As companies increase their investments in mobile apps, they tend to get more strategic about enterprise mobility. For example, mobile application management provider Apperian last month published a survey that found that deploying applications that supported business processes was a key indicator of mobile app success.
In a similar vein, Red Hat found that companies with more robust strategies are more likely to use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of their mobile apps. Ninety-six percent of companies that reported having a fully implemented mobile app strategy used KPIs to measure mobile application performance, according to a survey of 200 private sector enterprises that research firm Vanson Bourne conducted with Red Hat.
Mobile App KPIs and ROI
Somewhat surprisingly, even some enterprises using KPIs struggled to show ROI. Sixteen percent of them reported seeing no ROI from mobile apps, while another 6 percent did not know the level of ROI they were achieving.
This demonstrates the relative immaturity of mobile, said Cathal McGloin, VP of Mobile Platforms at Red Hat.
"It is still relatively new for many organizations and has evolved at such a fast pace that they have not had the benefit of a learning curve yet. Often times these companies need to deal with numerous inefficiencies throughout the app development process, which in turn affects their ability to determine ROI," he said.
Business benefits of mobile apps are not always clear and/or articulated from the outset, McGloin added, resulting in poor performance or difficulty determining any clear measure of success.
"We recommend starting small and focusing on the low-hanging fruit rather than embarking on a more complex project from the outset," he advised. "This approach builds buy-in and confidence from senior IT and business leaders, and it helps build the business case for future and more sophisticated mobile projects."
Common KPIs for consumer-facing mobile apps include the number of app downloads, active users, application usage or session time and uninstalls. Enterprise mobile apps are less about downloads and installs, McGloin said, and more about application usage, data downloads from back-end systems, transactions, work orders and other such information.
Enterprises should focus less on downloads and installs and more on KPIs that show how enterprise mobile apps are actually used, he suggested. "In enterprise apps that access data from multiple back-end systems, some less common but ultimately important KPIs that need to be considered include monitoring speed of data delivery to the app, use of cloud resource/storage, and security-related KPIs."
Who Is Responsible for Mobile App Success?
Another statistic from the research shows a coming shift in who is responsible for tracking the success of mobile app development efforts.
Today, 72 percent of respondents from organizations currently tracking KPIs believe senior IT heads and their managers are primarily responsible for tracking the success of mobile app development, while 17 percent believe this responsibility lies with line of business (LOB) heads and 11 percent say it is the responsibility of the organization's chief or head of mobility. In the next year, though, 42 percent think the responsibility will be assumed by LOB leaders, while 43 percent of respondents said they believe it will stay with senior IT heads and 14 percent mentioned the head of mobility.
The shift is happening, McGloin said, because demand now comes from both external and internal users. In contrast, internal IT teams typically drove demand for software applications in the past.
"The LOB is at the heart of innovation and therefore increasingly responsible for addressing these demands from both customers and employees that need better mobile solutions," he said. "Ultimately, this shift in responsibility should further highlight the need for more collaborative approaches to mobile app development involving both lines of business and IT."
Many top enterprises are already shifting to a more collaborative approach between business and IT when developing their mobile app development strategies, McGloin said, with some even establishing a Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) where developers and IT operations come together to tackle mobile issues on a regular basis.
"These types of organizations tend to use mobile as a means to transform the business rather than just automate existing processes - something that is likely to trickle down to smaller companies as a best practice for approaching and measuring mobile app development," he said.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.