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A Second Set of Lines Blur Between Mobile Quality and Operations

By Jonathan Rende | February 3, 2015

CATEGORIES: Executive Viewpoints, Mobile Quality, Web Performance

Much has been written about the blurring of the lines between development and quality of mobile apps. The driver for this trend, of course, is the combination of lighting-fast design driven development and the smashing together of check-in, test and build cycles which is often referred to as continuous integration (CI). The “blurring” comes from a process where developers and testers need to collaborate closely and work interchangeably to get a release to the app store before a deadline.

What is less understood and unmanageable is the process for getting actionable feedback on a mobile app back to the small, agile mobile development teams after it’s been released. Often times, small mobile teams are left combing through subjective reviews on app stores to identify areas that can be improved to enhance the customer experience and reduce abandonment. The reason for the manual process is a lack of mobile application performance management (mAPM) solutions integrated upstream with the development and quality processes. Ultimately, the feedback that matters is the customer, or end user, after either ‘enjoying an amazing’ or ‘muddling through a horrible’ journey through an app.

What’s in a memorable experience

An amazing mobile experience is dependent upon three factors:

  1. Elegant design - the shortest possible set of steps using the latest widgets and flows to create a ‘wow’ factor
  2. Functional quality - an app doing what it is supposed to do
  3. Great performance - any activity within an app must be under two seconds or the risk is a customer never coming back 

Factors two and three - functional quality and great performance - can be greatly improved by integrating mAPM with mobile quality and performance related BI tools.

Making functional quality real

Most mAPM solutions today capture mobile app crashes and exceptions that can point to the actual line of code where the problem originated. This is great for developers but how does a tester leverage this for regression testing? What is less known is that most market leading mAPM solutions also have the ability to capture the exact steps a customer took up to the point of the crash or exception. Wouldn’t it be great if these exact steps could be provided upstream to the testers? This would address two challenges:

  1. It would allow testers to build test scripts based on real world problems
  2. Building these into a regression-testing suite would ensure that these problems would not reoccur again.

Establishing great performance in a business context

Mobile development and performance engineering resources are expensive. No one would argue against identifying and fixing performance problems in a mobile app. At the same time, adding committed capabilities and features are equally a priority if you hope to hit deadlines for many top-flight mobile apps. The key to striking the right balance between new functionality versus performance improvement is knowing where to invest your precious teams’ time and energies. A good question to ask a team is 'where can performance improvements make the biggest impact on engagement' (increasing conversions and reducing abandonment rates). The answer lies in correlating the end-to-end performance of important customer journeys (e.g., a shopping cart processes) against revenue generated by that particular process. This creates a clear view of how revenue is directly affected by poor performance. To gather how performance impacts revenue, mAPM solutions should integrate their real-time, real-user data with analytics and performance platforms to report and visualize the revenue impact over time. Only then can reasonable tradeoffs be made when balancing the need for new functionality versus improving performance.

It is still early days for mobile apps in the enterprise. With the average enterprise deploying between five to ten new mobile apps a year without well-established processes, the time is now for better communication and coordination between IT Ops and the mobile teams upstream. For this, mobile teams need a periscope into the production world. At the same time, Ops teams need to deliver real-time actionable information upstream to those mobile teams. This two-way communication provides a view of what customers are doing, what is working and what is not working. Integrating leading mAPM solutions with leading mobile quality and performance intelligence platforms is a mandatory starting point in the mobile journey when the lines become blurred between mobile development and Operations teams.

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