Six Golf Lessons Applied to Mobile App Development and Deployment

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One does not have to be an avid golfer to understand the basic concept of playing golf. The game strategy is that the player with the fewest strokes taken to place a small white ball into 18 different cups spread over a 7,000 yard course wins the match.

How do lessons taken from golf apply to mobile app development and deployment? Here are six possibilities to consider:

(1) Creating and writing mobile app code can take a fundamental tip from golf that less is best. Business and social mobile apps all compete for a finite amount of storage space in mobile devices. So, does one try to create an app that reasonably performs multiple functions; or, does one create an app that does only one function really well?

(2) No cheating is allowed. Golf is a self-regulated game. That is why the concept of penalty strokes comes into play. While imitation may be a sincere form of flattery in some industries, blatant copying of business concepts, look and feel, and other proprietary programming techniques is simply plagiarism.

(3) Follow-through is fundamental. You may have heard the golf catch phrase “drive for show, but putt for dough.” Mobile software development strategy is the same. Integration into back-end Enterprise applications can sound flashy (for show), and  they may give the marketing impression that their software is of “professional” grade quality; however, the real genius  (for dough) for a mobile app may be found in the attention to details evident on the front-end where tiny changes can make a big difference in user perceptions.

(4) The right equipment can make a difference. Anyone who plays can testify that golfers are always seeking an edge with their equipment. Hybrid clubs made from high-tech metals and ceramic materials; special grips; incredibly coated golf balls; glove-like shoes; and, much more, have all combined to make average golfers better; and, to make above average golfers superior.

The same is true for mobile technology. Not all mobile devices are created equal and not all mobile OS are created equal. There are ample arguments being made, elsewhere, that the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) should be replaced with CYOD (choose your own device from a list of approved technology offerings). I envision that eventually there will a consolidation of mobile devices and their manufacturers. It certainly has happened with computers. At some future point, the clear technology hardware winners will emerge and the BYOD choices will narrow. Why wait? Narrow your choices now.

(5) Rules and standards are vital to healthy software development. When it comes to device and software security, MAM, and MDM, and other software development issues, there are common-sense rules that everyone should abide by. Trying to shortcut development standards helps no one long-term. Why reinvent the wheel when it already exists? Embrace rules and standards.

(6) Targeting audiences correctly is paramount. Why do you suppose CBS spends millions broadcasting the Masters Tournament from Augusta? It’s just another golf match, right? If you think that, then the Super Bowl is just another football game, right? No, not exactly. The lure of the Masters is that it features the best players, which attracts a certain demographic audience, which advertisers can target to sell their products, which translates into sales – the lifeblood of business.

In 2013, the Masters Tournament broadcast drew a 21 ratings share and 18 million viewers, which was up 26% over the 13.5 million viewers in 2012.  Advertisers got their money’s worth, and then some! Was anyone watching the other channels? I know I wasn’t.

Finally, here’s the best takeaway lesson to be learned from golf by mobile software app development companies. There can only be one Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott. And, they compete head-to-head nearly every weekend on a world stage.

How would your company be viewed on a world stage of mobile app developers? Leading the field, in contention to take the lead, an amateur at best, or, never making the final cut? Being good at mini-golf is very different than being able to play on the PGA tour.

Worldwide, there are hundreds of software companies, ISVs, and business consultants that tout they are ERP business partners developing mobile business apps. However, the actual number of companies listed by independent research companies, like Gartner and Forrester, to be real players in the mobility software industry, is a handful. Competition will be fierce for the same audience of buyers and users.

So, how does one make one’s app standout from the crowd? How does one attract positive attention? What gives your mobile app a competitive edge? What is your strategy to win the match, and more importantly, win the hearts of your target audience?

It is worth repeating: hoping for the best is not a reliable strategy.

What to Include in a Mobility Software Style Guide

Several weeks ago, I wrote on this blog that mobile software development should be guided by the use of a style guide for consistency. Since then, I’ve received numerous inquiries asking for more details about the type of style elements that might be included in a guide document.

Here is a snapshot from my Table of Contents page:

ImageI am happy to provide my views; however, adding a complete style guide example here is impracticable due to space considerations. So, I’ve done the next best thing by posting a sample mobility software style guide document on my Linkedin Profile page, which can be downloaded for free for review:  www.linkedin.com/in/jerryhorne/

My example style guide document provides the basic elements that many companies might find to be practicable for setting standards for their mobile software development; however, your mobility software style guide might be completely different. And, that’s okay with me.

