Compete Against the Big Guys (Even When You’re One of Them)

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Whether you’re an independent developer, a fledgling startup or part of a corporate dev team, the emphasis on mobile app development within enterprises is a trend to watch.

The same big corporations that were fighting BYOD (bring your own device) several years ago are now rapidly embracing mobile and are even getting into the mobile app development business themselves. One in three enterprise chief information officers (CIOs) report that mobile apps and devices are major priorities for them, according to a 2012 Gartner report. The same report predicts that mobile projects will comprise 80% of software development in enterprises by 2015.

You don’t need the big guns
Enterprises bring in top talent, bloated budgets, and the branding and marketing resources to launch an app and gain ground quickly. The small guys have a lot of advantages, too. Here are a few tips for a team of any size or strength to gain the edge.

Stay agile
Even if you’re working within the corporate system, focus on designing the best mobile experience possible. Advocating for the user at every turn is a way to stand out in an increasingly crowded space. Listen to what they’re telling you and iterate quickly.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that enterprise software isn’t always the most user-friendly. Enterprises pay millions for market research and tirelessly test their apps. They also have steadfast philosophies, too many cooks, internal politics and slooooow-moving corporate cultures.

A more agile workflow makes it possible to deliver on your goals and refine the mobile user experience without bottlenecks. Start with simple and intuitive navigation, aesthetically pleasing graphics, contextual guidance and rich, engaging functionality and content. Then iterate based on user feedback and analytics to keep users engaged.

Raise the bar
Well-known mobile apps reign supreme and are hard to dethrone, especially if they’ve been in the app marketplace awhile. Yet, power users who become addicted to an app always become frustrated with its downfalls over time. Therein lies your opportunity.

If you can find a way to take a popular but not-quite-perfect app and improve upon it, you can win against bigger developers. A recent study found that one in three mobile app users would abandon an app for one of its competitors to get a better experience.

Measure, improve, repeat
It’s worth repeating: use your data. You better believe that your corporate competitors are looking hard at the numbers, evaluating what’s working and packaging reports to prove return on investment (ROI) to senior leadership.

You need to do that too, but for different reasons. The right analytics help you evaluate how people are using your app, where people are getting stuck, and where you can improve. You can use this data to keep tweaking the design and functionality for better engagement.

Connect personally
One of your biggest advantages is being able to listen to and talk directly with users. A lot of large enterprises don’t have the time or resources.

Before launching your app, build an infrastructure for developing your community online: social media channels, discussion board, blog, etc. Monitor your channels and engage users in dialogue. You’ll be able to respond to requests and learn a ton about your app in the wild.

The “big guys” will always cast a long shadow. Think about how you can stand out by creating superior experiences and staying flexible and open to new opportunities.

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Yuan Weigel

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