learnings and apply them to subsequent product releases to improve your product and consistently provide a better user experience. Consumer expectations are high, and if you are not able to encourage engagement or continue to solve their pain points, you will suffer high user abandonment rates.
Like their employee-facing counterparts, developing customer-facing enterprise apps comes with a myriad of challenges. Sourcing and keeping talent is even more difficult as the skill sets required to develop, deploy and maintain products aimed at customers are in high demand and hard to find. Additionally, enterprises must plan to develop natively so they can meet increasingly tough customer demands and provide the best user experience possible. Keeping up with customer demands and mobile technology also requires organizational change, evolving to build a culture of continuous delivery – a completely different approach than traditional waterfall methods and not typical of enterprise processes. Tackling these challenges means addressing them early and including the risks in your mobile strategy to ensure they don’t affect product delivery and success.