The important consideration is that one applies a consistent look and feel. As I noted on an earlier blog, companies with large, or, perhaps global, mobile development organizations face distance and communication challenges to provide custom software consistency.

A style guide is a simple tool to help bridge one’s gaps.

One Technique for Defining Enterprise Mobile App ROI

The basic premise of any ROI tool is to show how quickly there will be payback on the investment made.

But, what does this really mean? How can one define Enterprise mobile app ROI?

The answer can seem complex, depending on what is most important to a company. But, the truth still comes back to achieving quantifiable financial improvements for the bottom line.

The easiest way to calculate an Enterprise mobile app ROI is to perform and evaluate time and effort comparisons.

Here’s a simple example. If the time and effort to perform a certain task manually (write results on paper and later key the information into the ERP software) is X; and, if the time and effort to perform the same task with Enterprise mobile apps (real-time) is Y, then it should be straight forward to calculate the time savings difference between the two methods and to calculate the resulting cost savings for a single task.

Then, all one has to do is determine the typical number of task to be performed in a period of time – an hour, a shift, a week, a month, or a year. Multiply the single task savings by the estimated number of tasks to be performed and the ROI picture begins to emerge.

Are these the only ROI factors to consider? Not really.

Perhaps the area where there is the most over-looked ROI savings can be found is in “error corrections,” which is directly tied to efficiency and productivity.

The rule of thumb for error corrections is done by estimating the number of errors that need addressing per 1,000 entries. An entry can be defined as a single transaction or as a single line within a transaction. Companies define this term differently all the time. For this discussion, let’s assume an error is a single line-item within a transaction with some type of problem.

Correcting errors is a nebulous term that can mean anything unexpected that causes a focused level of staff interaction. Essentially, the ERP software may be expecting something completely different than what reality says is right, which triggers the error. Numbers transposed – keyed wrong; wrong quantity entered; wrong location entered; damaged goods that can’t be used; lost products that can’t be found; expedited orders that take priorities over others; QC holds; etc. These are everyday problems for nearly all companies.

Most supervisors I’ve talked to say they spend, on-average, 2-hours to research, to validate, to document, and to correct a single error. Your results may vary.

If a company believes they are 95% efficient daily, that also implies they are 5% inefficient. Those inefficiencies are the errors that must be corrected and fixed. Using the entries rule of thumb above, this means 50 entries out of 1,000 are in error. Fifty entries times two hours each equals 100 hours of staff time required to fix and correct errors. Wow! That’s a lot of time and staff resources!

Error correcting can also become an easy target to realize immediate savings by employing mobile app technology that improves efficiency.

For example, raising and improving efficiency from 95% to 98% would imply that only 20 entries out of 1,000 are in error. Twenty entries times two hours equals 40 hours of staff time to fix and correct errors. That means there is a potential of 60 hours savings difference!

When one does this math, it is easy to discover the financial impact of improving efficiency and reducing error correction time.

And, of course, there are a number of important intangible savings that can be realized from mobile Enterprise business apps including better inventory accuracy, better order fulfillment, better customer satisfaction, and, best of all, repeat business. These are harder issues to quantify true value; but, they are vitally important never the less.

Business Mobile Apps: Planning and Strategy – Five Key Matters to Consider

The mobility parade is gathering steam and rolling down Main Street USA. Where are you viewing this parade? From the street corner watching as it passes by, or are you an active participant sitting on the main float that everyone else admires? The reality may be a bit of both, depending on where you are in your mobility development cycles and in setting your business goals strategy.

Here are five matters to consider:

User Matters – Who will use your app and what will be the end-result of their usage? For example, do you have a user’s group that provides feedback for your products or service offerings? How do they communicate with your company? Got an app for that?

Competition Matters – What are your competitors doing in your market space and does their efforts give them any advantages? Are you being proactive or reactive to your market environment? Are you playing catch-up or leading your sector? Got an app for that?

Collaborator Matters – Unless you live and work in a vacuum, your company interacts with other companies in many ways: suppliers, partners, logistics, sales, channels, marketing, and much more. What can you do to make your collaboration efforts better and easier? Just because you always have done it one way does not mean it can’t be improved. Got an app for that??

Compliance Matters – In the supply-chain world of business, mandatory compliance issues are an everyday reality. Proper labels for this, correct documentation for that, serialized markings here, and security/anti-counterfeit features seem to be popping up everywhere. Sharing information freely, quickly, and rationally is not just good business, it is has become required, mandated and increasingly regulated. So, how are all those additional business processes and procedures working for you? Need help? Got an app for that?

