by Andy Pearce CEO of Powwownow

Around 12 months ago we decided to commission an iPhone app at Powwownow. We wanted to make sure that we developed one of the best B2B apps on the market, and worked really hard to get it right. Our graft seems to have paid off — last week we were listed in CNBCs Ten Must have iPhone Apps for business.

So I thought it would be a good idea so share some of the insight I learnt along the way to developing this brilliant tool.

Firstly do your research! Interview, meet, discuss and understand your customers requirements, this will help you create the killer features of your application that will make, your customers and new users download your application. Don’t just go off and develop an application that you think they need, I’ve seen too many companies do this and then wonder why there application is not being used.

This research actually gave us the basis of our application. The key requirement that our customers identified was to simplify the way you enter a conference call from an iPhone, traditionally you have to remember the dial in number which changes dependant on where you are in the world and the PIN number. This was the key “problem” our customers faced and we set about developing a solution to this issue.

Stage two is to find a company or developer that can build your application. For this we employed several channels, first of all word of mouth we just asked anyone we knew who had an app developed, and then undertook wider searches. Once we had a list of developers we looked at their client base, reviewed the applications they had already developed, and interviewed some of their existing customers. This enabled us to draw up a shortlist of four companies which we invited to pitch for the project.

Stage three, is to do some user testing on your how your application will work. You need to make sure its intuitive for your customers to use, a lengthy process but one that in the long-term saves both time and money.

Stage four: obliviously cost has to be factored in when developing anything new in your business. The challenge when looking at iPhone apps is that cost is very objective. It depends on the size of your budget and what you want to achieve. We were quoted between the ranges of £15,000 and £45,000 and had to make a judgment on what we felt gave us the best value for our money. But you have to work within the parameters that you can afford.

Stage five: design is key to the success of your app. I’m not just talking about the aesthetics of design I am also talking about whether it achieves what you need it to achieve and is it easy to use? It is really important to work with a developer from the outset that has access to designers and graphic artists.

And finally, I think it’s really useful and important when spending money and time developing something like this, to know what you want to achieve from the outset. We wanted our app to help contribute towards getting new customers on board. Because of this we’ve decided to measure the ROI of our app based on whether it generates new users for us. At present the app accounts 10% of our new sign ups. The current version of our app is for iPhone only, but right now we are in the process of turning it into a multi-platform app. The idea is that this will increase the new customer margin even further. I think this is a fantastic result. The only reason we have achieved this though, is because of the work we put in beforehand. Yes research can seem like a chore — but its well worth the time invested.