If there’s one area of IT that companies often fall behind in or overlook, it’s the realisation that investment in a software application isn’t a one-time cost, says Ron Novak, executive vice president for Segue Technologies Inc.. Although you’ll get a great return on your investment and increase productivity and profitability, there’s almost always a level of ongoing maintenance and enhancements required to keep applications running efficiently.
“Technology changes quickly, and so do user’s expectations of how their software should work,” Ron says.
And, like many IT pros, he also believes companies don’t pay enough attention to the continuing security posture of their organisation’s infrastructure and applications.
Ron recently answered a few questions for us about Segue Technologies and what considerations companies should be making when developing new software applications – especially for mobile. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about Segue Technologies. What services do you offer?
We are a software company that helps organisations implement their business processes into easy-to-use mobile and web-based applications. Our services range from developing mobile apps to get a startup off and running, to building complex web applications for enterprise customers that have advanced workflows and processes.
Specifically, our core services are:
• Web Application Development – Web Applications, Enterprise Systems, Content Management Systems with Custom Website Design and Development
• Data Development – Advanced Data Management, Database Development/Migration, Business Intelligence tools
• Mobile Application Development – Native iOS and Android mobile apps and HTML5/CSS Mobile Web Applications
Describe your ideal client.
Although we work with organisations of all sizes, we tend to work best with clients that have a very clear understanding of their vision and scope, and are looking for a professional firm to help them execute on that vision. Our typical engagement is $100,000 or more, and we tend to work with our customers for long periods of time.
What are the most common frustrations or concerns your clients come to you with? How do you help them?
Clients primarily seek us out with two challenges:
The first scenario typically involves a new business idea or existing business process that requires the development of an application to make the client’s concept functional. This could be an Appreneur or an existing business that has an outdated process that would be aided with the implementation of a website or mobile application.
The second challenge that we see quite often is when a client has an existing system that is not functioning properly or is in need of modernisation. This is quite common with our enterprise clients, especially with the United States federal government organisations that we work with extensively.
What new technology or innovations are you most excited about today?
I am most excited about advancements in multi-factored security in efforts to reduce and/or eliminate payment and identity fraud. Google Wallet and Apple Pay are great initial steps, but much more needs to be accomplished.
What IT trends or headlines are you currently keeping a close eye on? Why should business owners care about these issues, too?
I think one of the most important trends in IT is the expectation that the user experience will be similar on, or customised for, all screens and device sizes. “Mobile” isn’t really a trendy buzzword anymore, rather a current reality of the way people work and play. Google’s most recent update to their search algorithm (coined mobilegeddon) actually punishes websites in mobile search for not being “mobile-friendly.” Business owners definitely need to employ a strategy that embraces multiple screen sizes with their web offerings, or they will undoubtedly be left behind.
In your opinion, what are the components of a great mobile app today?
Although my answer really varies by app functionality, for the majority of the apps I use regularly the three most important factors are:
• The app was designed with the user’s personas and solves a real-world problem(s) specific to those personas
• The app has a clean, intuitive, and simple navigation
• The app provides most (if not all) of the same functionality that the desktop version of the site contains
What type of homework should business owners and/or anyone with an idea for an app do before seeking the services of an app developer?
Plan your App fully before starting development: You know what your app is going to do (the core function), but what is the user going to see? What are the technical challenges to development? What sets your app apart and prevents someone else from copying it and competing with you? Even more, how does your app’s design and functionality align with your business plan (the services you are providing, customer capture and retention, or operational costs)?
Set a roadmap for product enhancement: This will enable you to prioritise key functionality and future “nice-to-haves” that will balance your development costs with your app launch and sustainment. As mentioned in the first tip above, plan ahead for everything you want to do; but through your roadmap, you can reduce your upfront costs by just developing what you need to launch your minimum viable product (MVP). Enhancements can be done via focused development sprints (an Agile development approach is great for this), and can introduce more expensive features that you wanted all along, or they can be ways to adapt your app to user feedback.
What advice can you offer on finding a good partner in developing your mobile app? What sorts of questions should we be asking developers before handing over our ideas?
The biggest advice I can give to organisations looking to find a partner to develop a mobile app is for them to require potential vendors to execute a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and Non-Compete to protect ownership of your Intellectual Property (IP). I have heard horror stories of ideas being stolen by other organisations. Protect yourself!
In addition, be prepared to answer the following questions prior to contacting development companies.
1. What is your budget? (And maybe more importantly, how did you arrive at this number?)
2. What is the single most important element of your site/app?
3. Could you explain the functionality of this site to a 6 year old?
Each of these questions supports how software development companies like Segue arrive at an estimate, and the answers can greatly impact how high or low that estimate can be. Answering these questions can also give you a reliable set of information to provide to multiple vendors so that you can effectively compare their quotes.
What are some of your favourite apps out there now? Why do you like them? What can other app developers learn from them?
I am a big fan of Personal Capital. because they integrate multiple data sources to create unique investment insights for app users. There is a lot of information available, but it is designed in a way where accessing the various features makes sense immediately. Intuitive design can be a tricky thing to accomplish, especially when you are including a comprehensive feature set; but if you can pull it off, you will gain a loyal following for years.