Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
1/3/2014
01:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Mobile Apps & The Art Of Mixology

Great mobile apps are like great cocktails. They should be easy to make, delicious to consume, and have your customers coming back for more.

A good friend of mine is a bartender, and in my eyes he is an artist. He can deftly serve some of the most iconic cocktails, but also has the expertise to create new ones according to the customers' tastes and moods. It's the perfect blend -- speed and agility with creativity and innovation.

This got me thinking that today's mobile app development is a lot like cocktail making. We need to quickly and expertly mix great apps based on the needs of many consumers, yet also have the smarts to change our "recipes" to adapt to market or business conditions.

[Without good software, hardware is useless. See 10 Best Android Apps Of 2013.]

So, taking a page from the book of cocktail mixology, here are my five essential ingredients for creating a great mobile app experience:

Get the base ingredients right. Just as a skilled bartender knows that correct proportions of tequila, cointreau, and fresh lime or lemon equate to a great margarita, make sure you get the basics right in mobile app development. The best apps I've seen are "experience-centric," helping employees and customers make decisions based on their immediate needs -- in short, combining great design, ultra simplicity, and ease-of-use.

A good example is Hailo, which uses GPS smarts to match taxi drivers to passengers and deliver super usability (two taps to book a taxi).  On the other hand, the worst apps are like a weak cocktail -- boring and tasteless imitations of current websites and applications.

Do the taste test, but do it quickly. Mobile app development is a lot like serving drinks in a crowded bar to a thirsty and demanding crowd. If you spend too much time assembling infrastructure and testing apps, your customers will probably go elsewhere. But at the same time, if we serve apps too quickly and compromise quality, our efforts will be lampooned by socially vocal consumers. Therefore, it's important to incorporate operational processes and policies (e.g., performance monitoring) and especially security controls within a testing environment that simulates real-world conditions, with the goal of continuously delivering quality apps.

Complexity can leave a bitter aftertaste. The best mobile apps in the world can fail miserably if encumbered by bad service, poor backend integration, and complex supporting processes. So, as you deliver that great mobile app experience, make sure it's "blended" with other essential ingredients -- especially those across your call-center or service desk. Remember too that, just like the word getting around quickly about a cool new cocktail lounge, the same applies to mobile apps.

It's essential therefore to plan for success, ensuring your staff, systems, and infrastructure are well prepared to handle an explosion in transaction volumes and business activity. A classic fail here was a leading UK bank, which after experiencing mobile app glitches and online failures during the busiest online shopping day of 2013, admitted the problem was failure to properly invest in systems and infrastructure.

Deliver the right app cocktails for every occasion. My bartender friend doesn't always assume his customers know what they want to drink, so he often asks them how they feel before he mixes. Similarly in IT, our mobile app cocktail guide shouldn't be religiously predisposed to one client-side development platform (Native apps vs. HTML5). Rather it should always be driven by the needs of the business. For example, if you need a rich user experience, an app store, and advanced security features, then native apps could have the edge. But if cross-platform support, agility, and available programming expertise are considerations, HTML5 will be preferred.

Always strive for quality before quantity. We shouldn't serve another drink to an overly indulged patron, so why should we assume our customers will want "just one more app for the road"? Sure, every business unit might think it has the next "killer mobile app" and even have the skills needed to build them, but always make sure mobility is driven from a unified business strategy and never from piecemeal projects. This is why so many successful enterprises start by building digital or mobility teams. These teams combine business stakeholders who control strategy and funding with architects and developers who can quickly build out new mobility services.

Like a skilled bartender, IT and business pros must blend the right mix of mobile ingredients. Customer experience and engagement are now king, so traditional management silos, inadequate infrastructure, and slow development cycles will not cut it.

So, the next time your business strategy team asks for a new mobile app, be ready to respond with, "No problem -- shaken or stirred?"

Peter Waterhouse is a senior technical marketing advisor for CA Technologies' strategic alliance, service providers, cloud, and industry solutions businesses.

