April 21st, 2016

Why Most Enterprise Apps Are a Waste of Money and Will Fail

We’ve looked at over a hundred existing enterprise apps developed at Fortune 500 companies over the last year. The sad truth is that 80% of them will most likely fail. Why? ‎Because of lack of data and problem insights, end user involvement, focus on core business and appetite for failure. Most importantly, instead of solving one or maybe two problems at the start, they try to do too many things at once and fail with all of them.

So what did they do wrong and what should companies do to be successful?

Data and Problem Insight

Many of the businesses we studied carried out surveys among employees and stakeholders to assess the demand for mobile services and based their requirements on the findings. ‎Too frequently however, there were no data or insights at all. The requirements were simply based on a few people’s opinions and knowledge about what was needed and signed-off by a cross-functional committee.

To be successful, companies need to start by defining the problem to be solved working with the end users and other stakeholders. More data points and insights generally means greater chance of success. Once the problem is clearly understood, the ‎work of finding the right solution can begin. And yes, it’s even possible that there may not be a good solution or, in other cases, that someone else has already come up with a great solution that you can use.

End User Involvement

Another common mistake is that the services are developed in isolation of the end users by IT or an external supplier. This will most likely fail even if there is a great problem definition and the concept was defined in collaboration with users. In many cases within the isolated service development it was still claimed that an agile methodology was used. The main excuse for not including feedback from end users during the process is usually that there was not enough time. How much time will you have saved when the service is discontinued as no one uses it?

Companies should always include end-user feedback from the first prototype, into later development sprints, until the final release launch to be successful. Continuously collect feedback and improve every 2-3 weeks. Assume that the scope will change by anywhere from 10 to 50% along the way and build this into the plan.

Focus on Core Business

‎Many of the applications we looked at had so many functionalities included that we couldn’t figure out what the service was for. It was like a Christmas wish list by a child that wants everything. Others mainly had functionalities that are available in existing applications already used by the business (e.g. employee directory in Exchange) or products that can be licensed at a lower cost unless maybe you have 100,000+ employees.

Successful mobile services begin by focusing on solving one or maybe two problems for the user and the business. Once this has proven successful, the scope can be extended. In addition to this, most problems can be solved by existing services created by companies with this as their core business. E.g. don’t try to create your own note taking applications when Evernote has already perfected this and provides great APIs for service integration. When creating custom solutions, make sure that it’s really a core differentiator to the business. Warburton’s Red Insight and 3M Water Dealer are great examples of true differentiators.

Appetite for Failure

Many of the companies we evaluated spent 9-15 months developing a mobile service and then killed the project 6 months later because it didn’t achieve the objectives. For starters, that’s a very long time to develop the first version of a mobile service. Furthermore, why wait more than 12 months to see it fail?

‎To be successful with mobile projects, you need to be open to failure along the way. Don’t be afraid to launch the service before it’s ready. State clearly that it’s a beta and people will understand (Google had Gmail in beta mode for 8 years). ‎Launch the first version of the service with a smaller group of people after 2-3 months with limited functionality and then expand. Learn by doing!

So how do enterprises avoid failing with mobile service development? In summary you need to:

  • Gather sufficient insights and data to understand the problem being solved and focus on this
  • Involve the end-user and other stakeholders throughout the project
  • Focus on your core business and use existing products when possible
  • Be prepared to fail and learn from it to improve the service

You just removed ‘luck’ from the equation. Congratulations on your next successful project!

Magnus Jern, President DMI International

Tags: Enterprise Apps testing

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