Developer Usage of Mobile Project Management Apps
IndustryView | 2014

Project management software vendors increasingly offer mobile versions of their systems for access on smartphones and tablets. To find out how these versions are used by software developers and their teams, Software Advice conducted a survey of respondents in the U.S. This report will help project management software users determine whether mobile apps are beneficial for their companies, and if so, how to best realize these benefits.

Key Findings:

  1. Most respondents (61 percent) use a mobile project management app in some capacity; team leaders are more likely to use one than other team members.
  2.  
  3. Improved team communication is the top benefit of mobile project management, selected by 28 percent of respondents.
  4.  
  5. A mobile app supporting an agile project management methodology is preferred by 37 percent of survey respondents.

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Introduction

Mobile apps can increase productivity by giving employees anywhere, anytime access to work materials—research has even found they can encourage employees to work beyond typical business hours. Since mobile apps also drive innovation in the workplace by facilitating real-time collaboration and problem solving, they’re increasingly being offered as a selling point by project management software vendors.

Software Advice wanted to learn if project management software users are taking advantage of mobile apps. In particular, we wanted to see whether those most likely to be early adopters—namely, software developers—are using apps to help manage the complex projects that are part of software delivery. We surveyed members of software development teams about their mobile project management practices, their current platforms and the pain points that might prompt them to use such tools.

Majority of Respondents Use Mobile Project Management

A majority of the development team members we surveyed reported that they use a project management app on their mobile device with some degree of frequency (ranging from “rarely” to “very often”)—the combined total was 61 percent. The remaining 39 percent claimed they “never” use a project management app.

Notably, many team members regularly use mobile project management: 10 percent do so “often” and 18 percent “very often.” Twenty-one percent said they “rarely” use one of these apps, while 12 percent use one “sometimes.”

Frequency of Team Members’ Mobile Project Management Use

Frequency of Team Members’ Mobile Project Management Use

For those who lead a development team, the scale tips towards even more regular use: Over one-third of team leads surveyed regularly use project management apps on their mobile device. Twelve percent use them “often” and 28 percent do so “very often.” Conversely, 36 percent of development team leaders said they “never” use mobile project management, with 13 percent “rarely” using it and 10 percent using it “sometimes.”

Frequency of Team Leaders’ Mobile Project Management Use

Frequency of Team Leaders’ Mobile Project Management Use

When we spoke with software development veteran Jordan Edelson, founder of mobile digital agency Appetizer Mobile, he stressed the importance of “keeping the developer connected” and up-to-date, and how mobile apps aid this.

“Mobile provides that entry point to the ‘always-on’ scenario,” he says. Edelson sends his development team email alerts through mobile project management platforms and uses a mobile time-tracking app.

Improved Communication Is Top Benefit of Mobile Project Management

For the rest of the findings in this report, we eliminated respondents who said they did not use mobile project management and focused only on current users. Next, we drilled into the top benefits development teams see using mobile project management software, and found that improved communication is the greatest benefit (28 percent).

Top Benefits of Mobile Project Management Apps

Top Benefits of Mobile Project Management Apps

For 22 percent of respondents, greater efficiency in completing tasks was the primary benefit, while 22 percent cited better access to files and information. Another 19 percent thought their team had better awareness of project goals as a result of being able to access project management software anytime, anywhere.

A significant percentage of respondents also perceived other benefits, such as improved client communication (19 percent) and time tracking and invoicing (17 percent).

“Bear in mind, [there are] a lot of people who have to communicate for these different projects, whether it be from client to project manager [or] project manager to developer,” Edelson says. He adds that mobile apps are a channel for “urgent alerts” on a project, preventing bottlenecks by facilitating instant communication.

Agile Project Management Is Most Preferred Methodology

In previous research, we found that many project management systems are designed to facilitate a certain project management style. Among respondents in our sample, the most common preference is for mobile software that supports an agile project management methodology, selected by 37 percent.

Preferred Methodologies

Preferred Methodologies

Sixteen percent of respondents wanted their mobile app to support lean, or Six Sigma, methodology, which is quality measure designed for process improvement.

Edelson’s team uses agile methods, which means they include clients on early “alpha” software builds in order to receive feedback as quickly as possible so they can revise accordingly.

“There’s got to be a good kind of flow [between the developers and client],” Edelson explains. “Mobile apps are great for agile development because of the ability to respond quickly.”

Joe Conway, founder of Stable/Kernel, adds that mobile apps can be helpful as an additional channel to keep the team informed during agile development. “Agile lends to heavy communication,” he says. “[With] any type of iterative development—both lean and agile—any tool that’s going to help you communicate is going to make you more successful.”

Android Tops iOS as Preferred Mobile Operating System

Next, we asked respondents what operating systems they most commonly use. We found that a slight majority access their mobile project management app through an Android operating system (52 percent), with slightly less accessing their app through Apple’s operating system, iOS (43 percent).

Top Operating Systems for Mobile Project Management

Top Operating Systems for Mobile Project Management

Meanwhile, the iPhone is the most used device, cited by 24 percent. However, right behind—at 23 percent—were those respondents who said they use a mobile phone with an Android platform to access their project management software.

Top Devices for Mobile Project Management

Top Devices for Mobile Project Management

Android operating systems also overcame iOS in the tablet technology space. Combining all Android-based platforms (Android, Kindle and Galaxy), Android tablet users accounted for 29 percent of respondents, while the iPad was used by 19 percent.

Only 5 percent of respondents cited “other” devices, with several mentioning a Microsoft Surface tablet or a Windows phone.

“Android has a lot more manufacturers pushing their devices,” says Edelson of these results, noting that an international survey might show an even greater percentage of respondents using Android. However, he says that in the mobile app-building community, iOS is still more prevalent.

At most firms that develop mobile apps, they develop “iOS first, Android second,” Edelson notes.

Another potential reason why most respondents were using Android devices, besides their greater prevalence, is that the iPhone has only recently offered a large enough screen to function with common project management tools.

Conclusions

In 2001, the Agile Manifesto was published by a group of developers whose top priority was meeting client’s needs “through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Since then, development teams have adopted this style by assigning high value to communication, and attempting to work closely with business stakeholders or clients. Our study confirms that agile remains a popular methodology, as many developers want a mobile project management interface to facilitate it.

Development team members value mobile project management because of the improvements in communication it allows. And while this benefit may be most relevant for remote teams, there appears to be a consensus that having mobile apps for urgent project alerts is desirable.

When considering what project management platform to purchase, IT departments and managers should survey development teams to make sure that those platforms they’re evaluating is in sync with the current style of project management in use.

In terms of which mobile operating system a project management app should support, the debate between Android and iOS continues. Our study skews towards Android devices, showing that tablet compatibility may be an important feature for project management mobile apps. Some development teams, however, may eliminate apps that are not cross-functional.

As Conway notes, “[If a vendor] didn’t offer both platforms, it would rule out that offering, because we have people on different devices.”

Methodology

To find the data in this report, we administered an online survey of four questions to people within the United States who identified themselves as being involved with in-house software development at their company, and screened our sample to only include those who said they use project management software. We collected at least 390 unique responses to each question, giving us a total of 1,574 responses from development team members and leaders.

All survey questionnaires undergo an internal peer review process to ensure clarity in wording.

Sources attributed in this article may or may not represent partner vendors of Software Advice, but vendor status is never used as a basis for selection. Interview sources are chosen for their expertise on the subject matter, and software choices are selected based on popularity and relevance.

Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Charts are rounded to the nearest whole number. To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact noelradley@softwareadvice.com.


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