MVP – The Key to unlocking Mobile App Success

In the next few hundred words we are going to show you why adopting an Agile Development Methodology and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach makes sense for any mobile app agency. We’ll show you how it ensures a mobile success for your clients and a business win for you.

When developing mobile apps for your clients using an agile framework, building towards a MVP (or I suppose we should call it a Minimum Viable App) enables you to correctly prioritize features with your clients and launch their app faster. It also puts your mobile app business in a great position. You are focused on delivering the right outcome for your client – a great app out in store fast and an app that just keeps getting better.  MVP also gives you a good business outcome. Not just a happy client, but also bringing you a rolling program of work and positioning you well to provide a whole range of post launch optimization services.

Agile might seem like the latest buzzword when developing new mobile apps, but one of the most important elements of an agile process is deciding which features are critical to your clients app success. This means you need to have a deep understanding of your clients app KPI’s and key success measures. Starting with the end in mind and ‘thin slicing’ the development plan will enable you to focus on functionality core to the success of the mobile app.

What MVP is not

When you tell customers you use an MVP methodology to develop their app, there’s a natural concern that you are going to deliver them an inferior app. Of course, that’s not the case. It’s about giving them the app they need, as fast as possible. Focusing on the areas that deliver most value, so they achieve their desired outcome as fast as possible. Its also about learning from the real world, by getting a functioning app out and in users hands so you can work with your client to prioritize where you focus future effort to make sure the app just keeps getting better and better.

In the long run it’s about saving them time and money. Rule of thumb, you could deliver an MVP for 75% of the cost of a fully developed product, so it’s actually better for your client. With the balance 25% you direct that spend on the areas that are shown (by studying the behavior of users of the MVP) that there is demand from users. So you build what app users want, not what you and your client imagine they want.

Focus on developing an MVP

When developing a new mobile projects for your your clients, or extending the functionality of an existing app, determining the right features to prioritize can be an absolute minefield. Given the expansive functionality of modern mobile devices, it’s easy to get carried away spending time and development resource doing the wrong stuff. One way to do it is to have a structured “Discovery” phase where you ask your clients a number of key questions to help you fully understand what critical to them.  The key is to focus on developing features that actively cause users to interact with the mobile app, features that drive Recency and Frequency of use.  This sounds simple but understanding how to do this before you start developing the app can seem tricky. But it’s important to think carefully about one or two features that will work well and avoid functionality that’s overly complex without justification from a user perspective. Remember, you’re trying to deliver value for your clients and focusing on an MVP will enable you to deliver the maximum amount of value in the shortest possible timescale with minimal technical and commercial wastage.

Getting bogged down in an overly excessive and bloated feature set won’t sit well within an agile framework, and it’s unlikely to deliver any value for your clients, so it’s essential to strip back the proposed feature set early on in the project. The faster you can launch the app for your customer, the quicker you’ll be able to start iterating new feature developments based on real world data and user feedback.

Develop a clear set of KPI’s from the outset

This is why you need to carefully consider your MVP in tandem with your customers. Whether you’re developing apps for Fortune 500 brands or SME’s, it’s essential you understand their business requirements and key success measures. Defining a clear set of mobile KPI’s, and working towards an MVP will enable you to avoid scope creep further down the line and maximize the productivity of your app. If you can develop an app that delights your customers by underpinning their commercial goals and objectives, you’re significantly increasing your chances of repeat business in the future as new features are added in accordance with user feedback.

An MVP enables you to maximize the efficiency of your development timeline by only working on features within the app that create genuine value for your customers and their app users. In essence, when planning for MVP, you should consider the first launch iteration as a starting point. Getting an MVP launched for your client quickly enables you to create future development plans in accordance with the functionality that the app end-users readily need. So think carefully about app features and focus on essential components of app functionality, anything that’s deemed to be a ‘would like’ or a ‘someday maybe’ feature goes straight into your project backlog. Focusing on these essential elements will enable you to deliver maximum value for all of your clients.

