Executives understand that mobile application quality matters. They realize that employees and consumers have a wide range of choices, and that they are willing to abandon apps at the first sign of poor performance. They may even know that 22% of apps are only used once, and 60% of users who don’t return to an app within seven days are gone forever.

Forward-thinking executives consider the effects of quality on brand image, employee productivity, and even governance and compliance. Still, while these are precisely the issues that concern upper management and the board, application quality is rarely a board-level key performance indicator.

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The reason is simple: Most executives have no visibility into the actual quality of the apps their teams deliver, and when they do, it is only anecdotal. Features and expected delivery timelines (e.g., “three weeks to multi-user support”) are integral to business planning, yet quality metrics for those features are not reported. There is a binary checklist in which features are either present or absent, when it is the quality of those features that will make or break mobile success of failure.

American Airlines discovered the consequences of poor mobile quality on its app for pilots firsthand when a glitch delayed flights for several thousand customers. The airline was able to triage the problem, but not before the app crashed entirely, damaging the company’s reputation and bottom line. For eBay, just an hour of downtime for their mobile channels represents more than US$3 million in commerce volume.

The solution: Quantifying quality
The answer is straightforward: Executives and board members should insist on a stream of concrete, repeatable data regarding mobile quality to inform business decisions. A good deal of quality is based on user perception, so the “quality metric” may never reach 100% quantification. but businesses can make enormous strides in the right direction by following six steps.

Step 1: Monitor app performance over time. One board-level quality metric that is easy to measure and has a big impact on an app’s success is performance. Sixty-one percent of users expect apps to launch in four seconds or less, and nearly half of users expect in-app responses in less than two seconds. Failing to meet those expectations is costly. Fifty-three percent of users have uninstalled or removed a mobile app with severe issues like crashes, freezes or errors, and 80% will only attempt to use a problematic app three times or fewer. This is true for consumer apps when a competing app is just a swipe away, and for enterprise apps when busy employees will abandon or find ways (often not sanctioned) around slow apps.