Opportunities When Device Shipments are Flat?

With Gartner predicting Flat Worldwide Device Shipments, including smartphones and tablets, where do you look for growth? Where are the opportunities? CSS Insight provides some clues. Today’s article on Mobile Business Subscriptions to Outgrow Consumer Segment in Western Europe says:

“In Spain, 21 percent of all cellular subscriptions are currently billed and used by businesses…

The UK is not far behind; with 16 million subscriptions, businesses account for 19 percent of all mobile connections”

Over the next four years, business subscriptions will outgrow the consumer segment in the five biggest European markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Businesses need apps both for internal use and by their customers. These kinds of apps tend to be of more use and better longevity than ‘fun’ consumer apps. Also, most don’t rely on app purchases or being accidentally discovered. The best current and ongoing opportunities are in business apps.

From Mobile First to Mobile Native

benedictevansBenedict Evans has a post on From mobile first to mobile native where he says he is seeing an evolution beyond ‘mobile first’ to what he calls ‘mobile native’. This is where we forget desktops/laptops and low end phones and only provide a service to modern smartphones.

At first I didn’t think there was much in this idea until I suddenly realised the app I have been working on for a client for the last few months is just this. While I can’t yet say, for confidentially reasons, what the app is, it’s in a sector that’s currently very manually resource intensive and the current ‘state of the art’ innovation tends to be companies trying to take the service fully online via the browser. Conversely, the service I am helping create is fully mobile – skipping the ‘online’ part altogether. While I can’t talk about the service yet, here there some generic observations and insights.

Such strategies are implicitly suitable to target millennials who haven’t known a time without mobile and as Benedict says, the

“mobile-native generation that takes this for granted”.

Going fully and only mobile requires simplification of (business) process flow, simplification of the offering and generation of new value via the facilities offered by the phone.

Part of that added facility is the carry everywhere, always available capability that can make services immediately available. Tied to the immediacy is communication. If you want to engage and retain then the app will need to have in-built communication. The app I am working on uses Intercom.

Further ‘facility’ is the use of context, sensors and the camera to provide utility associated with the service. For example, in the app I am working on we use the camera to check the user’s id using microBlink. An id can be checked in seconds as opposed to relying on days or weeks of manual processing.

As benedict says, think about

“… how many different reasons there are that it would be impossible to build the same thing on the desktop”

If you can answer this question for your service than you might have something suitable for implementing mobile native.

On reflection Benedict coining the term ‘mobile native’ is confusing as, in mobile, ‘native’ means Java/c/c++ as opposed to web technologies. However, his ideas have value and provide opportunities for many sectors to circumvent or skip current ways of doing things and build services that fully depend on rather than just support mobile.

Enterprise Insights

cssinsightCCS Insight has a useful free report (no registration required), Accelerating Business Value, Innovation and Change through Mobility showing mobile best practices that have achieved significant results for three organisations.

The report describes how many companies mobile efforts are the result of the actions of “do it yourself” employees rather than IT departments. I previously wrote how this is often due to companies internally arguing over who and how mobile development should be performed within the organisation.

The reports suggests three best practices:

  • Promote Mobility to the Business by Its Use, Not Its Novelty Factor
  • Smaller, Iterative Steps with Bigger, Longer-Term Commitments
  • Establish One or Two Strategic Partners for Mobility

I think many companies miss out because of not adopting #1. Companies should think about, as CCS says…

“Cost savings, efficiency and productivity gains to improved employee and IT satisfaction levels and enhanced engagement with customers.”

This means measuring things via analytics … both pre (for example what devices end users already use) and post development to refine goals and measure success.

App Enterprise Challenges

mobileworldliveThe GSMA has a new article based on an Accenture survey of 2,000 executives in nine industries and 15 countries. While 87% think that apps are vital to business, only about half of them are using apps for productivity, sales channels or customer service.

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Security, performance and integration are seen as major concerns. However, those companies holding off mobile development should take note of Accenture’s finding of a “correlation between a company’s profitability (relative to competitors in its industry) and its approach to, and perspectives on, mobile apps”.

Good Technology View on the Enterprise

goodtechnologyThe latest Good Technology Mobility Index Report is out for Q2 2015 (pdf). Their report provides enterprise-centric insights and is based on
on Good’s own enterprise customers.

