Embarking on a mobile app project is a lot like planning a vacation. Anyone who has ever planned a vacation understands that it can be a daunting task for a number of reasons: Where do you go? What can you afford? What experiences are available? Will there be free wifi? Who is responsible for the big stuff like tickets and documents? How many people are coming? Where can you find reviews of the destination? And most importantly, how will you make sure everyone enjoys the vacation and ends up with memories that will last a lifetime?
Ideally, you want the kind of vacation that’s so good it makes you want to come back again and again. You would even recommend it to a friend. It didn’t break the bank, but you had the most amazing time. All of this is the true measurement of vacation success.
Building a mobile app has a similar trajectory. You need to know where you’re going, and where you’re starting. You need to know who will use the app, and which types of people you can group together. What’s the journey for each of these users? What do they need along the way? Who will be making the big decisions about what features are a must, and which are nice-to-haves? Who will decide when the project is done? Who controls the budget?
Much like with planning a vacation, planning a mobile app project that is successful, both during the development phase and once it’s live and launched, is about understanding your goals and laying out a process that achieves them. Once you truly know the goal of your app, you can set success criteria and project milestones to make sure you stay on target, no matter what aspect of the project you’re working on.
When you define success with your team upfront, it will guide you throughout the process. With the help of today’s blog, you’ll get clarity on who you’ll need on your team, how to know what responsibilities they should have, what different success criteria exists, and how to pick the right success factors for your app.
Internal stakeholder team
Whether you’re building an app in-house or working with a vendor, the most important task for determining your app project’s success overall is defining who all of your internal stakeholders are.
You’ll need to determine: who plays a role in defining the scope of the project, who is involved in funding or setting the budget, who will define what and how you will measure success, who is responsible for making the final decision when needed, and ultimately who will be the voice of the customer/client throughout.
Project Stakeholders – These are the people within your team that are representative of all key areas in the business. These include but are not limited to marketing/product marketing, finance, technology, data, operations, and design. This team should make up a small but autonomous group from all key areas of your business that will not only define project scope and needs but will also develop the measurement framework by which you define success.
Internal Project Manager – While this is essential if you are building the experience internally, it is of particular importance if you make the decision to work with a third-party vendor team. You will ultimately need to assign a Project Owner within your business to ensure that there is frequent and effective communication between teams that will be key to keeping your project on track and on schedule. This person will be the primary contact for all vendor/stakeholder questions, requests for data/information and decisions needed, and is essential to ensuring there is no drift in the overall project scope. This person is an essential resource in determining the project build and ROI in particular.
VOC (Voice of the Customer) – It is important to assign the voice of your customer to a key stakeholder throughout the project. A well-thought-out app experience that leverages the state of the art technology and an advanced feature set is only effective if it serves your customers. It is therefore essential that you make all decisions with your customers in mind. It should be the final “gut check” on everything you do:
- How will this help them?
- How will it remove accessibility barriers?
- How will it surprise and delight them?
- How will it make them want to come back again and again?
After you launch your app, your KPIs (key performance indicators) should be closely aligned to customer experience and the metrics that measure this.
Decision Maker – A key component of your primary stakeholder team is the person who is able to make decisions that are crucial to the success and progress of your project. This person ultimately owns the budget and is directly accountable to ensuring the project is on track and on budget. They are empowered to make the final calls on all key decisions. This is of particular importance as you engage with a third-party vendor to build your app. While the day-to-day communications would still fall to the project manager, the decision maker is empowered to make final calls on behalf of the larger stakeholder group and the business to ensure you have velocity of decision-making, keeping the project on track and moving forward. While this is often the CEO or founder within the company, it may be a proxy who is empowered as part of the stakeholder team to perform this function. Ultimately, you are looking to build accountability into your project as a measurement of success. When you have a key group of people from diverse areas of the business that are empowered and directly accountable to the outcomes and KPIs of the app project, your likelihood of success goes up exponentially. With regular communication, project review cycles, and customer experience checks applied to every decision made, you are setting up your project for success from the outset.
360-degree view of your target customer
Now that you have an engaged and – more importantly – accountable representative project stakeholder team, it’s time to get down to the essential work of defining your target audience for your app experience. While you may have an idea of who your core customers are, few teams are able to communicate clearly who their top customers are, their needs, and how a mobile experience built for them will align with your business goals.
If you had to name your top customer/client and how much they spent with you in 2020, could you? If you were asked to clearly articulate the demographics and behaviors of your most loyal and engaged group of top customers, could you? If you had to name the top three things that are commonly communicated to your customer care teams by your customers, could you?
