To RFP or not RFP: Introducing the 2016 Guide to Requirements for Mobile Apps

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This is how many businesses will lose competitive ranking due to a lack of digital competence by 2017.
Mobile applications are now necessary to compete for today’s consumers. The businesses who ignore this message do significant damage to their brand perception in the eyes of those consumers, who have become much more fickle creatures in the last ten years. According to Accenture, 56 percent of consumers surveyed said that the number of brands they consider for a purchase has expanded significantly in the last decade. Coupled with the research showing that 85 percent of consumers prefer mobile apps to websites, it’s clear that abandoning consumers in the mobile space guarantees consumers will abandon your brand.

For employees, mobile apps are no less important than those made for the consumer audience. The strides made in reducing operating costs through the use of digital innovation have opened the floodgates of the return on investment of strategic information technology. Nearly every industry is capitalizing on the advancements of cloud computing and big data to see the bottom-line relief that can insulate them from digital disruptors taking over the industry.

Simply put: the world has changed for mobile apps.

The Real Requirements of Today’s Mobile Apps

The problem is that the way that many businesses pursue vendors has not changed: dust off an RFP template, fill in some requirements, and put out a call for proposals. Prioritize submissions based on cost and estimated ability to deliver, and the project is on its way.

There is too much at stake for these products, along with too much potential to transform your business to make a bad investment. The CEOs who have realized this will allocate a larger portion of spending to developing mobile solutions, but these investments have a difficult track record: 60 percent of software development produces ineffective or substandard products, with 25 percent failing outright.

Traditional RFPs are especially prone to produce products in both the ineffective and failure categories. The author of the requirements is often an IT leader with little understanding of the business or user needs in which the problem will operate. Their only mission is on-time and on-budget, without taking into account what success means beyond these two metrics.

For most companies, the root cause of this failure occurs at the very beginning. By failing to properly investigate and diagnose if a problem exists, they develop a solution based on assumptions about users' behavior and by the time they realize the mistake, it is too costly to fix.

A NASA study revealed that at each stage of the product's development, changing the requirements generates a ten-fold increase in cost. The further along companies go without user feedback, the more difficult it is to make the changes that users need. Many enterprises mistakenly assuming that mandating employees use the app is the solution for internal applications. Without robust user research to validate that the app works well for users, companies are only setting themselves up for failure when their users resort to workarounds, or worse, experience frustration and complication from the app.

This alone should convince IT and business leaders to abandon traditional RFP templates. With so much at stake, companies are binding themselves to an ineffective or failed solution; by the time the realization occurs that the product will not meet business KPI expectations, the budget for fixing those has run out. Every application receives user feedback; whether through a low adoption rate or the voices of frustrated users, the IT team will hear what changes need to be made. The difference with our approach to RFPs is that the team will have the budget and time to correct the user behavior assumptions that lead to those mistakes before the app goes into costly design and development phases.

Our approach is a different type of RFP: one that ensures business ROI and better suits the way truly innovative digital products are created. Over the next week, we are sharing the best practices for each phase of mobile app development and how to construct a request for proposals and vendor evaluation process that drives that. Download our customizable template below to get started on yours.

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