Should Your Organization Have a App?Presentation for the ACLEA 50th Mid-Year Session
January 20, 2014 :: Hyatt Regency Austin, Texas by Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey
Not if, but when should you develop a smart/mobile App?
Most everyone recalls asking or being asked, "Should our firm have a web site?" We can all check that box 'done', right? Today, the question is the same except for the channel of distribution. Today's question is, "Should our firm have a smart/mobile app?"
This session will help you frame the discussions that should take place.
● What should your app do?
● Should you worry about “geo” location services?
● How are Apps built?
● Should you build it yourself or outsource?
● What drives cost and what is a reasonable project budget?
● Is there one “best” business model or platform for your app?
● How does your marketing strategy affect the choice of which App to build?
Let's explore the matter in detail
When is the last time a colleague asked if your firm had a web site? Even the local dry cleaner has a web site today.
Understand that day has arrived, the one that you talked of when the conversation turned from 'if' to, "When should we build an App?" Today is that day. The facts are overwhelming. A few brave souls called it; Walt Mossberg of the Wall St. Journal comes to mind. I recall in 2008, yes just six years ago and one year after the launch of the iPhone, Mossberg predicting within five years that a majority of the internet traffic would come from mobile devices. How absurd, right? Depending on which study you see or believe, that prediction came true last year.
Close your eyes for a moment... on the count of three, reach out and touch your phone. How many of you can touch your desktop computer that quickly from your seat today? A few of us, like me can… thanks to my MacBook Air or your Google Chromebook. But consider the 80/20 Rule. 80% of us in this hall today read our emails on that mobile phone. Right?
Show of hands, how many have Facebook on your phone? LinkedIn? Waze or some other mapping app? A better question might be, exactly how many apps do you have on your phone? May I suggest that at least 20% of you have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) access
152 on my iPad, many of which are the same. But I also have a lot of iPad only apps. By the way, you know that all iPhone apps run on the iPad, right?
Bottom line: the case for a smart/mobile app for every profession is not a hard case to make. The Amish have an expression, "Trust me until you can." Trust me that you need an app until you prove to yourself that you don't. It will save a lot of frustration.
1. What should your app do?
“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked. 'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
The real question is what do you want to accomplish? No goal or project mission statement? Stop right now. Forget the idea and go back to status quo.
However, if you are thinking marketing or market share, great. But that is just one example. As a special bonus here is a tool that can speed the process up by an order of magnitude… or two! Lean Canvas [now part of the Lean Stack]: http://leanstack.com
The key to the Lean Canvas is asking the right questions of the right people. One of my mentors, the late Dr. Eli Goldratt suggested you get everyone in a room and ask them what is wrong. How tough is that? Use this form to help organize the solution. Once you know the challenges that are worth solving, a great application can be built.
2. Should you worry about “geo” location services?
There are a lot of great geolocation apps for the modern phone. My favorite is FourSquare. Should your app do geo? No. Unless of course that is a significant component of your unique value proposition. Just because it is cool is no reason to add significant costs to the project.
3. How are Apps built?
Carefully we hope! There are three major approaches: 1. A “mobile friendly” version of your web site
2. A “native” version of the app for the platform(s) of choice
3. An HTML5 or hybrid approach perhaps using a couple “native” components with HTML5 First, let's start with a baseline definition for Mobile Apps:
"A mobile application (or app or mobile app) is a software application designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices. They are usually available through application distribution platforms, like iTunes which began appearing in 2008." —Wikipedia
For the sake of this discussion we are not talking about option #1, "mobile friendly" websites. This is where your organization's web site has been "treated" or customized to render nicely from a smart/mobile device. Yes, I know... there are way too many sites that get this wrong, mostly because they ignore it, but that is outside the scope of this presentation. It is best to go back to your web designer(s) or team and tell them, “Just do it” if you haven’t already.
Now, let’s refine the definition to get everyone on the same exact page:
“A smart/mobile app is a custom solution to a unique problem optimized for the mobile phone and/or tablet user. It solves at most two unique issues. Less is a lot more!” —Jeff ‘SKI’ Kinsey
Let me explain with an example: ScienceDirect offers several iPhone apps but of course they have a fully functional and robust web site. I was the Billing Department Lead in 1996 for the creation of that web site while consulting at LexisNexis. Therefore, I have some “inside
baseball” insights so to speak. The web site is easy to navigate and offers what seems like near endless options. Yet the SciVerse ScienceDirect (free version) iPhone App is limited first to
journals. Period. Yes, full texts are online, but think of it as a highly specialized tool for one type of operation or action.