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Organisations use an average of 3.43 apps in addition to email. Since the last report, financial services, energy and utilities have joined insurance as the main industries adopting apps. iOS continues to be most used but its share of 64% has dropped slightly while Android share grew from 26% to 32%. On tablets, iOS fell steeply from 81% to 64% while Android saw an increase from 15% to 25% of activations. Windows saw an increase from 4% to 11%.

The overall picture is one of Android maturing and being taken more seriously by companies. The use of apps is also maturing in that they are being used in more industries as a major point of contact with employees, suppliers and end-customers.

Competitive Advantage Using Apps

catechnologiesThere’s some research by CA and Oxford Economics that shows companies now consider software-driven business models to be the key to competitive advantage. More specifically, organisations are looking to API-enabled software and mobile apps.

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The report says there’s an emphasis on bringing more development back in-house or using mergers/acquisition to improve development capabilities. I believe this shows a maturing of the mobile development ecosystem. As mobile development becomes more mainstream, more companies will seek to control it better and more directly. Having outsourced or offshore development can add a level of hidden indirection to communications and I have often, but not always, seen that indirection slow things and cause misunderstandings.

In 2011, in Rise of the Mobile Development Intermediary I explained how I was seeing an increase in intermediaries and the associated problems. For the reasons explained in my previous post, I have always preferred working for companies developing their own software or at least controlling the features of a product used by their clients. Maybe we will start to see a decline in the number of mobile development intermediaries.

Future Opportunities in Mobile

gartner136Current opportunities in mobile have been driven by the huge growth in mobile device shipments. So, what types of connected devices are people using now and how is this likely to change in the next few years?

Gartner has some new research that shows that while the PC market will decline about 4% this year it will recover in 2016 and grow in 2017. However, the non-phone market of 540 million devices/yr is small compared to the mobile phone market which is 1,940 million devices/yr. By 2,107 these are expected to be 566 million/yr and 2,628 million/yr respectively.

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What does this mean for developers? We have reached a period of relative stability where both the PC and phone markets have levelled off. If you develop generic apps for the PC/Mac or for mobile you can expect your market to remain about the same size for the next few years.

I believe that if you are seeking growth areas then you need to be more specialised and also look for B2B or white label opportunities. Health, insurance, retail, interfacing with IoT devices, security, cloud and big data seem to be the obvious areas.

Supply and Demand for Enterprise App Development

Gartner has a new press release on how the demand for enterprise mobile apps will outstrip available development capacity five to one. Their survey on mobile app development conducted in 2014 found that the majority of organisations have released fewer than 10 apps. A significant number of respondents haven’t released any apps. Gartner says…

“This is an indication of the nascent state of mobility in most organizations, with many organizations questioning how to start app development in terms of tools, vendors, architectures or platforms, let alone being able to scale up to releasing 100 apps or more,”

There’s an increasing pressure on IT departments to develop a larger variety of mobile apps in shorter time frames. Gartner suggests some best practices in their press release that includes prioritisation, process, use of RAD tools and mixed-sourcing.

My thoughts on this are that while RAD (cross-platform) tools might be ok for internal use where users are more forgiving, their use on customer/consumer facing applications usually results in too many lowest common denominator tradeoffs in terms of functionality, performance and look and feel. I think that lack of productivity in the enterprise has a lot to do with how app development is being done and using RAD tools is trying to fix the symptoms rather than the cause – which then causes new undesirable side-affects.

The companies I come across tend to be of two types. The first, as Gartner identifies, have been internally arguing over who and how mobile development should be performed within the organisation and such cases usually result in separate parts of the company going it alone with separate outsourced work. This causes many internal and external problems, one external manifestation being multiple app publishers from one company.

The second type of company I have seen is those trying to do it all in house and running up against productivity barriers. There is often a common theme of building things from scratch rather than re-using open source libraries due to not knowing what libraries are worth using. There are also other common problems such as using non-iterative processes, no tracking tools, not creating domain specific libraries for re-use and lack of knowing what to test. Experience how to best go about things and productivity are related.

In many cases enterprises just need a little extra help via consultancy or a single, experienced ‘head of mobile’ who has seen and experienced most of the problems.