Confusion surrounds mobile application-performance management today due, in part, to the fact that the term is defined differently depending on whom you ask. But a successful mobile APM strategy should focus on user experience, and include monitoring and managing mobile applications across their entire life cycle, according to industry experts.

Panos Papadopoulos, CEO of app performance-monitoring tool provider BugSense, said that one of the challenges inherent in mobile APM is that there is no specific definition of mobile APM on which the industry agrees. “Performance can mean downloads and ratings for some people; for other people, it’s network speed,” he said.

“For us, mobile APM is more about the stability of the software. The most important thing for us in mobile is specific transactions, how long transactions take.”

Papadopoulos added that it is also important to measure the quality of applications because too many errors can negatively affect the user experience. “Errors have an impact on user retention,” he said.

Mobile APM is not just about app responsiveness or speed anymore, according to Kumar Rangarajan, CEO of mobile performance-analysis tool provider Little Eye Labs. He agreed that how the app impacts the user experience is paramount, adding that app performance should always match what your users expect.

“Performance is something that’s universal across all apps,” he said. “Speed is still very important, but mobile APM has to go beyond just monitoring speed.”

Rangarajan said a mobile APM solution should help developers track their app’s data, memory, CPU and battery consumption. A big challenge in mobile APM is managing how apps affect devices’ battery life, he said. “It can be frustrating for users to realize that their app is draining their battery,” he explained.

“Even though the battery is actually superior to earlier feature-form batteries, it still drains much faster now—all because there are apps running in the background, doing things they should not be doing.”

Today, the mobile APM market is moving toward enterprises finally comfortable with moving their business-critical functions onto smartphones and tablets, according to Andrew Levy, CEO of mobile APM solution provider Crittercism. “As an organization, you can begin to think about how you are going to deploy applications across your organization,” he said. “How are you going to use these to move your business-critical functions onto smartphones and tablets?”

Levy said this is, by far, the biggest trend that he has been seeing, and it’s happening across verticals. He said companies are also facing operational complexities as they change their point-of-service devices to smartphones and tablets. “We’re working with a lot of field operations, tracking truckers or parts, and inventory management, sales, operations or insurance adjusters,” he said.

“A lot of mobile apps are thin clients that may connect to, say, 20 disparate data sources or APIs. Any one of those can have a performance impact on the application.”

To date, the top two methods companies rely on to evaluate mobile application performance are user ratings on app stores and social-trend analysis, according to Levy. However, the problem with these methods, he said, is that companies must be proactively finding application-performance problems before negative posts are made to app stores, Twitter and other social sites.

“The industry as a whole needs to think of mobile APM as a proactive solution utilized throughout the entire life cycle of an app, not a reactive solution,” Levy explained. “Additionally, companies have relied upon lab-based testing approaches, which do not account for the many complexities and issues that occur in real-world environments.”

With mobile apps becoming increasingly vital to a business’ overall performance, Levy said that it is important to manage and improve—not just measure—application performance. “Thus the focus and purpose of mobile APM centers on helping companies detect, prioritize, isolate, diagnose, repair and prevent problems before users or a business are impacted,” he said. “The aim is to improve customer experience, boost loyalty and increase enterprise efficiency.”

To have a successful mobile APM strategy, Levy said organizations need to monitor and manage mobile applications across their life cycle and at all stages of delivery. This includes networks, the cloud and user devices, he said.

“Issues such as latency at the endpoints, the amount of data transferred, and the bandwidth available can cause an app to crash or cause performance issues,” said Levy. “When all is said and done, the user experience with a mobile application is what really matters.”

Going forward, Levy said that effective mobile APM should include continuous monitoring and management of network services, as well as application availability and response time to ensure the best user experience.