For the most part, users of mobile devices have limited time to engage an app (games are not part of this discussion) and therefore, importance is placed on how quickly it can solve a unique or subset of problems. Most great apps have very few buttons or choices. In some cases no buttons! Get in, get the answer, and get out!
4. Should you build it yourself (DIY) or outsource?
Great question. Easy answer: Unless your organization has significant IT/IS resources with designers and computer programmers at the ready, DIY is out. That is a good thing. The chances of jumping into mobile app development and getting it 'right' right out of the box are rare. Outsourcing will almost always make the most sense.
5. What drives cost and what is a reasonable project budget?
Mobile apps can be “bought” one of two ways: 1) from generic “no coding required” screen painters with very limited functionality, or 2) by a professional app development shop. The “no code” solutions run from $29 to $99 or more per month as a “hosting fee”. Average annual cost: $400 to $1200 for a solution that works most of the time, but rarely is as professional as those built from scratch. In fact, may I suggest these are not acceptable? Dev shops will change anywhere from $4000 “one time” to build a simple app to tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for complex solutions. There are more and more tools arriving on the scene to build better apps faster and therefore, less expensively, so do shop around. Usually “native” apps, like those built in Objective-C for iOS (Apple devices) or Ruby on Rails for Android devices (owned by or licensed from Google) will cost more than HTML5 or hybrid solutions. Depending on the tasks coded it is getting harder to tell native from hybrid apps. Bottom line: kick the tires on the dev shop’s other solutions that are in the marketplace before writing any checks. Where? For Apple, go to the iTunes Store. For Android and the Nook HD, check out the Google Play store. For the Kindle Fire visit the Amazon App store.
6. Is there one “best” business model or platform for your app?
Rarely. Consider this: survey your customer base and determine first which platform they use. Some industries will tend to favor iPhones and others Android devices. As the mobile app market matures, we are seeing more and more Kindles and Nook HDs in the boardroom. Do your customers or clients use tablets in the field or rely on mobile phones? A little research goes a long ways. Bust also factor in, “there is safety in numbers”. Will BlackBerry make it?
Yesterday, most mobile apps were released on iOS first, then if demand warranted, Android or the other platforms like BlackBerry or Windows phones were added. Today, Android is gaining speed. Know however, that if you want to make money from the sale of your app (in one of those marketplace platforms), paying customers still vote first and often on Apple devices. Apple has paid developers over $13,000,000.00USD in the past ten years! Yes, 13 billion dollars. What about growth? Great question. In the 42 days between the release of the new iPhone 5S (64 bit processor — a first) and 5C models last year and the release of new models of the iPad (iPad Air and the iPad Mini (both now sporting very hi resolution screens and 64bit processors), Apple stated they handed out $3B of that $13B total! How is that for an “up arrow” of growth? If you charge for your app, Apple will take 30% off the top and remit the remaining 70%. Most business owners consider this a fair cost of doing business. Others try non-Apple outlets and some save money. However, it is possible that sales will never reach the levels attained in the iTunes store. There is something to be said about true market share when the votes are tallied with real dollars and cents.
7. How does your marketing strategy affect the choice of which App to build?
Another great question. First things first, pull out that Lean Canvas and study sections #8 and #9. What are the key metrics? The type app you build can help or hurt reaching them.
If you build a YouTube sharing application to feature conference presentations, how will that ring the cash register? It probably won’t! But if you have amazing “how to” videos or White Papers explaining complex solutions in a quick and easy manner, a small fee might be acceptable.
Look at the competition but not strictly in your industry. What can you learn from gaming apps? Or community/networking apps like Foursquare or twitter?
Finally, consider an app to reach prospects. That's correct, a Mobile App might be the perfect tool to reach them. Part of a "pay it forward" approach for sales and marketing campaigns where you share information, simulations and/or product specifications and case studies with various target markets.
There are a number of companies that produce "digital magazines" as smart/mobile apps for prospecting. What a great concept: reuse your web content or other materials as pages of a high quality magazine. Another neat tool and method for building credibility in a space. Anyone need more of that in today’s competitive landscape? In fact, a few of them even offer POD (print on demand) solutions to produce a physical hard copy. Perfect for the tradeshow booth.
Let’s hear the conclusion: Set a budget and jump into action. Is there any guarantee of success? Of course not. As a wise man once said, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster!”