why-large-companies-apps-fail

When a startup enters the market and disrupts an industry leader with what seems like just a simple mobile app, it’s not magic or luck.

It’s their competitive advantage. It’s their ability to do something that an incumbent overlooked or ignored.

Research shows that 45 percent of large enterprises struggle to produce mobile apps. The struggle isn’t because large enterprises don’t understand the importance of mobile technology. It’s usually because a handful of other organizational forces limit a company’s ability to succeed.

Of course, not all big enterprises struggle to get their apps off the ground. There are plenty of large companies that have been able to take advantage of the rise of mobile and increase their bottom lines as a result. Over the years, we’ve helped plenty of enterprises bring app ideas to life, or find success after a rough start in the mobile market.

Below are two of the main reasons that successful companies build apps that fail—and advice to ensure that your app doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

Not Knowing Your Limits

One of the biggest misconceptions amongst C-suite executives is the idea that all developers are the same—that if a developer can build a website, he or she can also build a mobile app.

This is wrong.

I’ve seen this misconception firsthand even when talking to executives at large companies with complex IT departments. It’s a common mistake that often leads organizations to attempt to build their mobile apps in-house with people who don’t actually have the skillset to build a mobile app. As a result, months (sometimes years) are spent trying to learn how to build an app and iterate with new technologies, and the ensuing frustration can cause a rift that’s never fixed.

Rather than making this mistake, it’s important that executives spend time understanding the skillsets they have internally. In addition to reviewing skillsets, use this time to identify whether your team has the time to take on a new project such as a mobile app. If you have a team of four developers, but all of them are working overtime on a new cloud service, adding a mobile app to their plates may not be a good long-term decision.

Use this information to determine whether it’s best for your organization to hire new staff, use your current team or outsource to a mobile app agency. Each scenario has pros and cons. More than anything, you want to assemble a brilliant team that will help you create a brilliant mobile app. As Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation, writes in Creativity Inc:

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.


This guide on building a team in-house vs. hiring an app agency might be helpful:

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When Success Gets In The Way

Another struggle that has faced enterprises for decades has been their own success. What does that mean? How can success get in the way?

While success is a great advantage for companies as it offers resources and brand recognition, it often limits a company’s ability to innovate.

As entrepreneur and author Steve Blank writes in a recent blog post:

…Large companies are vulnerable because of the very things that have made them large and profitable: by focusing on maximizing shareholder return, they’ve jettisoned their ability to do disruptive innovation at speed and scale.

Successful companies often struggle with mobile app development because they’re too focused on their current successes to worry about what’s next. Mobile app projects are often seen by executives as complex additions to an already busy work schedule. Instead, businesses should view mobile apps as avenues to innovate, improve and open up new opportunities.

As an organization grows and success seems to come effortlessly, the bottom line tends to take priority over everything. Processes are put in place that limit innovation and optimize for the short-term impact and ROI. The focus on short term impact is one of the biggest struggles that face successful companies and one that has resulted in the eventual demise of many such organizations.

One of the processes that often hinders enterprises when it comes to mobile app development is decision-making. Requiring signoff from multiple levels or consensus across the organization creates friction and can slow down development. As a result, many ideas are often watered down and pushed to the middle to satisfy all stakeholders.

On the bright side, companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google are great examples of enterprises that have been able to sustain growth through innovation. While innovation has been baked into these organizations’ DNA, other companies have taken note and are implementing similar systems in order to succeed.

In an interview series by McKinsey & Company on the topic of innovation, Intuit co-founder and chairman Scott Cook talks about the value of experimentation for keeping large companies relevant. He points to a shift in the way decisions were made at Intuit as a pivotal piece of the company’s ability to stay innovative.

Cook shares that Intuit put systems in place that encouraged teams to use experimentation when determining whether something should be done. Instead of making decisions based on persuasion, position, power and bureaucracy, teams were pushed to experiment with new ideas and use the results to guide their next steps.

Companies that invest in experimentation do better with mobile apps because they’re striving for more than incremental improvements. Experimentation pushes teams to find breakthroughs and opportunities that add value to their customers, shareholders and target audience.

More Than The Status Quo

At MindSea, our process for app development begins with the creation of an App Blueprint. The process is collaborative, allowing for experimentation and an open flow of ideas. As a result, we help clients understand their audience and identify new ideas that might have been overlooked had they simply stuck to the status quo.

For many large companies, maintaining the status quo is what hinders them from achieving greater success. You see, for many of these organizations, the status quo is good enough. But unfortunately, what these companies don’t realize until they press “publish” in the App Store is that the status quo no longer lives up to the standards of customers and app users.

If you want to build a mobile app experience that achieves more than the status quo, our team can help. Get in touch with us today—we’d love to learn about your business.