The only way to measure the success of your product or service is to fundamentally understand (and measure) everything about the people that use it. Realistically, most teams in an organization are more able to communicate product/service benefits and company financial or growth performance and less able to articulate clear and concise customer/audience profiles.
Building a new app experience or building upon and improving an existing app experience is the perfect opportunity to nail down a clear and concise customer profile(s) and align this view across the organization with success KPIs. Companies who are making decisions tightly aligned to their customers and customer feedback loops are better able to measure success overall.
Below are some key benchmarks that will help your core stakeholder team determine who your target customers/audiences are and how you will define success by understanding the users in a meaningful way.
Available Audience – Who is the specific available audience and what does this audience look like in terms will continue to measure success based on their areas of direct influence; it is essential to define these core and shared business goals to ensure that your shared dashboard is directly tied into these goals at every step of the process. The best and most effective way to ensure that this happens is to directly tie accountability (read: bonuses, salary increases, and promotions) to these app project metrics and KPIs.
Common team metrics
As a starting point, let’s look at some of the key ways that members of your stakeholder group and their functional KPIs would likely define measurement or measure the success of your app. Please note that this is a list of common metrics and is not inclusive of every way that teams are measuring success of their app projects.
The marketing team will fundamentally be a strong voice of the customer and will look at all KPIs as they directly relate to customer behavior. Some of these include but are not limited to:
- Monthly/daily active users
- Downloads (how many people have downloaded your app)
- Opens (how many people open and use the app and what is the frequency of these actions)
- Revenue (lift in revenue or change in revenue and recurring revenue)
- Lifetime value of a customer (LTV)
- Cost per acquisition
- Engagement (how are your customers interacting, purchasing, frequency that they come back)
- Basket size (how much they purchase and changes or lifts over time)
- Reviews (direct product or service reviews as well as app store reviews or industry review platforms)
- Customer service feedback or direct customer feedback
- Direct response to offers or campaigns in the market (coupon codes, loyalty offers)
- New product or service testing and the associated customer feedback loop
- Key demographics and traffic sources (where they live, their age, their average income, average purchase, how they found you)
The finance team will fundamentally care about the nuts and bolts of the investment related to your app project, including profit and loss and maintaining a tight control over budget.
- Revenue (net new or changes in revenue over time)
- CPA (cost per acquisition and return on investment in these costs)
- Cost reductions (efficiencies to be found across all company functions)
- ROI (what is the direct return on all dollars spent, including labor costs associated with building and maintaining your app project, vendor costs, and efficiencies)
The technology or product team is going to closely watch the daily and weekly health of the app and the satisfaction of customers.
- App store reviews
- Monthly/daily active users
- Load times
- Conversion rates
- Bounce rates
- Retention rates
- User actions per session
- Net promoter scores
- Customer satisfaction scores and feedback
Design (UX/UI) Teams
The design team focuses on the in-app experience and how the app handles and feels to the users themselves. Instead of looking at quantitative results, they are looking at qualitative metrics to understand how best to improve the app for the user.
- Abandons within features
- Overall engagement
- Path to conversion/conversion rate (can users easily navigate through to conversion points and are they converting as intended)
- Accessibility feedback
- Direct customer/user feedback and satisfaction
- App store ratings/reviews
- Users are able to do more in less time overall (e.g., autofills, predictive experiences)
- NPS (Net Promoter Scores) overall
The critical juncture exists here between what individual teams measure and what the company will measure to gauge the success of the overall app project. Individual team metrics allow for a more detailed and in-depth conversation around specific behaviors, testing and experimentation, and – most importantly – direct feedback from your clients or customers. They provide the “whys” behind what you are seeing in your dashboard.
Don’t be afraid to evolve your KPIs over time
It is also essential to understand that KPIs can and should change over time. As your business, and more importantly, your customers evolve, so should your benchmarks of success. For instance, you may look at the rate of adoption by your users as a KPI because you are launching a new technology into the marketplace as part of your app experience. As your customers (and the overall market) become more comfortable with this new technology, you would evolve your adoption metric into a retention metric. Do not be complicit with a “set it and forget it” approach. Evolving how and what you measure will ultimately help you continue to define the success of your app over time and will inform crucial decisions around the next evolution of your app project.
Budget is perhaps the most often-used measure of success (although not always an accurate measure of success) when it comes to a project of this nature. Did you get your money’s worth? Did it further your business goals as a direct result of the spend? Can you clearly show a good return on the investment?
The biggest factor in using budget as a measure of success is ensuring you have set proper budgeting from the start as part of your app project goals. Good project scoping at this stage means fewer financial surprises down the road and ultimately a final product that is closely aligned with your business goals and KPIs.
