The rapidly changing landscape of technologies, operating systems, handsets and application stores can create an overwhelming business situation for any developer. A successful mobile developer program should help simplify the possibilities for developers by suggesting the type of applications that will have a higher chance of market success and guiding them toward the right set of technologies and tools.

In order for companies to begin a successful developer program, a few best practices can help companies improve the return on investment for their mobile developer programs.

Align your developer program goals with your company goals
It can be tempting to look at your program as simply a technology initiative: a team of IT people focused on building a portal to support current and prospective developers. “If we build it, they will come” is a common mindset, but this often isn’t the case.

It’s important to first determine which key business goals your program will help drive. Is your business looking to add developers to support business expansion into an enterprise market? Is your company looking to grow into new markets with a new application? Ultimately, to be successful, your mobile developer program must align with your corporate goals and objectives.

Begin by forming a multi-disciplinary team comprised of representatives from all major functions of your company. Your team and the executives they support will help ensure the right business focus for your mobile developer program.

Determine what you stand for and why developers care
The initial recruitment of mobile developers may seem like a daunting task. Begin by conducting market research on relevant external audiences, and look at your competitors and other programs to build an initial list of prospective developers. Companies should study the competitive landscape, understand what’s missing, and determine what will be enticing to the mobile developer community.

Ask current and prospective mobile developers what they want and what they need most in a developer program as well as what is missing or most disappointing about competitive programs. Market research should include focus groups, one-on-one interviews and social networking. Create a community of like-minded professionals who are jointly pursuing a business opportunity. If your market research initiative results in a compelling value proposition, the following recruitment effort will be easier, as long as you’re willing to pick up the phone and make direct calls to foster personal relationships.
Communicate your value proposition to the developer community
Form strategic business relationships with developers by understanding what they are primarily looking for in a program. Basically, developers are interested in working with the most innovative mobile programs and applications. However, with thousands of handsets, machine-to-machine appliances and an unlimited number of network APIs and SDKs to choose from, they need help deciding what innovative programs will make them a success.

The advice and guidance you give your developer community on how to succeed in the marketplace will be a key component to your overall value proposition. As you build your system catalog with your own hardware content, consider leveraging third-party efforts by bringing published content into your portal as a supplement. This will help make your program the go-to catalog for all information your mobile developers need to be successful.  

Build a portal, not a website
A portal registers and authenticates its users with advanced registration and security capabilities that recognize users and their company relationships. Additionally, a portal can display multiple user experiences depending on the user’s specialization or role. On the other hand, a website is open and displays the same content for everyone.

When building your portal, don’t require too much information from developers too early. Developers are often turned away when asked to fill out too many registration forms. Wait until they have already invested time in your program before asking them to supply more-detailed information.

When establishing your portal requirements, the ability to quickly implement updates and changes needs to be at the top of your list. Mobile developer programs always need to be updated with the freshest content, so it’s important to ensure that your system architecture and programming approach supports rapid changes. Your portal needs to reflect the latest downloads, FAQs, market, and technical content and developer-generated forums. Without the latest content on display for your developers, they will look elsewhere.

Additionally, it’s critical to optimize your portal for mobile users to reach more mobile developers.

Google is the No. 1 place developers go to search for information, not your portal. Therefore, your portal must be search-engine optimized, or the content you want developers to find will be insignificant.

Demonstrate strategic business value to your executives
The strategic benefits of your program should be communicated to all executive teams, including the C-suite, finance, sales, marketing, product development and operations. As your program grows, so will its output, so it’s important to keep track of and report on the results. Count the growing number of searches for your devices that are made in conjunction with the developers’ efforts.

Additionally, your developer program portal will need powerful dashboard and underlying analytics to support this process and measure total logins, page views, downloads, site referrals, site searches, new registrations and new forum threads. This data is important to communicate your success.

Ultimately, these best practices will help increase your program’s perception by the larger developer community and chances of long-term success with your device.

Steve Glagow is executive vice president at He specializes in setting up developer programs for enterprises.