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In my previous article, How A Custom App Can Make Your Product Better, I shared some innovative ways to improve your products using apps. If you haven’t started brainstorming ideas yet, I recommend you gather your team together and try it.But for the sake of today’s topic, let’s say you already have a great idea for an app. You want to get started on it right away, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it.

How do you take your vision for a great mobile application and make it a reality?

These are some of the factors you’ll need to consider as you move forward with your vision.

Clearly Define Your Expectations

First, I’m going to ask you to backtrack a little bit. You know that great idea you have? You need to tell me why it’s a great idea.

And by me, I mean your customers, your shareholders, and your staff.

It’s too easy to get excited by new technology, especially for those of us in the business. But what’s even more exciting is when you can marry technology with results. The problem is most people have heard too many claims about technology transforming their business before.

New technology does not magically bestow results. New technology – in this case your mobile application – is nothing more than a tool used to achieve a goal.

What is your goal?

That’s the most important question to ask when considering your app. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey calls this “Beginning With the End in Mind.” And that’s my recommendation to you here, as well.

You need to ask questions such as:

  • Exactly how will this mobile application benefit the company’s bottom-line?
  • Who will be the stakeholders for this mobile application project and how will it impact them?
  • Who will be the end-users and how will it improve their experience and results?

Answering these questions will not only help you in the next section, but will be crucial when it comes time to prioritize features and user stories down the road.

Obtain Internal Support

Once you’ve clearly defined the expectations for your app, the next step is to get some feedback and support for your project.

Start by sharing the benefits you identified in the previous step with your executive team. Listen to their feedback. Pay special attention to their questions and doubts – these are either obstacles you’ll need to overcome, or concerns you’ll use to revise your vision.

The more aware of these perspectives you are now, the better positioned you’ll be to solve them as you move forward. And the smoother the project as a whole will go.

From these meetings, you’ll want to identify a champion for the app – other than yourself, that is. Someone who gets your vision and can run with it. This can be a leader in your technology organization or a leader in the functional department the app will primarily serve.

The champion of the app now takes on the following tasks:

  • Digging into the details of how the app will be developed and where it fits within the budget.
  • Answering the questions and concerns of the executive team.
  • Completing feasibility studies and consulting with internal experts and third parties for advice.

Basically, the champion takes on the role of pushing the application forward, and you take on the role of sponsor and supporter.

Remember … the stronger your answers are to those expectation questions above, the quicker you’ll find support and the easier it’ll be to move forward.

Make versus Buy Decision

At some point before your mobile app project is green-lighted, you’ll need to address the make versus buy decision.

Will your internal project teams and engineers design and build the app? Will you hire third-party developers? Or will you employ some combination of the two?

In The New Outsourcing of App Development, I discussed some of the reasons why companies are looking to third-party development teams for mobile application projects. If that’s where you’re headed, here’s a link with some good interview questions to ask to help you find the right team.

If you’re leaning towards keeping it internal, make sure you have the mobile expertise you need and a proven mobile application development framework such as Scrum.

Another option that we’ve had a lot of success with is keeping your projects internal, but hiring a third-party to coach your team in setting up the project, establishing Scrum, and getting started.

Start Delivering Features

Once the project team is activated, you want to focus right away on your first production delivery.

We recommend Scrum as an application development framework because of its focus on delivering actual, tangible results – early and often. It also promotes collaboration, personal growth, and teamwork, which will, in turn, translate into stronger teams.

You’ll want to monitor the first few production sprints closely, of course. Make sure the team is locked in on the process and able to deliver the features as planned. If that’s not the case, don’t worry — you have plenty of options when it comes to fixing a broken app development process.

For your part, make sure to trumpet any early successes. Announcements should be high energy and highly visible to build momentum and support.

As you continue, keep reviewing the process after each sprint. What’s working and what isn’t? Where does the team need more help? How can you help them overcome any obstacles?

Know When to Stop

Your original vision may turn out to be much more elaborate than is needed. This is not uncommon, as our imaginations often supply benefits for problems that don’t exist. Or ones that are not worth addressing, at any rate.

Think back to your goals and expectations for the project. You’ll have a core set of required features in order to achieve those expectations. Once those required features are in production, you’ve reached a milestone – and, in many ways, the fulfillment of the project.

From here on out, you should scrutinize the ROI of any additional features and UI enhancements even more closely than before.

Too many projects stretch on and on, delivering nothing but minor tweaks and enhancements. Sometimes these enhancements will lead to real bottom-line impacts and are valuable additions. But all too often, the goal is simply to make the end-user “like” the product more, with no real effects on their usage or efficiency.

By knowing when to stop, you’ll make more resources available for other bottom-line enhancing projects. This improvement in your turnaround of allocated resources can have profound effects on your organization over time.

Without this scrutiny, your project may continue indefinitely, tying up resources that could have been moved on to other mission critical areas of your business.

Achieving Your Goal

When you follow the steps outlined above, your vision for a mobile application has a much better chance of becoming reality. But remember it’s the goals that matter, not the vision itself. Don’t pursue your vision into a quicksand of declining returns.

Instead, clearly define your goals and be ready to declare success when you’ve achieved them.

I hope the advice in this article will help you get there.

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