These enterprise application development tips will have you prototyping, developing and launching a mobile app in double time
A faster design/development cycle can get an enterprise app off to a more profitable start. But streamlining the unwieldy enterprise application development cycle can sometimes seem to be little more than a software development pipe-dream.
That said, there are ways of making rapid mobile app prototyping a reality, even in an enterprise scenario. Check out these 6 mobile app prototyping insights, from Lean-inspired approaches to faking a start-up mentality, that will help you build enterprise apps faster.
Apply start-up thinking to grown-up business
Sometimes, being first to market makes the difference between an industry-changing app and one that gets lost in the noise. Mobile app demand, both for B2C and B2B, is fast-moving and voracious; in contrast, mobile app development lifecycles are often lengthier than their web equivalents. And they can be even longer when combined with the legacy IT systems found in most large organizations.
To keep up with the tempo of the app market, enterprises need to start to think and act like start-ups. What does that mean? It means finding ways to emulate the flexibility and reactivity of a 3 man team, even if you’re in a company with thousands of employees.
Take those cheesy start-up mantras – “fail forward” and “done is better than perfect”, for example – and build them into the mobile app development team culture. David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom, writing in Forbes, have some indispensible tips for building a start-up mentality in larger companies.
“A startup mentality focuses the mind, challenges the body, and can be good for the soul.” Shawn Parr, Fast Company
Keep mobile app development cycles Lean
It’s not enough just to think like a start-up, of course; you have to work like one too. By now, everyone has heard of Eric Ries’ Lean Start-up revolution. Applying Lean activities can be difficult in an enterprise where development cycles are lengthy.
But Lean practices can be introduced at every stage of the mobile app development lifecycle, even in legacy-bound businesses.
- Use realistic interactive prototypes to involve end users in the process of requirements elicitation
- Commit to implementing agile design and development practices, such as Scrum
- Eliminate wasteful practices – that means cutting out hierarchy and sign-offs wherever possible, and giving autonomy to the mobile dev team
- Test the app with users at every stage of the development cycle. Even testing a static wireframe can speed up the development process overall
- Use a prototyping tool to iterate and re-iterate. You’ll be constantly failing with these app iterations, but failing faster and cheaper and, most importantly, before app launch.
Watch Eric Ries explain his Lean philosophy on YouTube
Create a break out mobile app team
To be fast, the mobile app team needs to be able to make decisions reactively without waiting for sign-off from the C-Suite. In global enterprises, this is often impossible – hierarchy, established procedure and legal complexity slow reaction times. Most large companies need 7 – 12 months to build just one app, so by the time the development cycle is done, the app is obsolete.
A way around this is to create a semi-autonomous mobile app team within the enterprise. Instead of breaking out app development between established departments, create a dedicated mobile team of product managers, developers and UXers. Allow this team to interact with users and customers, to react to findings as they see fit, and build reactive feedback loops.
Think of the enterprise mobile app development team as a sort of break-out SWAT team, confronting problems as and when they happen, rather than just another department.
If a mobile app development SWAT team is impossible, consider outsourcing
“Through 2017, the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations capacity to deliver them.” Gartner
For enterprises to keep up with the swift-changing mobile market, they’d have to be hiring, firing and changing procedures constantly – a potentially chaotic situation. Even setting up a crack mobile team might be unrealistic for some enterprises that have stiffly defined structures and processes. So how can these companies stay competitive in the mobile app market?
Outsourcing is a possible solution. For example – a new mobile technology launches and the in-house mobile guys have no experience of it. Instead of bringing in new hires, or missing out on the new market sector altogether, enterprises can outsource fragments of the mobile app development cycle. Leave the in-house mobile team to focus on core functionality and key features, and outsource add-ons to sector experts on a contract basis.
Savvy outsourcing only means you have access to instant expertise, but that development tasks can also be done simultaneously. Just make sure the in-house team have fully functional lines of communication open between them and the contracted team, or the development cycle could get baggy.
Integrate requirements management tools
Requirements elicitation and gathering is (thankfully) no longer the manual task it once was. But business analysts working on large enterprise software can still get bogged down in gathering and managing their requirements if they’re using tools that aren’t fully integrated. A mobile app development project can be compromised if requirements are missed at either prototyping or development stages, as Aotea Studios points out in their article on missed requirements.
Working with tools that are fully integrated is a way to combat missed requirements and avoid time-wasting reworks and revisions. For example, Justinmind is fully integrated with tools such as Atlassian JIRA and Microsoft TFS. Mobile app dev teams can add an app requirements directly in JIRA and see it instantly in their Justinmind prototypes: the requirements can be attached to specific UI elements and are fully synced – changes made in JIRA will be instantly reflected in Justinmind’s interface.
Launch and then re-launch
Launch day shouldn’t be a one-off affair. First off, test the app’s worth by launching an MVP – a Minimum Viable Product – on selected users and stakeholders. This can be built with an advanced mobile prototyping tool to save time and money, or on something like bootstrap.js. Keep features to the base minimum and test your value proposition. Are you solving a problem, and do users appreciate your solution? Check out Justinmind’s previous advice on product launch best practices.
Once the actual app is developed, don’t be afraid of launching before it’s perfect. Jeff Gothelf promotes the principles of ‘continuous learning and humility’ for enterprises building apps – launch, observe, iterate and re-launch. A re-launch is not a failure, it’s another chance to strengthen the product.
Launch loops actually cut down reworks, shortening the mobile app development cycle rather than lengthening it.
Jeff Gothelf explains how enterprises can become nimbler
6 steps to faster enterprise app development – the takeaway
The challenges facing mobile app development in enterprises are considerable. Silos, legacy procedures, approval and business cases can all slow the development cycle, increase costs and curtail innovation.
But the mobile app market demands reactivity, creativity and flexibility. Enterprises can fake these qualities by borrowing from start-up culture and activities. Devolving control, breaking down silos, failing forward with interactive prototypes and preserving a willingness to learn from errors will make the mobile app development lifecycle more efficient and faster. Enterprises need to find ways to build these qualities into their development cycles and teams.