So as an example, let’s say you’re developing a new photo sharing app for an enterprise customer and need a quick way to plan your MVP with a stripped back feature set. The purpose of the app is to collate images from different social networks in order to share them via a single channel. Based on these core customer requirements, there are certain assumptions you can make about which channels will represent the best value for money during development. Using a data driven approach, you can establish which social channels are likely to deliver best bang-for-buck based on real-world data and some careful analysis. You simply prioritize integration of the social channels that are most liable to deliver high quality user engagement for the app and de-prioritize the ‘long-tail’ channels. If this means focusing on Facebook integration during your development phase and backlogging Twitter and Instagram, that’s fine, you can circle back around these ideas at a later date once the app is up and running in the market place. It’s crucial that you engage your customer at every stage, some of them won’t be used to working in an agile environment and tying core development features into their business goals helps to build rapport, stimulate new revenue opportunities for your agency and actively engage your customers in the success of their app project,

Always integrate analytics

By focusing on an MVP, you can vastly increase the efficiency of your clients mobile app development projects. The truth is that mobile and agile are a match made in heaven and your customers will quickly grow to love it as they see positive results in real-time. The agile framework works perfectly when developing and launching lightweight mobile apps that your clients and their users simply love to use. Working in a lightning paced, iterative agency environment is what’s required for success in mobile and agile works perfectly when deployed in this particular context. Working towards an MVP enables you to launch your clients app faster, get it to market and refine it based on user feedback and analytics. This is why it’s so important to consider analytical and numerical KPI’s at the start of your project in collaboration with each client, before writing a single line of code. If you haven’t already considered which analytics platform might be the best fit for achieving your clients business goals, the time to start thinking about it is now.

Agile is all about working in tightly themed iterations based using insight from your clients app user data. If you’ve worked out your clients KPI’s and already have an analytics platform in place, that’s great news, you’re probably doing a great job of maximizing their potential success. If you can adopt a data driven development approach and work in continuous development cycles with each of your clients, you’ll stand a better chance of developing mobile apps that deliver genuine value.

Generally speaking there will be a couple of core features that force your clients’ users to interact heavily with their app on an ongoing basis. This can be said of most mobile app development projects within an agency environment and seems to be overlooked all too often. It’s this type of horror scenario whereby your customers’ app feature set is developed with ‘desktop-first’ thinking. Successful client apps always start out with a simple feature set and evolve over time in accordance with user feedback and expectations by leveraging valuable insights through analytics.

Test and iterate – don’t guess

You can’t guess what features your clients users will enjoy. The only way to establish your clients needs and requirements is to get their app into launch phase as fast as possible. This assumes that you’ve considered how to market and optimize their app. Again, much the same as analytics, marketing and optimization need to be baked-in to your clients project specifications as early as possible. When you consider the bigger picture and the overall context of your app project, you’ll realize that design and development are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much other stuff you need to consider from analytics, marketing and optimization to MBaaS infrastructure and security, especially if your business is dealing with enterprise clients.

We can’t guarantee that your clients be successful, even if all of the above bases are loaded.. But you can vastly minimize the commercial and technical risk factors associated with your app project to a significant degree by focusing on their commercial objectives. Getting it right doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, but it certainly helps to point your customers in the right direction and maximize their probability of developing a killer app. However, what MVP development does do, is to prevent unnecessary feature development and wastage. It prevents you from overinvesting in the wrong stuff and things that simply and aren’t associated with a successful project outcome for your client.

Create a development hypothesis

If you haven’t already, start off thinking about developing a project hypothesis in collaboration with your client, focusing on one or two lightweight features that are likely to cause user interaction and repeat usage. Running a UX/UI workshop to kick-off can be a great way to achieve this. Unless your client hypothesis is absolutely perfect, at some stage in their project you’ll naturally be forced to pivot away from some of the initial assumptions. At best, you’ll have a tightly themed agile development process that enables you to completely minimize technical wastage.

The ultimate objective is to explore as many possibilities as you can with the minimum amount of investment in terms of time, technical resource and your clients budget (whilst optimizing your agencies potential for fixed project revenue and recurring income). By exploring a broad array of development possibilities and outcomes, using standard methodologies such as A/B testing, you’ll stand the best chance of creating a successful app for each new client project. If you can nail your clients mobile MVP, you can consider increased depth and new features at a later date, as and when their users demand them.

Getting started with your mobile MVP

If you’re a mobile agency, running an agile process with your customers will always increase your chances of success. What’s even better, is that you can actually monetize a whole bunch of services that will delight your clients and vastly enhance their overall probability of success in mobile. What’s good for your customers, is good for your mobile agency business in terms of cash flow and smoothing out bumpy ‘project to project’ fixed fee revenue streams.

The key to solving this problem is having an agency strategy that continuously enables you to develop new sources of recurring revenue. If you can bake analytics, optimization and mobile backend services into your project proposal and app costing, there’s a great opportunity to develop highly lucrative recurring revenue streams.

If you’re considering a mobile app project and need a place to start, sign-up to Kumulos today for a free trial.