A traffic surge takes down your app in the first hour of Black Friday. Bad actors hack and release all your user data. You watch a competitor’s MAUs skyrocket after they introduce a killer new feature. Do those scenarios have your heart racing a bit? That’s a good thing. It means you know what’s at stake when it comes to mobile product lifecycle management these days. The pace of change in the mobile landscape is accelerating. From security to the retention of talent to the proliferation of app data software development kit (SDK)1, the mobile ecosystem has never been more complex and challenging. In this environment, a strong mobile product lifecycle management team matters more than ever. One missed update can snowball quickly into bigger problems—and lead to negatives like the accumulation of technical debt. Smart business leaders don’t need to be coders in order to watch out for the accumulation of technical debt. But they do need to know how to recognize the warning signs.
User feedback is a critical measure of an app’s success—and one of the most visible. If you notice that your app has a 3-star rating in the Apple or Google marketplace, it’s time to dig into why.
Generally, average ratings indicate a series of user experience (UX) failures or complacency. Maybe the app has consistent bugs. Maybe it doesn’t deliver the value that the user was expecting. Check the written reviews and comments, then take the general themes you learn to the mobile product lifecycle team. Hopefully, they will already be aware of and working on the issues. If they’re not… It might be time to reevaluate the team’s structure and processes.
The mobile landscape is evolving at a furious clip. Operating system changes, legal requirements, hardware updates, and many other factors impact mobile product performance. As a result, native apps need to be updated regularly—at least monthly, and ideally twice or three times per month.
Failing to push new updates is a common cause of crashes and bad user feedback. As mentioned earlier, if one missed update turns to two or three, you start to accumulate technical debt. Which means that you’re setting yourself up for an expensive and burdensome overhaul in the future.
Keep an eye on the update history of your native app, including the release notes. Contrast your release history with that of your competitors as a check to whether your mobile product lifecycle team is on the ball or falling behind.
It’s critical for the health of your product to have consistency in your mobile product lifecycle management team. Onboarding new employees to a mobile product such as a native app is a major investment, one you should make as infrequently as possible.
In addition to hurting your bottom line, if the team managing your mobile product’s lifecycle is a revolving door, there are likely underlying issues. Maybe there’s frustration with the team lead. Maybe your company is based outside of a tech hub, and you simply can’t retain the level of talent needed to win. Whatever the cause of the turnover, you're losing integral, collaborative knowledge with every departure—and both the product and your users suffer.
You should feel confident that your team has firm protections in place around user data. You should know that your servers are set up to scale activity and data processing, even during the busiest times.
Feeling uncertain about either of those things is definitely a warning sign. Huddle with your mobile product lifecycle team. If they can set your mind at ease, great. If they can’t, then existing safeguards and systems need to be revisited ASAP.
“In fact, proactive management should take up about 70% of your team’s time, with reactive maintenance only around 30%. ”
Are you always hearing about issues that have been fixed, and never about opportunities that have been seized? That’s a warning sign.
Managing a mobile product lifecycle is not a “set and forget” task. Your team needs to perform consistent maintenance (like bug fixes), but also proactive management. In fact, proactive management should take up about 70% of your team’s time, with reactive maintenance only around 30%.
Ask a few different team members what new features they’re working on. If they’re aligned, that’s a good sign. If they’re not, or they aren’t working on any features, it’s time to re-set.
There’s no question that you should be investing in mobile experiences. But there are some common misconceptions about what that investment looks like—and how to measure success. Investment in your mobile product should be similar to those for launching and managing an e-commerce website. And however much you spent to design, develop and launch a native app, count on spending at least half that amount annually for a team to properly manage its lifecycle across product strategy, design, engineering and growth.
That may surprise you. But in general, there is under-investment and large opportunity costs in mobile product lifecycle management. Brands need to re-invest at a level that keeps pace with depreciation and marketplace innovations to avoid costly redesigns—and ideally at a level that generates the ROI the CFO has forecasted.
Does your mobile product lifecycle management team know which business goals they’re working towards? Can they explain how your app is set up to deliver on those? Are they reporting results and making tweaks on a regular basis? As business goals evolve, do you feel confident that your team can manage the strategic evolution of the app? Think long and hard about these questions, and make changes until you can get a “yes” on all.
If one or more of these warning signs resonated with you, don’t panic. A smart first step is to perform an audit across the different disciplines of product management, design, engineering and growth. If you find that the issues with your mobile product lifecycle management team are small and contained, you should be able to fix them and continue on. On the other hand, if the audit reveals widespread issues, you might want to consider your other options, like partnering with a mobile product lifecycle management firm to course correct and find peace of mind.