Key Challenges in Enterprise Mobile App Development: Customer-Facing Apps
This is the third of three articles on the key challenges of enterprise mobile app development. The first part discussed the shifting enterprise mobility landscape by exploring the impact of internal digital transformation.
As mentioned in the first article of this series, enterprise mobility encompasses a multitude of strategies and elements. For businesses providing customer-facing solutions, implementing a mobile app strategy is essential to overall success in a market where a mobile-first approach has become standard for verticals across the board. Customer-facing apps reflect a brand and act as major touchpoints between a company and its customers. Not only do these apps add value to a user’s daily routine by solving a specific pain point, but they have the potential to build brand loyalty, boost engagement, and increase revenue.
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.
Challenges in Customer-Facing App Development
Finding The Right Internal Team
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 understand the mobile space, but also your business, your goals, and problems to solve them from a product perspective.
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 engage users. Therefore, design and user experience are 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 first article. Similarly, we suggest adopting a mixed sourcing model, where some of the work is outsourced to a trusted mobile app development partner and some are 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.
Web vs. Native vs. Hybrid
There are three main mobile app types enterprises can explore for app development; web, native, and hybrid. Often enterprises have difficulty choosing which development path will offer them the most value. It’s important to have a clear understanding of your business model and goals as this will guide your decision. It is essential enterprises choose a development approach that provides the best solution for the issue they are trying to solve for their user base.
For customer-facing apps, native app development is usually the recommended approach. While in many cases native development is a costly endeavor, several important advantages include:
- Better app performance and speed
- Leveraging 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 with 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.
An issue that we see repeatedly arise throughout the development process is the challenge enterprises face when it comes to prioritizing features for the first iteration of their app (MVP). While it may be tempting, implementing every user-requested feature too soon can harm the user experience and take away from the overall purpose of the product. The only features you should include should be connected to your product’s overall goal. Remember, app development is an iterative process. To achieve continual success, an app needs to be scalable. Incorporating all features in your first iteration leave no room for your app to grow and improve.
When you begin prioritizing the features for your product, you should start by answering these questions: what is the number one problem my users are experiencing and how will the functionality of my product solve that problem?
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 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.
Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile Development
While many enterprises may be used to waterfall methodology, when it comes to developing a customer-facing enterprise app, teams must begin to implement the practices of agile development. For your app to be successful, 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. Adopting an agile framework makes this process more feasible and efficient.
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. 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.