There is no questioning the momentum behind the movement toward mobile. Traditional Fortune 500 businesses must learn to integrate mobile as part of a larger digital strategy.

The age of mobile is here, and it’s taken off with gusto. Smartphone and tablet adoption continues to skyrocket, and traditional businesses are beginning to acknowledge the value in building a mobile enterprise strategy.

That means resting on your laurels will guarantee falling behind. To keep up with the personalized and on-the-go lifestyle of the digital age, traditional Fortune 500 companies must integrate mobile strategies as a key element of their business. This is good news — mobile applications target specific users personally, and when developed correctly, open the opportunity for engaged and lasting relationships between an organization, its personnel, its vendors, its partners, and its customers.

Meeting the Tide

The statistics behind mobile leave little doubt about its influence: already, more people spend time on mobile than on desktop, and of that time, 86% is spent in apps. That’s no surprise, considering that, as of 2009, mobile app downloads amounted to approximately 2.52 billion, a number that is expected to reach an incredible 268.69 billion by 2017. Those numbers will support $45 billion in revenue in 2015, which will climb to $77 billion annually by 2017.

While these numbers are alluring, digitally transforming a traditional business is a massive endeavor, and one that must be backed by airtight, data-led planning. That said, mobile technology is a top driver of revenue, profitability, and differentiation. Mobile apps are not a fad — business apps have the potential benefits of raising productivity, reducing the size of the labor force, and minimizing operating expenses. And because 64% of Americans own a smartphone, apps are readily accessible.

To remain competitive, traditional Fortune 500 companies must drive change and develop a mobile strategy that is both relevant and useful to their end user (employee or customer). Moreover, it’s paramount that mobile be a part of a larger digital strategy.

Refining a Strategy

Naturally, creative ideas for mobile apps are a dime a dozen. Before a business even thinks about bringing an app to life, it should construct a mobile app strategy that is flexible, agile, and relevant — ideas that can be easy to understand, but difficult to employ. However, there are some general guidelines that can help companies to stay on course.

Companies need to ensure that data is safe and secure and that privacy is accounted for across all devices. With the proliferation of access points — tablets, smartphones, etc. — data can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world, so dataflow must be completely airtight. Without intelligent security protocols in place, any productivity gains are quickly mitigated by avoidable data breaches.

  • Mobile apps should be viewed as transactional — never a one size fits all approach. Integration at an enterprise level ensures that apps have the access they need to present useful information and actions to the end user. No matter the form of the app, it must have a steady connection to enterprise software at large. Goldman Sachs didn’t release their email client, Orbit, without ensuring that it seamlessly integrated with their other enterprise software already in use.
  • Mobile developers should be in a constant state of amelioration and optimization. The use of measurements and analytic software is imperative to check and re-check the power and shortcomings of apps. Ideally, a company can quickly identify and resolve issues and service gaps.
  • Cloud-based solutions are necessary to maintain continuity across all mobile app management. Using a cloud-based backend will allow the technology team to focus solely on designing the experience and interface of the front-end.

Checking Boxes

There are also larger considerations — only once a mobile strategy has been laid out can a mobile application come to life. Before leading Fortune 500 companies create mobile apps, they should:

  • Fully understand their business needs — why is the app being created? The success of a mobile app depends on its ability to simplify business processes and make them more robust. Determining where specifically the app will best be put to use will help an organization build a mobile roadmap to enhance both current and future technologies.
  • Define the end user. Who is the target and what are their tendencies? Without understanding the specific needs of an audience, companies will end up creating a single, amazing, do-it-all app that no one ever uses. Companies should conduct interviews with their customer base — employees, vendors, or partners — to determine both their needs and the devices they use. By identifying common bottlenecks and pain points, companies can turn takeaways into actionable app components.
  • Identify the pain point. What is the problem you are solving? Often, companies allocate resources to building something they think users want or need, but ultimately misses the mark. At the same time, user expectations can be quite lofty, and pain points can be diverse. Fortune 500 companies must factor in the end users’ experience level as well as their own capabilities to determine which problems they can best solve.
  • Select the technology. What platform are you building for, iOS or Android? Native or cross-platform? Native apps are helpful when leveraging unique mobile features, like a camera or GPS. They can also be installed directly to mobile devices and the enterprise and different versions can be developed for different devices. Conversely, cross-platform apps are generally cheaper and less labor-intensive to create, but are rarely as personalized or robust than native apps.
  • Choose app analytics. How are you tracking and analyzing the app? Companies must use app analytics to understand app adoption, users, usage, and performance, which helps enterprises to adjust to changing demands, needs, and technologies. This has massive importance for the popularity and, most importantly, the profitability of the app.

Plans in Action

These ideas don’t take place in a vacuum — companies have already employed successful mobile-centric, enterprise-backed app development.

For example, AmerisourceBergen Corp, a pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution service, introduced a Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) in 2013 and integrated mobile into long-term business goals. They currently use a consumer-facing app, an iPad-based knowledge management tool, and a custom sales training/coaching app. This has not only made them more efficient, but challenges them to consider new innovation and champion bold ideas.

Similarly, Farmers Insurance has focused on customer-centered mobile apps and U/X. Their app allows customers to manage virtually all of their insurance needs and provides commonly used self-service features. This promotes better interconnectivity and engagement, but it also empowers customers to feel more confident about their insurance and choices. In 2013, they hired a Senior Product Marketing Manager to focus exclusively on mobile to ensure that their mobile roadmap had direct oversight.

Fortunately, these technology solutions and capabilities are easily available to Fortune 500 companies. The key takeaway is that they must privilege process over product — apps should directly target the experience and pain points of end users. This enables companies to leverage mobile in creating a competitive advantage that will directly affect their bottom line.