Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve still probably heard that the World Cup has kicked off in Brazil. The most soccer-crazed country in the world is hosting the largest international sporting event on the planet. I’ve read estimates that more than 1.8 million tourists are expected to visit Brazil this summer for the tournament. It’s all over ESPN and the Internet. And while it might be the bane of many enterprises’ productivity as employees stream games from their desk, there are some really great lessons your company can take from “the beautiful game.”
There’s a famous quote that essentially says there are two things you don’t want people to see you make — laws and sausage. Well, you can add organizing an international sporting event to that list too. Despite the near-unanimous support for each country’s respective national team, few organizations enjoy the ignominy of FIFA. They force countries to change laws to appease sponsors and require host countries to provide tax breaks for sponsors as well. Plus, all the ticket sales go to FIFA, not the host country.
How does this apply to mobile? No one wants to see under the hood of your app. People simply won’t use it or download it if it doesn’t work or solve a specific problem for the user. It doesn’t matter that putting on an event like the World Cup takes a ton of time and organization just as no one cares how difficult it is to develop an app; they just want to use the end result. The reason people even put up with FIFA is because the World Cup is quite simply the best sporting event in the world. You need to be able to say the same thing about your mobile solutions: You’re putting out such a quality product that people will use it no matter what. Now, we’re not saying you should model your enterprise after FIFA by any stretch, just that you can get away with a lot more if you have a killer product that people really want. The reason Facebook can get away with remaking their interface all the time despite an often outspoken resistance from users is that the product still works so well that people will simply adjust. `
The second lesson is about your audience. In sports, it all comes down to the fans. No fans = no sport or sporting event. Yes there are many things that go into making a sport possible, but the fans are the heart of the equation. The same is true in mobile; it’s all about your user. If you’re developing an app for consumers or a productivity solution for your own staff, you have to keep their needs at the forefront of your development efforts. The best app is only as good as the problem it solves and you can’t solve anyone’s problems without understanding the intended audience. Plus, if you don’t solve a problem for someone, they’re not going to download your app in the first place.
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The final lesson for today is about the nature of soccer in general — it demands patience. One of the primary reasons Americans don’t follow soccer the way other countries do is that it’s low scoring (also, it’s incredibly complex and many Americans just don’t understand the tactics). In soccer, goals are often scarce. And, you usually don’t have a big play that results in a goal out of nowhere (like you can get in the NFL on a long play resulting in a touchdown). Soccer is a game of anticipation and scoring usually comes as a result of many, many passes punctuated by a bit of extreme skill. Plays build and build and if you’re lucky enough, they can end with a goal.
The exact same thing is true of mobile.
In mobile, it takes a long time to get something to market. It requires precise planning, creative design, extensive development, rigorous QA and a calculated deployment. In soccer it takes years to build a team able to put together everything necessary to score goals consistently. Mobile solutions rarely take years to development, but the same level of dedication is required to put together a beautiful, functional solution. And, like in soccer, if you put together a great solution (score goals), it will make your users (fans) extremely happy.