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Harnessing the Product Canvas to Achieve Mobile App Dev Success: Part 1

Harnessing the Product Canvas to Achieve Mobile App Dev Success: Part 1

Let’s set the stage. You’re a software developer. More specifically, you’re a mobile app developer and you have a great idea for the next Instagram. After a few weeks (okay, probably months) and a lot of late nights, not only is your app finished, but it is live on the app store!  And lucky for you, your app is as great as you thought it was and you are enjoying record downloads.  So now that it is living on many consumers’ devices, here is the big question – who owns the app, and more specifically your content?   As the individual who put his (or her, of course) blood, sweat and tears into it, the answer is you, right? Maybe, but maybe not.

I know this seems logical, and in most circumstances it would be, but in this situation, this simple question is turned on its side when discussing content developed for the web or a mobile application.

When developing for the web, even though the creator retains ownership of the intellectual property, the page or service is available publicly – so it becomes an asset of the web. To make the situation more complicated, this is not the case for mobile apps.  When someone actively makes the personal decision to download an app – to give it precious space on his or her mobile device - that user most definitely becomes the owner of that app. Of course the creator will keep the intellectual property of the app’s code, but the app itself doesn’t belong to the developer anymore – it belongs to the user. And as owner, the user is also the decision maker regarding whether to use it or just simply delete it. Unlike a webpage where a user may return after days, weeks or months, odds are slim that a smartphone user will re-download an app that he or she already rejected, so it is imperative that an app grab – and retain – the user’s attention the first time around.

The smartphone home screen has become the “most expensive real estate” in our personal digital lives. A good example of this is when Apple launched the newsstand app and prevented users from deleting or even hiding it inside a folder. This was so annoying to consumers that one user found a bug in the OS that could be exploited if a user was fast enough to tuck the app inside a folder immediately after creating it.

It is safe to say that when developing a mobile app, a team must have a product mindset and therefore should revisit its software development process frequently. Developers typically look at successful projects as being delivered with quality, on schedule and on budget. When developing mobile apps, this is not enough to be successful. If you think of apps as products that need to add value to their target users, while simultaneously delivering a great user experience, there’s so much more on which to focus your attention. The only way to do this is to foster a “product perspective” within the development team.

Agile software development is great at fostering constant communication between business stakeholders and the development team. In the Scrum framework, it is common that at least the Scrum Master – or team leader – speaks with the Product Owner (the person on the client side who represents the business vision) on a daily basis. Developers are constantly encouraged to engage with business representatives to learn about the details of the features – referred to as stories – to be developed. While this collaborative communication greatly promotes focus and keeps the pace of productivity (blocks are identified and removed quickly), it usually ignores the bigger picture by breaking the product into small chunks of functionality that will be developed independently by different people. It’s not uncommon for some developers to end up working within a very limited part of the product and to not have a sense of the whole product and business objectives. An important question then arises: if the developers don’t see the whole picture, how can they effectively contribute to the overall user experience?

In my next post, I will discuss the importance of each member of a mobile development team having a view of the full project. If every participant can work together, with a holistic view of the end goal, then the team as a whole can remain focused and achieve excellent results for the client.

More Stories By Marcio Cyrillo

Marcio Cyrillo is head of mobile services and senior business manager at Ci&T, a technology outsourcing and software product engineering company. With Ci&T since 1999, he focuses on interactive services and mobile development in his current position. He also is a member of the Ci&T Entrepreneurship Program, from which he launched the program’s first mobile app, runens, earlier this year. As a result of his success developing runens, Cyrillo now serves as a mentor to Brazil-based Ipanema Games, a mobile gaming start-up. He holds a PhD in applied physics from Universidade Estadual de Campinas and two MBAs in sales management and entrepreneurship from Fundacao Getulio Vargas and Babson College.

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