IT is turbocharging BYOD, but mobile security practices lag behind the growing risk. Also in the Mobile Security issue of InformationWeek: These seven factors are shaping the future of identity as we transition to a digital world. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PeteJW
50%
50%
PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2014 | 9:00:54 PM
Re: You have got the recipe right!
Thanks Muthu - yep, as your reference artcile points out the complexities of integration can't be underestimated. No doubt for many enterprises this will require revisting legacy architectures and backend systems-of-recpord ill-suited for mobile apps delivery.
Muthu LeesaJ889
50%
50%
Muthu LeesaJ889,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 11:30:21 AM
You have got the recipe right!
Hi Peter,

Loved this article. Probably because I liked the parallel you have drawn. Like a good cocktail, mobile app is all about the experience of the end user. Even enterprises are catching up with the consumer-UX trends. Offering a consumer-UX for an enterprise mobile app doesnt happen that easily. Mainly because of the complex backend integrations. CRMs, ERPs, Social Media, Web portals, Payment Gateways, eCommerce platforms, Enterprise Databases - the list goes on. Integration is probably the most time consuming aspect of enterprise mobile app development. Read more about the complexities here: http://mlabs.boston-technology.com/blog/enterprise-mobile-apps-and-backend-systems
David R Robinson
50%
50%
David R Robinson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 1:56:14 PM
Multi-channel Feature Parity is also Important
You have to provide feature parity across all the channels you make avialable to the Customer or risk falling short of their expectations. To make it even harder, they fully expect the UX to be "native" to the device/OS that they happen to be using at the time. So that means a lowest-common-denominator HTML5 application won't cut it. They expect all the features of your website (at least Systems of Engagement) to be available on their iPhone, but it better look like, and act like an iPhone app, not some generic HTML5 code that they saw on the website that wasn't designed for touch. When they jump on their Andriod Tablet, it better take advantage of the expanded screen real estate and make the experience native to that device and OS, and so on, and so forth.


These user expectations are continuing to evolve and it increases the challenge for an enterprise intent on providing a great customer expertience. If you use best-of-breed develoment tools for each platform, you must make a huge investment in skills and tools and lose your ability to maintain feature parity due to the complexity of coordinating release schedules. If you outsource some, or all of the platform specific development work you also have a really difficult time maintaining feature parity.

It is going to require a new kind of platform to make it possible to create, deploy, and manage these kinds of multi-channel Systems of Engagement rapidly enough to allow enterprises to take advantage of the opportunities they find in the marketplace and win against their competition.

 
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2014 | 4:06:21 PM
Re: Nice analogy!
Making a compelling app is very hard; making a functional one (looks bad but presents the necessary data) is fairly easy. You need not just IT skills but strong design skills too.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2014 | 12:59:58 PM
Re: Nice analogy!
How hard is it to become one of these skilled bartenders? One challenge to doing this is companies having to rely on outside mobile developers, at least until they get their in-house teams trained in mobile development. Anyone have experience in how tough it is getting IT pros who know the business trained to do mobile development?   
PeteJW
100%
0%
PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
1/5/2014 | 8:38:32 PM
Re: Nice analogy!
Good point -- especially in situations where as you describe, complex scenarios warrant live support. Not sure about every app providing this type of help service, but I can see situations where it is is offered as a 'contextual' service -- for example in retail shopping apps connecting shoppers who are about to make a purchase to a 'product expert'....many other scenarios
artr
50%
50%
artr,
User Rank: Strategist
1/4/2014 | 4:09:34 PM
Re: Nice analogy!
A key concern for any self-service app, mobile or otherwise, is that an end user may run into a problem using the interface and require assistance. This will be particularly important with flexible multimodal interface options when using smartphones and tablets in different user environments. According;y, I feel that every online app must offer options to the end use.rs to contact and interact with live assistance.

This approach has already been provided to a specialized user audience by Amazon with their "Mayday button option that brings a live agent on a video screen, along with shared control of the user's application. So, no matter how well an online user interface has been designed, the end user's will always need direct and flexible  "click-for-assistance" options embedded within the application (e.g., via WebRTC).
PeteJW
50%
50%
PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
1/3/2014 | 6:11:13 PM
Re: Nice analogy!
Lorna - Margarita's could always work, or maybe just a liberal dash of good old fashioned governance blended with value analysis for all mobility related projects, The problem is of course that anything new, trendy and disruoptive often falls under the radar when it comes to justification and funding. Also, many organizations truly don't understand the full cost of mobile app development; ignoring the 'side effects' of over indulgence - including infrastructure refresh, legacy integration, advanced security considerations, network connectivity....so as the old saying goes -- 'drink responsibly'
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/3/2014 | 1:56:25 PM
Nice analogy!
I especially like the concept of cutting business units off once they've had one too many. There's a reason classic apps (and cocktails) stay around, and trendy ones fade away. The difference is, a trendy drink only costs a few bucks while companies may spend thousands on an app that gets minimal uptake.

Do you have tips on how to gently tell an LOB leader that this app project just isn't happening? Maybe cushion the blow with that Margarita?!
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 23, 2014
Intrigued by the concept of a converged infrastructure but worry you lack the expertise to DIY? Dell, HP, IBM, VMware, and other vendors want to help.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.