As a startup, you have identified a problem that you are hoping your product or service will solve. You are ready to take your idea to market, and one of the obvious questions is: how will consumers interact with your company?
Website is an obvious answer, but increasingly, users demand applications that cover all touchpoints of the application ecosystem. They want to seamlessly shift from the web, to mobile, to other devices. Not that, but they expect an equally easy-to-use experience, no matter how they interact with your company.
End-to-end enterprise application development is becoming a necessary consideration for any startup. It may seem like a lot to take on, but there are benefits to taking this approach that will make your company more successful. We’ll explore these benefits as well as what should go into your application planning.
Why Take a Multi-Application Approach
If you have envisioned your enterprise application or built a prototype, you likely have a good understanding of how it will function in one environment. After all, you can’t necessarily predict the preference of your future users.
It is predicted that smartphone use will rise to over 80% by 2025. People increasingly want to function “on-the-go,” including for enterprise applications.
Connectivity is now deeply embedded in everyday life. The Internet of Things (IoT) has shown that even devices need to share data, such as wearables or smart home devices. For some users, even smartphones are not enough, and they expect a solution to work with all of their devices.
Yet, there are still instances where web applications are preferred. Some retail companies see a higher volume of traffic on mobile, but higher conversions on the web. Application experience matters a lot to the end-user.
As you consider application development, it makes sense to address the entire application ecosystem. This approach focuses on maintaining the attention of uses across different touchpoints and channels. You will develop applications with a 360 view for UI/UX, features, security, and more.
Benefits of an Enterprise Application Ecosystem Approach
Deciding to address the entire application ecosystem is a crucial one. While the upfront application development will be more involved, you are setting your company up with a better foundation for success. Remember, the relationship with customers using enterprise applications is long, and you want them to have a satisfying user experience.
Approaching application development from an ecosystem approach has a lot of strengths. In addition to a better user experience and competitive advantage, you can benefit from the following:
You can track user behavior across different applications. Users may take certain actions on the web versus a wearable device. This information can drive your strategic planning and marketing efforts.
It will be easier for you to acquire a user data set within an application ecosystem. The dataset will be more complete, specific to the application, and help you develop objectives across different touchpoints.
Everyone works differently. By approaching development across different applications, you can personalize the experience. This could be anything from the relevant information provided when the app opens to the notifications received.
“One-size-fits-all” doesn’t work for users, even within enterprise applications.
If you take an approach with a single application, you risk losing some of your potential market. What if you only offer a web application and 35% of your users would prefer mobile? Are you willing to forego that 35%?
It says something about your company’s commitment to the user experience that you offer applications across web, mobile, and IoT devices.
Building for the Future
If you begin development with a single application approach, you risk “boxing yourself in” to functionality. You could develop something that works seamlessly in mobile, but it is hard to replicate on the web. By beginning with a full application ecosystem approach, you can ensure all features have the same impact across all touchpoints.
Where To Start With End-to-End Application Development
Your planning phase of approaching end-to-end application development is critical. It will drive your overall roll-out and application adoption. By identifying your overall project goals, you can streamline this process.
While you may know how your product or solution fits into the marketplace, you do some research. You want to understand what your customers will expect from an enterprise application. These expectations may vary based on demographics or the industry.
As a startup, this market research may be a bit tricky. Without an existing user base, you may not be able to generate this feedback. If you have experience in industry or a core group that provided feedback on a prototype, you can start there.
Since your goal is to compete against existing companies in the market, you should look at your competitors. If your applications do not meet users’ expectations, you know that they could potentially leave.
Note the features that your competitors offer. You can also look at reviews of their apps and determine if users find features to be lacking.
Selecting Supported Systems
Even if you know that you need to support web applications, mobile applications, and IoT devices, you need to make decisions on the platforms within each that you will support. Will your mobile application be for iOS, Android, or both? Will your web application be supported across multiple browsers?
Obviously, the more that you platforms you support, the more resources you will need. You will need to weigh the benefits of each and where your users are most likely to use your applications.
Identifying Potential Issues
Some of the issues that may arise when developing multiple applications involve what happens behind the scenes. Security is a significant consideration. You also want to look at how different core functionality will exist across the different applications through the backend.
Other issues can include ease of use and speed. You’ll want to consider the impacts of each within the application.
Budget and Timeline
As you think about the functionality to include in your applications, your budget may be a constraint. It could be that your first iteration has the minimum amount of functionality to be viable to your users (also called minimum viable solution set). Additional functionality can be added over time.
