As mobile devices become ubiquitous in schools and the workplace, mobile applications are increasingly integral to everyday operations and workflow.
But effective mobile application deployment requires a thorough understanding of business needs and a coherent app strategy. Ahead of any deployment or development activity, management should consider an eight-step process:
- Identify stakeholders and decision-makers
- Target specific operational processes
- Develop use cases
- Determine and select technologies and vendor options
- Formulate relevant metrics
- Set the schedule and pattern for updates
- Establish the role of service contracts
- Consider issues around process transformation and ongoing lifecycle
Establishing the Foundation
The first three steps define the audience, scope and function of an app. They are directly responsible for both driving and promoting mobile deployment efforts.
Research firm Gartner urges districts and larger enterprises to establish a mobile center of excellence, gathering mobile-engaged stakeholders into formalized roles so they can coherently respond to issues and help direct decision-making. Because mobility touches so many aspects of a district or enterprise, this group should be diverse in background. Departments that may be represented include IT and security, operations, human resources and legal. The team should work together to craft coherent mobile policy and strategy for the enterprise.
For specific mobile deployments, representatives from affected departments should be engaged, with units working together to ensure that processes and operations are adapted to new app solutions.
Executive engagement is paramount, and mobile leadership teams should work closely with superintendents and school district executives to communicate the project mission, budget expectations and well-researched projections for ROI. These communications must be sustained throughout the project lifecycle to ensure ongoing support from top management.
From a process perspective, it is vital that teams talk coherently about the operational activities that are affected by a mobile app rollout and develop detailed use cases that verify the validity of the proposed approach.
The first step is to identify the problem and perform a full assessment that examines, in detail, the existing process and how it is conducted. Interviews with users and a review of job roles and activities are vital at this stage. From there, a coherent plan to mobilize and improve the existing process can be crafted. It can also help to see how other districts are executing similar processes.
Crafting detailed use cases for the mobile app deployment is the next logical step. A detailed use scenario helps every aspect of the effort — from giving the app development team a tangible target to driving more accurate cost and ROI projections.
Once the initial groundwork is done, the project can move into the action phase. This phase includes selecting technologies and vendors, formulating relevant metrics and setting update schedules and patterns. The nature and course of these activities will depend to a large extent on the type of mobile app being deployed: virtualization, off-the-shelf, or partially or fully customized.
Once the team has identified the approach, it can identify candidate technologies, solutions and vendor companies. Decisions must be made across a matrix of issues that includes technology platform alignments, integration challenges, cost considerations and future mobility planning.
Defining metrics is an important step that allows school districts and enterprises to track and gauge the effectiveness of a mobile app deployment. Metrics should be developed through careful consideration of what defines success or failure in the project. For instance, an app initiative that measures success in terms of downloads, rather than in terms of actual usage of the app, may fail to detect that registered users are not using the software — a clear sign of failure.
Key metrics to consider for a mobile app effort include usage, user lifetime value, session length and interval, user acquisition and retention, average revenue per user, and performance metrics such as app launch and load times. In-app instrumentation and telemetry help to capture user behaviors and interactions, allowing developers to pinpoint poorly executed or little-used features. This intelligence can be used to drive updates and improvements to the app.
Detailed metrics can also help mobile apps meet service contract and service-level agreement commitments. These can be especially important for enterprise apps deployed to partners and internal operating units. The contracts can be used to define expectations and shape decision-making in the development phase. Performance issues around uptime, availability, responsiveness and software quality are all relevant.
Mobile apps represent a major opportunity and profound challenge to organizations of every type. Device-bound apps can create new efficiencies and enable compelling user experiences. Solid forethought and planning are needed to achieve this promise.
For more information on mobilizing applications, read the white paper “The App Roadmap: Mobile App Strategy for the Workplace.”