Mobile Strategy and the Content Continuum: Part III – Strategy

Putting the strategy to work:  We can use what we know about different user types and their daily workflows, and compare this to the type of devices best suited for the jobs at hand. This information helps inform mobile application strategy for anyone building apps to serve these markets. It is also helpful for enterprise mobile application development to increase productivity of a firm’s internal workforce.  Let’s say we want to build a mobile app for one of the user types on the Content Continuum. An app targeted at an individual investor audience would need to be fairly comprehensive, as this type of consumer focuses a majority of their investment time on monitoring, reading, watching, and other passive consumption activities. The investor will want to perform these activities on a smartphone, tablet, and computer. The appropriate device strategy here would be to have great investment monitoring applications on the smartphone and tablet, and a robust website for the PC. Some investors may choose to spend 100% of their time on a mobile device, so the mobile app or mobile-optimized website had better address a great majority of their needs.

Now let’s look at the case of a financial advisor. An advisor is a content consumption/creation hybrid, performing a wide range of activities from their time in the office to their time away from it. The mobile app strategy for an advisor should recognize the different “jobs” an advisor does, and cater to them with the best tool for the job. While at the office, an advisor is probably going to use their computer for plan creation, portfolio analysis, and investment selection. But while they are away from the office and meeting with clients, the advisor will rely on a laptop or tablet. A tablet app targeted at advisors should handle their desires for market monitoring, access to client data, light investment research, and access to reports for client presentations. The ideal software strategy might be to build a tablet application that connects to a web-based desktop workstation. The workstation handles the heavy lifting of content creation activities, making the reports, plans, data, and other content available to the tablet for mobile access and presentation. In this case, it is not necessary to rebuild the entire workstation on a mobile device, as many of the creation workflows are not desired on mobile and would be costly to facilitate there. By leveraging the power of the desktop for creation activities, and the mobility of the tablet for monitoring and presentation activities, the advisor has the right tool for each job.

Researchers are a trickier bunch when it comes to mobile strategy. We know that they perform a good deal of content-creation activity, well suited for a desktop computer experience. There are a couple ways to go when thinking about mobile strategy for this user type. The first consideration is to evaluate the mobile workflows of the researcher to see if the desktop software experience can be mobile optimized for tablet browsers. Assuming the research software provider is already delivering their desktop application over the web, it would be advised to mobile optimize workflows such as running saved report templates, accessing reports, and screening for securities. By focusing development efforts on improving the mobile experience only for mobile workflows, the team can avoid costly mobile development on tools that will only be used on a desktop.
Aside from targeted mobile optimization of web-based research software, the next best mobile option for research users is to build targeted utility apps. Utility apps perform a narrow function, but do it extremely well. Examples of utility apps for an investment research professional might be an investment screener, a report portal, or an analyst research library.

I've spent the majority of this discussion focused on personas related to the financial services industry, as that is the right focus for my firm's app strategy. But the principles outlined here for app development strategy in the context of a content creation and consumption spectrum hold true for many industries. The Content Continuum is simply one lens to focus app strategy in recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best guidance I can pass along is this: Know your audience; provide the right tool for the job.

Mike Barad is the Head of Product Components & Services for Morningstar. He leads an interdisciplinary product development organization that provides shared services, components, and mobile application development across Morningstar’s software products.


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