Mobile SkylineAs you head into the new year, it's a great time to consider steps you can take to improve your mobile initiatives in 2017. I've come up with a list of eight recommendations that can help make life better for you and your customers as well as the bottom line.

1. Leverage those APIs.
Your application programming interfaces (APIs) may end up being the most valuable part of your mobile initiative. As you build APIs to support mobile apps, remember you're also building important interfaces that other systems may consume. Think about the many ways you can use them to support other Internet of Things, wearables, voice interfaces such as Amazon Echo, automobile dashboards; the possibilities are almost endless. Your mobile apps are going to change significantly every year, but the interfaces you build will probably remain the same or be expanded for many years. So it's important that you not skimp on the design or implementation.

2. Give the customer a single view of your enterprise. Think about how your customers look at your enterprise. When they interact with your company, they don't see it as siloes or business lines; rather, they see it a single company. For example, a consumer who has regular checking and savings accounts and does investment banking with a financial services organization doesn't see the savings and checking accounts as being separate from the investment banking. The consumer sees them as the same, and he or she expects to interact with them through the same channels, using the same type of interface. Don't force your view of your company on your customers. They expect to have a single login for your business and a single point-of-contact. Nonetheless, it can be a lengthy program to migrate toward a single view of the enterprise. Any new systems brought in should conform to the single-view approach.

3. Give the enterprise a single view of the customer.
As part of giving the customer a single view of your organization, you can bring all your data together to get a single view of the customer. A retailer that operates brick and mortar locations as well as an e-commerce site, for example, shouldn't have two separate views of the customer (one view reflecting traditional shopping, the other reflecting online shopping). Bringing these views together will allow you to:
  • Gain insights into customer behavior across all your channels
  • Simplify your getting a view of customers across digital and analog channels
  • Engage with customers in such a way as to win their hearts
One way you can facilitate this single view of the customer is by added in-store mobile engagement with things like in-app loyalty integration with the point-of-sale system, beacon facilitated features like endless aisle, or digital coupons.

4. Take stock of where you really are. Take an honest appraisal of the health of your mobile application. Is it becoming harder and harder to add features or to maintain the application? How is your relationship with the vendor that supports the application? Is it a healthy relationship or are you constantly struggling to make dates and to remove defects from the application? If your vendor isn't serving you, maybe it's time to look at a new vendor or to have an unbiased third party examine the app and the app program to see if things can be improved. Having a 3rd party view of your app program can illuminate latent problems and reveal new and better ways to do things.

5. Keep that app fresh.
Don't let your applications stagnate. That may mean going in and adding small features if you're lacking big things, as well as fixing minor defects as needed. Let your customers know you care. They will appreciate it, and you'll avoid having a stale, abandoned code base that you will suddenly need to pick up and do major work on.

6. Think about how you'll support IoT applications with your current software stack.

How can you use APIs for Internet of Things (IoT)? You may not have an application ready in 2017, but you can lay the groundwork for doing new things in the IoT space. Also, think about preparing for how to securely convey the user's credentials or identity from a mobile device to a device that doesn't have a screen or keyboard. For example, if you want to have an Amazon Echo app, how do you securely associate that Echo device with the user's account? Figure out what needs to be in place for IoT integration and start laying the groundwork for it.

7. Make that app accessible. If you're looking for ways to keep your app fresh, considering making it accessible to those with visual or motor impairments. This can be a great source of PR as well as an enhancement of customer service. By the way, you may also gain several percentage points of market share by improving access for these customers.

8. Be consistently agile, not sporadically agile. Avoid the "big bang" approach to agile and remember that the release of an app isn't the culmination of your career. There is continuing work to be done in revising and revamping the app. (See the fifth point above.) It's an ongoing effort that will require that you keep the agile team together, rolling on a project. Reforming teams causes unnecessary churn and loss of productivity.