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Ideate, Sketch, Plan: Creating a Road Map to App Innovation

Image by Leah Blandford

Move fast. Break things. Repeat. It’s an intuitive cycle that keeps entrepreneurs nimble and helps them disrupt traditional industries. Agile processes aren’t only for startups, though. When appropriate, enterprises can use them to create phenomenal, quick-to-market disruptions — including innovative mobile apps.

Before founding Atomic Robot, my partners and I designed an app for a major retailer. Instead of going through cumbersome governance processes usually followed at larger corporations, we used a “skunkworks project” rhythm that gave us the autonomy to pursue our creative and strategic ideas without any of the red tape.

Within six weeks, the company was able to release a minimally viable product, or MVP. By getting the app to market in a flash, our client gained traction, valuable customer feedback, and profits. The app became a cornerstone of the legacy organization’s digital strategy — all because we moved fast, broke things, and stayed hungry.

Understanding Barriers to Embracing an Enterprise-Level App Innovation Space

Unfortunately, not all enterprises are as willing to fight back against the status quo. That’s part of why it can be so difficult for bigger businesses to compete with emerging brands that embrace growth hacking and eschew strict standard operating procedures, rigid governance, and a never-ending web of internal politics.

Any innovation space needs some modicum of governance. However, enterprises should be willing to let small, diverse teams experiment and fail without hurdles. This helps innovators avoid getting trapped in an endlessly frustrating loop of checkpoints that impede the failures necessary for success.

Does it seem counterintuitive to adopt a fail-forward mindset? Perhaps for the stakeholders of publicly traded companies. Nevertheless, leaders at large organizations can help their brands grow faster and remain relevant by enabling a culture of learning and discovery. This approach enables app-building teams to gather key insights swiftly and test ideas that challenge norms without getting caught up in bureaucratic hurdles.

Shaking up “operations as usual” offers a huge advantage to legacy brands. The 2020 pandemic forced whole industries to rethink how they related to customers. For example, many big businesses moved expeditiously to leverage technology like contactless ordering and fulfillment to keep consumers coming back and associates safe. And the ones that embraced early failure had a better chance of securing higher volumes of market share than getting left behind.

Making Failure a Preferred Innovation Strategy in the Enterprise

If you lead a larger company, you might be curious about the best route to get innovative mobile apps into people’s hands as soon as possible. Here are five steps to guide your app team as it ramps up and pushes out innovative digital products:

Embrace a lean development process.

Lean development processes allow for short release cycles driven by customer feedback. Aim for a new MVP release every two to six weeks. Make sure each workable prototype focuses on a key target audience’s pain point. It’s perfectly fine if your initial app seems skeletal in nature — it only needs to do one thing out of the starting gate. From that point, you can begin to add features based on feedback.

Ideate quickly with remote design sprints.

What’s the best way to validate a product concept collaboratively? At Atomic Robot, we prefer design or discovery sprints. These short, time-boxed efforts focus on researching, designing, and prototyping app solutions. If you’re worried that your remote team won’t be able to communicate effectively, a tool like Miro can help you facilitate sprint workshops virtually.

Identify key metrics to define success.

After each sprint and app release, you’ll want to know what worked — and what didn’t. Without a set of pre-identified metrics, you won’t be able to tell whether you’ve hit on success. After all, success can become unachievable if it’s too vague or ill-defined. In terms of specific metrics to track, you might monitor your app’s average user rating, the percentage increase in app downloads, and raw sales figures.

Prioritize upcoming product features.

How will you determine which feature (or features) you should include in your next app iteration? A competitor analysis buffeted by the MoSCoW technique can help you prioritize what matters most. By determining which features are most needed at any given moment, you will lower the likelihood of wasting time on unnecessary bells and whistles.

Pay attention to innovation funding opportunities and implications.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have an unlimited stream of app project funding. To keep costs consistent, budget for weekly or monthly iterations. When each budget period ends, track your burn rate. It can be helpful during this process to create a separate innovation budget. You might also consider forming partnerships with select vendors to maintain your forward momentum without breaking the bank.

On the road to innovation at your enterprise, expect to hit bumps, encounter plenty of dead ends, and veer off course. That’s all part of the “move fast, break things” experience. Though it might seem counterintuitive, failure should be your best friend — especially if you’re trying to bring innovative mobile apps to market.

Are you looking for a partner to help you deliver relevant apps to your target audiences? Contact us for more information.