Developing multiple applications will also impact the timeframe for your roll-out. If you are going to have iterative releases, decide how different features are integrated. Is your initial set of functionality driven by a specific timeline to market?
Planning the Development of Your Applications
Once you have created an initial approach to your application development, you can begin to work on the user experience. Your end result and user adoption will depend heavily on what goes into the apps themselves.
State the Goals
Based on everything you have collected so far – your market and competitor research, your supported systems, your budget – you need to clearly state the goals of your application development. Your goals should balance both your users and your business needs. The entire team should be on the same page with the goals of your application development.
Even with determining the functionality to include, you should still prioritize the features. If your project runs into issues, you may need to weigh features versus timeline. You will prioritized each feature according to its importance and impact.
Some considerations for feature prioritization include:
- User wants versus user needs
- The percentage of users that will benefit from the feature
- Time/resources involved in the feature
- Features that your competitors are offering
Anything that is not included in your initial development can be prioritized for later releases. By then, you should also be able to rely on metrics and customer feedback to create a roadmap.
Your design goes far beyond your company brand. It should center around simplicity and intuitive navigation. Users want to identify the most important tasks easily and perform them quickly.
When developing across multiple environments, the experience should be seamless. If users can navigate fluidly in a mobile app but then struggle with web navigation, they will become frustrated. You want consistency and to have common UI elements.
Beyond the user’s interaction with the apps, ensure that the page layout is purposeful. Colour and typography should be strategic.
Security and Authentication
Whether your applications deal with sensitive data or not, every application will have a layer of security. Your enterprise applications can pose a huge risk without proper security in place. You want your users to trust that their information is secure.
Your applications’ security should involve the following steps:
- An initial review of the security requirements of the applications
- Identifying the potential threats to the application
- Integrate security into the design of the applications and complete a design review
- Review coding of the application for best security practices
- Complete a risk assessment before deployment
- Evaluate and implement the controls to mitigate risks
- Benchmark your security against industry standards
- Maintain your security with each release and other critical updates
When looking at security across multiple applications, you will also want to consider the end-user’s experience. Whether you approach logins with a single-sign-on, two-factor authentication, or other security measures, you will want to have security that makes sense for your users and what your industry requires.
Integrations With Other Components
In some cases, your applications may integrate with third parties or other components. Whether it is data, payments, or other integrations, your application’s development may depend on these.
If these integrations are part of your “must-have” functionality, do not overlook the step of incorporating these elements into your project plan. You may need to begin discussions with third parties or review APIs early within the development process.
Creating Your Project Plan
Your project plan should outline the phases that address the requirements for each application. You will need to consider whether each application’s development will be concurrent or consecutive. And if consecutive, which application will come first?
A lot of your project plan may depend on the resources involved. It may be easier to focus on one application at a time. However, it may also be easier to focus on a core set of functionality and ensure that it functions as intended across all applications.
With whatever approach you take, your overall project plan and timeline need to consider the following phases:
1. Design and mockups of each application
Mock up all elements and features to their exact specifications. This should reflect the intended “final product.”
2. Technical Design
Involve your technical team to discuss backend, integrations, security and more. A solutions architect should have sight to all of your applications and how they fit together.
3. Feasibility Assessment
After a technical review, your team should come together to determine the overall feasibility. Anything identified during the technical design should be brought to the forefront. If technical requirements affect the overall timeline or budget, this is the time to address those concerns.
4. Requirements and Timeline
With feasibility in place, put your applications on a timeline. Identify where on the timeline, you hit the point of a minimum viable solution, as well as the minimum requirements for delivery.
5. Application Development
Writing code and converting the design documentation into an application are likely most time-consuming in the development process. The code becomes the backbone of your entire project.
After the development team completes coding, it is released to internal QA testing. Passing that, your project plans should include user acceptance testing or beta testing.
With your completed applications, you need to formulate a step-by-step implementation plan. The newly build applications will transfer to production. You will now be facing the features that you want to add to a subsequent release, along with maintenance and addressing any issues.
Selecting Developers for an End-to-End Enterprise Application Approach
Selecting an agency to address all of your end-to-end application needs will matter. If you have different agencies for web versus mobile, for example, you risk sacrificing the end-user experience. By working with a single agency, you can ensure that developers will see the whole picture.
Communication is going to be key throughout the application development process. You can better ensure your app’s quality and functionality by keeping the development within a single team.