The quick pace of change in the mobile ecosystem presents significant challenges to financial institutions that are providing mobile services. Banks often struggle with which services to launch first, which platforms to adopt and what design specifications they should aim to deliver. To help ease the frustration, here's a breakdown of some important elements banks should consider to develop future-proof, successful mobile strategies that satisfy customers.
Application and Platform Maturity: Mobile applications should allow users around-the-clock access, and the platform they run on should be robust enough to withstand growing traffic and perform consistently along with the other channels it supports. Mobile application development costs grow considerably as the number of devices to be supported increases, and rationalizing the number of platforms to be supported requires an accurate profiling of the customer base. Generally, the wider the target customer group, the higher the number of platforms to be supported.
Competitive Edge: Mobile applications can provide a competitive edge. Identifying the organization's strengths and niche products to offer as a mobile services is an important step in developing mobile applications. But while this approach is dependable, organizations should also track market leaders for trends that could affect customer retention. For example, if a leading bank offers business travelers GPS guidance to locate ATMs, other banks must follow to remain relevant and competitive.
ROI and Benefits: Mobile application development is still fairly new and there is an inordinate amount of enthusiasm within organizations to blindly "go mobile." There is considerable prudence in analyzing and knowing return on investments before embarking on a mobile strategy. Mobile platforms have significant limitations and understanding them can help build realistic ROI scenarios before undertaking application development.
The Innovation Factor: Most innovations in mobile applications are ideas that aren't properly rooted in the context of the mobile user. Mobile devices can be more powerful when combined with the user context. It's best to innovate with simple ideas, keeping the user context in mind.
Multichannel Preparedness: Introducing mobile applications and services requires the organization to have a good multichannel architecture and requires astute planning and execution. Applications these days are delivered over multiple channels, and customers want a seamless experience between these channels. With the advent of new technologies such as NFC, for example, customers will soon expect to send credit card information at the point of sale and expect the bank balance to reflect on a mobile device after the payment has been accepted by the seller.
Security: Mobile application development is a relatively new concept, and security in this space is not fully understood. However, a strong security framework with clear guidelines for certifying applications must be developed. The Open Web Application Security Project lists the top 10 mobile security risks on its website. Most security issues stem from the fact that the devices are small and mobile and can be easily misplaced or stolen.
Development Partners: A development partner that understands your business is an invaluable asset. Appreciation of the business and industry knowledge contributes significantly to creating mobile applications with functional and business balances, resulting in a rich user experience. Mobile applications with the use context and user experience as defining factors are key to success in the mobile channel. But the most important ingredient for success is a mobile strategy that is simple and straightforward.
[For more on mobile banking, download BS&T's April digital issue.]
Hari Narasimhan is senior technical architect for the banking and financial services industry technology solutions group at software development company HCL. Throughout his career, he has been architecting, building and implementing large enterprise systems for the financial industry, covering the retail, corporate, capital markets, credit risk management, payments and loan domains.