Thinking Strategically about Mobile SaaS

As a SaaS provider you should no longer think about mobile use of your application as purely access via a different device. I believe that thinking about mobile SaaS applications strategically is the right approach. Here are three high level questions you should be able to answer about your mobile SaaS strategy that you can use to help define and/or refine it.

First, why is mobile important?

  • The current trend line indicates that by mid 2015 30% of global Internet traffic will be mobile.
  • There are currently 1.5 billion smartphones in use around the world.
  • By the end of 2013 it is estimated that there will be over 210 million smartphones in use in the US and currently 58% of mobile subscribers in the US have smartphones.
  • Tablet shipments exceeded notebook shipments and exceeded desktop shipments in Q4 2012. PC shipments continue to trend down with an 11.9% reduction in Q3 of 2013.
  • Technology research continues to focus on adding more carrier and WiFi bandwidth and providing new capabilities.
  • Technologists believe that tablets in particular provide tremendous opportunities for changing work processes and enterprise applications.
  • New types of wearable devices are starting to become available, Google Glass and the rumored Apple wrist device are two examples.

In my view this is not a technology trend that can be ignored by SaaS providers although many are not pursuing mobile strategies aggressively.

Here are three questions which I think help to form the basis of a strategy. There are all interrelated so addressing them in an iterative manner makes sense.

What functionality do my customers need?

This is not any different from the product management work for any other product however mobile provides some different ways to think about the functionality.

  • Is a “Mobile First” strategy the right approach?
  • Is there a subset of the current functionality that should be in the mobile application?
  • Is there new application functionality that should be developed for the mobile application?
  • Should the whole application be available via mobile? (For complex enterprise applications this is not usually practical)

What are my customers other requirements?

  • Security and privacy requirements
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) policies or lack thereof
  • Pricing
  • Distribution and support
  • Reliability and availability

What is my technical strategy?

  • HTML 5 versus native applications
  • Hybrid applications
  • What is my development platform? There are many Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings which either focus on mobile platforms or have mobile capability.

If you already have a mobile strategy these three questions will help clarify your strategy. If you don’t have a mobile strategy answering these questions and understanding the options and interactions between the questions are a great way to develop your strategy.


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