Executive Matters – Rarely does any pipedream mobile project become reality without an executive sponsor. That’s because pet-projects and software development budgets are controlled by executives who set company priorities and objectives. Executive discussions for mobile apps often come back to financial issues of cost vs. perceived benefits received. But, is it always about dollars or should it also be common sense? Perhaps someone should develop a mobile business app to assist in making mobile business app decisions. Who’s got an app for that? No doubt it would sell well.

Return on investment is always crucial in mobile app development conversations. But, the problem is that tangible and intangible returns are not always easy to calculate or quantify – especially with regard to some of the matters above that may be thrust upon an executive team (especially matters are government or industry regulated as a cost of doing business). And, not every team member executive is qualified to discuss or understand all of the tangible or intangible matters.

As my friend John Schiff at Oracle is fond of saying, begin your mobile app planning and strategy with the end in mind. I believe John is exactly right. If your executive team determines that the end results are justified, then make a strategic corporate decision to live with it, regardless of the perceived ROI economics. Go make your mobile apps!

Two Ways To Prioritize Mobile Software Development Needs

Okay, your company has strategies in place for MDM and MAM. Now what? How do you prioritize your mobile software development projects?

The best way to start a prioritization process is to examine two critical issues: (1) audience impact and (2) economic impact to your business. Let’s examine each in turn:

The broader the intended audience, the more likely the application will be immediately successful. A good place to start is with your internal audience – your employees! For example, if your HR department has determined that every employee needs to have sexual harassment training, then the app becomes a mandatory requirement. Everyone within the company needs this training regardless of job description. Next, stop and ask these delivery questions: is the best choice for this specific app development to be geared for individual training or for classroom training; can it best viewed via a mobile device, desktop, or large monitor projection; should the style be interactive or lecture; and, finally, do you have remote users that can’t be easily reached or is everyone in your office location? The answers will help point you in the right direction for your company.

Economic impact implies that the use of an app may result in some type of financial gain. If, for example, you discover that purchase order requisitions are not being approved in a time manner because of executive travels and there is a back log of orders, then there is a definite issue that potentially impacts your bottom line. It may make sense to build a mobile app for traveling executives who can approve orders from anywhere. This app may be geared for on a chosen few within the company, but the financial impact may be very serious for the financial health of everyone at your company.

Audience Matters – Five Steps To Consider

Planning an enterprise mobile software application can be daunting to the uninitiated. There are, however, a few planning tips that may help.

Suppose, for this example, that the proposed mobile application is to be related to mandatory sexual harassment training for all employees.

First, step back and clearly identify the intended audience. Do you need app versions to support more than one language? Do you need to support non-literate participation? Do you need to support special needs staffing? Establishing corporate goals based on the answers to these questions will help one to build a consistent, repeatable, computer-based system, with measurable analytics.

Second, with established corporate goals, one can start the program analysis to define the components that should be developed, managed, and, later, archived. If one of the design components is to utilize video clip examples of good behavior versus bad behavior, then scripting, filming, editing, and converting the video into a usable format is near the top of your to-do list. Over dubbing additional sound tracks may provide other language support and closed captions may address those audience concerns. The video presentations probably will need to be placed into a mobile software presentation framework that can easily provide a high quality user navigation experience.

Third, with measurement goals in mind, one can establish a series of questions and answers that the users must successfully complete to demonstrate their participation. Computer-based training is straight forward programming in concept; however, crafting meaningful questions should require the assistance of HR or legal professionals.

Fourth, management of participant records may be critical to remain in compliance with local, state, and federal guidelines for sexual harassment. Your HR or legal affairs staff can provide guidance as to what is required for your location. Sign-ins and unique identifiers are common software techniques to track who has successfully used the mobile app. Is one of the program design criteria to send a reminder to individuals who have not completed the required training? Does your company require periodic refresher courses with email reminders in the future? Will your app need an email interface? Will your app need a separate data base? How long will your organization keep the participation records? Five years? Seven years? Forever?

Fifth, having integrated analysis tools that can provide contextual information may be critical to the success of this example app. Executive dashboards are a highly recommended technique to provide instantaneous feedback on the use of mobile applications. At-a-glance screens with graphs and charts can provide real-time meaningful analysis. Of course, what should be included in the dashboard must be part of the initial design concept in step two.