Mubaloo’s director of mobile strategy, Gemma Coles, shares her insight speaking at the launch of the European Union’s study into the EU app economy.
Presenting on behalf of Mubaloo, I was keen to share our view on the shape of the growing market and highlight where the opportunities for new developers lie.
Over the last few years, we’ve noted a few significant shifts in perception and demand of apps. The briefs we receive span across a rich selection of industries, yet there are common themes and buzzwords that pop up all the time. Here are the major shifts & my thoughts on why these are important:
1. The journey from “We need an app” to “how can we help our customers & employees?”
When Mubaloo began, there was a real appetite for companies to have a brand presence on the app store. This was a marketing tactic with a short-term objective. As much as promoting the company, these apps also helped to popularise apps and demonstrate what was possible with smartphones. They were the types of apps that you’d show friends to impress them with how cool your phone was that you could blow out a candle, or make liquid move around with your hand movement.
I’m glad that things have since evolved. Whilst the one-off, marketing driven campaign briefs still come in, we try to encourage clients to recognise the real transformative value that mobile apps can bring to processes, communications and the user experience.
Developers have potential to broaden their offering by exploring commercial objectives, reflecting on user needs and taking a longer-term view.
2. The shift from “Mobile First” to “API First”
I think I first heard the phrase “Mobile First” in 2010. We were running a workshop with a fairly forward thinking client when they proudly announced they were going “Mobile First.” This was a declaration of not only putting mobile on the top table alongside other digital channels, but making the mobile experience their top priority.
“Mobile First” followed in an increasing number of briefs. Being a mobile app business, this should have delighted us. Increasingly though, we came across the limitations of going “Mobile First.”
We kept on finding that backend systems are rarely already optimised and that major IT change for mobile alone was a tricky business case to sell. On many projects, development work either couldn’t begin or had to be halted in order for the backend to be upgraded to support secure and effective mobile apps.
In the last 18 months, Mubaloo alongside other companies has been pushing the vision to take an “API first approach.” Here, the client is recognising the value of backend systems, treating the app (as any digital channel) as a thin front end that displays or captures data and content.
This is a more integrated approach, but crucially, more future proof, as who knows what the next top table digital channel may be – we may well be wearing it.
3. Evolving from individual apps to a mobile roadmap
Apps are increasingly underpinned with a clear business case and API enablement is making them more intelligent.
This change has put mobile on the agenda for many senior execs. For business audience, a longer term, scalable approach can help to justify the initial investment in apps, allowing transformation to be managed through a series of phases.
I strongly believe that early discussions should explore the principles and methodologies that should be embraced across a business. These include business intelligence, security, or perhaps development platforms.
By exploring these big questions at a broad level, re-purposing is then more achievable across wider business remits, other locations and new audiences. Plans for an individual app can then progress, allowing swift progression from strategy to proof of concept to the initial release and subsequent rollout.
The apps can then be improved over time, driven by analytics that help to reveal areas for improvement in future versions.
The market is undoubtedly fast moving and can be complex, but by thinking strategically and focusing on simplicity can be incredibly rewarding. At Mubaloo, I think the entrepreneurial culture here helps us to set the pace for clients, with a willingness to adapt quickly to new platform demands.
For instance, within our in-house team, an increasing number of developers are becoming skilled across multiple platforms, giving them extra experience and providing us with extra flexibility. But with a changing market you also need stability.
Mubaloo has done this by placing an emphasis on strategic consultancy and creating clear internal processes that allow us to approach our large enterprise clients with quality & consistency. These are essential traits for developing long-term relationships with ambitious clients who require a reliable partner.
We’ve also focused on building a network of partners who can provide all the parts clients need for enterprise mobility.
When it comes to finding the big opportunities, I would say:
- Developers need to look beyond the code and consider the wider strategy
- Consumer apps are just the tip of the iceberg, whilst enterprise still holds huge untapped potential
- Take a longer term view with each project – mobile is here to stay
The Eurapp event concluded with a session that explored the initiatives that Eurapp could take to support the growing app industry. It was great to see that collaboration, education & inspiration all featured heavily.
In particular because this applies to all of us; from the independent developer in need of marketing or financial support, to the fully-fledged app business striving for continual innovation.