The changing nature of mobile: App developers versus mobile solution providers
A recent study by Gartner shows that mobile app use grew an incredible 115 percent from 2012 to 2013. Apple, which offers more than a million apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, said recently that customers spent more than $10 billion on apps in 2013, yet the most popular apps have a distinct difference.
Take the incredibly popular and successful WhatsApp; the five-year old company has over 500 million active monthly users, and the founder signed a $19 billion acquisition deal with Facebook just a few blocks away from the social services office where he used to collect food stamps.
More recently, BBC’s weather application is currently downloaded by almost 20,000 users every day, making it the company’s fastest growing mobile app. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula when deciding which apps will become the most popular, nor is there a "by the books" equation when a company is looking for a partner to develop a mobile solution.
With hundreds of thousands of games, productivity tools, social media apps and just about any other app category you can imagine already available, with thousands more launched every week, businesses planning on developing apps need to work with a mobile team that understands the market inside and out.
It’s even more complicated for an enterprise-grade mobile solution. These companies typically focus on, and require, more complex mobile solutions, and the relationship between them and their mobile partner will usually be ongoing, lasting long after their app launches. A mobile solution provider works together with businesses to craft the needed mobile solution to solve business challenges. For companies that don’t have their path mapped to where the problem has been identified, or aren’t sure where they want their place in the mobile space to be, they should seek out a partner with the expertise and understanding of every angle of the 'app universe'. A mobile solutions provider is a guide to take a company through every step of navigating the complex mobile landscape.
On the other side of the development table, app developers typically specialize in coding, design or some combination of the two, and are ideal for delivering a very specific set of feature requests. They have a distinctive and worthwhile place in the mobile ecosystem. While app developers understand design and feature construction, they are usually not as savvy in business strategy, audience targeting or third-party integration. If a company already has their mobile app mapped out and all they need is a developer to write the code, then an app developer can certainly solve that issue.
But, building an intuitive mobile solution, especially one in the enterprise space, requires a distinctive set of skills. The team working on the app should be familiar with Agile development processes, usually not a strong focus at an app development firm.
To decide the best fit for a company’s needs, here are a few questions that ought to be considered:
- Will the app be serving customers? If not, will the app be solely an internal productivity app?
- Are the infrastructure and back-end requirements in place?
- Is there a clearly defined business problem the app will be solving?
- Is the model in place for how the app will interact seamlessly with the current company site and email provider?
- Will the team need ongoing assistance with maintenance, updates and support, or is this a one-time app build?
Solution development and delivery is continually evolving, and the future of mobile development depends on much more than just technical expertise. Based on a company’s goals and requirements, it’s vital to consider all of the available options before choosing a mobile partner.
Jeff Francis is the co-founder and COO of Dallas-based Copper Mobile, a leading enterprise-centric mobile development firm that helps companies solve their business challenges with cutting-edge mobile solutions. He has over 10 years of experience in early stage company start-ups and working with Fortune 500 in the software/technology industry. Jeff has five years of experience in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry and was the major accounts executive in an organization that went from almost no market presence to industry dominance in less than five years. Prior to co-founding Copper Mobile, he was also the president and CEO of Alliant Medical in Dallas, which averaged a 112 percent growth rate over the first three years of operations.