If you only have one product, focusing on iOS7 app re-design may well be commercially viable, but within a larger Enterprise business what is the appropriate strategy in approaching an OS update across a suite of mobile apps?
Opportunities of iOS7 release
Any upgrade to the Apple OS comes with feature updates and with such a wide change, there are a huge number of really good analysis pieces around what iOS7 offers (example here).
So what are some of the key features which stand out as representing good opportunities for differentiation and value creation?
- Multitasking API: Allows the app to sync/download content in the background, which can help with optimising the task-flow of an app.
- ‘iBeacons’: Low-powered, low-cost transmitter to support communication with other physical objects in the near vicinity of your device.
- ‘AirDrop’: Makes peer-to-peer file transfer easier. Your app can now speak to other iOS devices on top of what iBeacons offers to physical objects; a great opportunity to connect different touchpoints to form a more complete service.
Based on your understanding of the user these and other features of iOS7 provide opportunities to unlock additional value for your users. Or they may not. The question is, depending on your suite of apps, does the potential value justify the investment of time?
It’s vital to understand your audience and their aspirations to confidently make these decisions and prioritise the integration of iOS7 features / design structures into your app.
Integrating across multiple apps
Provided with such a wide scope for change, there is an inherent challenge for enterprise businesses in integrating an OS change across a suite of apps whilst ensuring relevance for their multiple target audiences.
So, how can enterprise businesses turn integration into an opportunity across the myriad scenarios which exist?
Here are a few thoughts:
One of your apps is brand new and due for release in late 2013
Within two weeks of the iOS6 launch, 45%+ of iPhone users were on the new OS and for the iOS7 launch a similar trend can be expected.
Taking advantage of the new features and aligning with iOS7 around launch can attract new users and improve active user numbers. One option is to conduct a survey of core users to understand how they view iOS7 in order to assess whether building time into your development schedule is worthwhile.
One of your apps has just gone live
Frustration when a new or updated app goes live and the device OS changes and instantly ‘dates’ it is understandable. However, being a part of the ‘early majority’ and not an ‘early adopter’ can have its benefits.
When it launches, the early and developing nature of the iOS7 paradigm will mean that developers are striving to understand its best implementation within an app. Apple has already released technical implementation guidelines but how do you know what users really want?
A best practice review of ‘early adopter’ iOS7 apps will provide guidance on how other development teams in similar industries or with analogous audiences have included new features and design ideas giving you the opportunity to evaluate incorporate best practice interactions across your suite of apps.
Multiple teams, different development roadmaps
Further to the above point, it may not be feasible to update all apps at once but it is crucial to ensure that when iOS7 compatibility is implemented, that apps have consistency. Defining a commonly understood mobile strategy is important to ensure this across multiple design and development team.
One way to do this is by developing formal, internal mobile guidelines to support overall mobile development including iOS7 implementation. Establishing a ‘virtual’ team or individual who can answer detailed questions about these guidelines further establishes consistency of implementation and can provide a single point for sign off.
iOS7 will require work across a suite of enterprise apps. However, building this disruption into your roadmap with a positive outlook on what value can be added for the user of your app can actually have a beneficial effect for your brand and business objectives.
Thoughts for the future
Native apps are still relevant for brands especially where a parallel ‘desktop’ experience doesn’t exist. Development roadmaps should (but rarely do) allow for fundamental changes due to the underlying software, maximising the potential of this checkpoint is an opportunity in itself.
‘We need an app’ is often a common driver of creating an app, especially in an enterprise setting and doesn’t often result in a targeted and relevant experience. Teams responsible for a suite of apps will ideally see this iOS7 disruption as an opportunity to evaluate how the experience can better support the core needs of their target audience.
Perhaps another inherent opportunity for businesses exists in the reviewing the nature of their relationship with the latest Apple, Google or even Microsoft OS release. As the lifecycle of digital products shortens and users’ expectations of their digital experience evolve, it’s important to consider the potential for a mobile experience which decreases the exposure to OS changes.
Web apps offer customers dynamic mobile brand interactions they increasingly expect. In the case of responsive web design, brands have the opportunity to provide consistency of experience across platforms using one code base supporting development cost reduction and increased user satisfaction.
I’ve made a number of recommendations in this article but what are the key questions you should answer around iOS7 to help inform your strategy?
- Provide your app development teams with better understanding of what iOS7 means. Providing knowledge of the scope of iOS7 ensures that all teams have a baseline level of knowledge to make upgrade decisions with. Empower someone as the SME for iOS7 to deliver the baseline training and to then be available to answer more in-depth queries.
Understand what additional value will be created for the customer by upgrading each one of your apps to iOS7 and make your decision appropriately. If your users are early adopters and likely to anticipate an upgrade, it may be worth reviewing your product roadmap. If they’re likely to be ambivalent, think about waiting to understand iOS7 best practice before making potentially costly investments.
Developing this customer viewpoint (if it doesn’t exist) is a vital part of any enterprise app strategy and will, in parallel, support decisions on whether native or web-based methodologies represent the future of your product(s).
- Does your strategic development roadmap consider web apps as well as native? With iOS7 disruption as the stimulus, it might be worth considering the development techniques utilised within your strategic development roadmap and whether web apps may provide users with a better experience for some (or all?) of your app portfolio.