Good budgeting is as much a measure of realistic expectations as it is a measurement tool for success. Essentially, it is the delicate balance between what you want versus what you can afford. So where do you start?
This is the first task of your internal stakeholder group prior to embarking on any next steps, including engaging a vendor partner or project team. There are a number of different variables to consider as part of your budgeting process.
This is the opportunity to look at all of your resources as part of your internal team and then compare them to the resources needed to complete the project. You’ll then assign a budget to bridge these gaps.
- Do you have the development resources needed to complete the complexities of the project?
- Do you have a design team that is skilled in both UX (User Experience – ensuring all aspects of the app meets the needs of your customers/clients and it is a seamless experience overall) and UI (User Interface – anything the user interacts with including screens and touchscreens, keyboards, sounds etc.)?
- Do you have an experienced and skilled technology team that can match your needs to technology that will solve your major customer/client challenges towards meeting your goals?
- Do you have experienced project managers, scrum masters who will ensure that the project is on track, on budget, and – most importantly – on schedule?
This is where your stakeholder team will need to be tough on themselves to ensure you have an accurate forecast of what is possible internally and what resources you will need to seek from an external vendor. The vast majority of organizations seek external vendor partnerships with app development companies for these projects as it is often challenging to allocate so many dedicated key resources to a new project without leaving gaps in the running of your day-to-day business.
A vendor who specializes in developing and building app experiences will have a well-oiled machine of talent that is deeply experienced in your industry and can leverage the 360-degree view of the project from the outset. This ensures that you are considering all major components of the project that will make it successful. This is what they do – every day – with clients just like you.
This is also an effective way to realistically budget for your project and have reasonable expectations about how much it will cost so you can go back to your company goal setting and align spend vs. expected benefits.
So how exactly do you get to a reasonable budget for your project and what goes into setting a budget that allows you to build a best-in-class experience for your customers/clients while ensuring that you have the financial capacity to complete the project?
The components of budgeting
The largest single component of the budget is typically labor costs, including staff time and project management. Most companies will require the use of external partners to supplement internal resources.
This will depend on the complexity of the application you are looking to build. Building an application to pull in basic reporting from other systems is different from building a mobile app or a web application for internal/external use.
The design process is critical to ensuring that your application is user-friendly and meets the expectations of your customer. The design will cover not only what the application looks like but also the user flow – essentially, how the user will navigate the application. The costs for design can range significantly, so it is essential to understand what you are getting with design costs.
Testing and Quality Assurance (QA)
This part of the budget can’t be skipped over. Your application will need to be tested, and the QA process should include an outside third party to ensure that there is no inherent bias in the results. You can and should test internally first but bringing in an outside source will ensure that the app works for your target audience. In essence, you want to test whether your customers can use the app and find value.
A project manager or scrum master is critical to ensuring that the project stays on time, on budget, and meets all of your requirements. This person will act as a central point of contact between the vendor and your internal team. They will also be responsible for managing the scope and ensuring that the project stays on track.
This is your rainy-day fund. It is generally a percentage of the total project budget, usually around 10-20% of the project cost. This is to account for unexpected costs that may come up during the project.
Even if you have an internal development team, you will likely need to bring in external vendors. These may include a development agency, designers, or even outside testing firms.
Time and Effort
The project timeline and the effort required from your internal team will also factor into the budget. The longer the project takes, the more it will cost. Additionally, the more effort required from your internal team, the more you will need to budget for.
Marketing and Launch
This is often overlooked, but the marketing and launch of your application are critical to its success. Budget for marketing activities, including website development or updates, social media promotion, email marketing, and any other activities that will help you get the word out about your new application.
Ongoing Maintenance and Support
Once your application is live, it will require ongoing maintenance and support. This includes bug fixes, updates, and any other changes that may be needed to keep the application running smoothly. Budget for these ongoing costs to ensure that your application continues to meet your business goals.
Setting KPIs and budgeting for your app project is a critical step in ensuring its success. By defining clear goals and metrics for success, you can track your progress and make informed decisions throughout the project. Additionally, having a realistic budget in place will help you manage costs and ensure that you can deliver a high-quality application that meets your business needs.
Remember that your app project is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process. As your business and customers evolve, so should your goals and measurements of success. Be open to adjusting your KPIs and budget as needed to stay aligned with your strategic objectives. And, don’t forget the importance of ongoing maintenance and support to keep your application running smoothly.
By following these best practices and staying focused on your business goals, you can increase the likelihood of a successful app project that delivers value to your organization and your customers. Good luck!