It’s been a few years since the mobile app hype reached the enterprise. One could argue that we are past the stage of discovering why mobility is important to our business model, and how the experiences we create can help change operations, customer engagement, bottom-line, the world. Looks like the mobility ship is full steam ahead in the enterprise… Or is it?
Well, it actually looks more like a myriad of canoes paddling in different directions than a ship, tenaciously ‘steaming ahead’.
It is true that most companies have already experimented with their first app by now, however, some embarked on it without any strategy, realizing later that they need one; and others have crafted one, but are yet to measure its effectiveness.
Having talked to a number of enterprise customers (those that were successful in creating a strategy), I spotted a pattern that inspired me to write this blog post. The process for creating a mobile strategy is overly complex, to summarize the effort and the approach, I will try to boil it down to the basic concepts.
The building blocks of mobile strategy
First, let’s look at what mobile strategy is and, by using a framework, understand the key components that constitute it. In its simplest form, mobile strategy consists of three key components: the Business Drivers that shape mobile strategy (why); the Mobile Roadmap of Apps (what); and the Technology Approach for building mobile apps (how).
The framework below explains these 3 building blocks of mobile strategy and how they interact with one another:
The best approach to creating a business-driven mobile strategy is to start by proactively talking to the stakeholders across the entire organization to understand their ‘aggregate’ needs and requirements. As for the key owners, it is typically a function of both the technology and the business teams to drive the process of mobile strategy creation. However, while business team has the greatest amount of inputs to the conversation around what apps to build, it is the office of the CTO that ultimately decides how to prioritize, build, and deliver those apps.
After the roles are identified and the business-technology mobile ‘SWAT’ team is in place to put the strategy on paper, below are the three steps or milestones to complete the mobile strategy exercise Step 1: Create Business-Driven Mobile App Roadmap (Why)
The first step is to understand the challenges and the opportunities your enterprise is dealing with. Without analyzing the external environment, you cannot create an effective mobility roadmap. Focusing on one-off app projects as they come along, without having a well thought-through mobile roadmap, creates chaos and undermines your efforts in the long run. No matter what the ROI of that one app is, and how much adoption you have managed to get, if you can’t map it to your company’s top priorities, you risk sparing your team’s efforts on the wrong ‘types’ of apps.
To illustrate the importance of this step, consider this scenario: Your company is focused on growth while the ‘portfolio’ your team is working on consist mostly of the apps for improving internal processes (e.g. finance and intranet apps), rather than the apps for fueling your growth engine (e.g. sales automation and customer facing apps). This is a clear indication that your mobile portfolio is not aligned with the overall company strategy. The ‘litmus test’ for your mobility strategy (or for its success) in this case would be the metrics such as an increase in revenue from the mobile channel or the number of deals closed per sales representative as a result of mobile sales automation. Step 2: Prioritize Mobile App Portfolio (What)
Once you have identified the strategic app initiatives, there are multiple tools to help you prioritize them. Mobile projects may be treated at this point as any other portfolio with a classic matrix represented by benefit potential
of each app and estimated development effort
If you wonder what impacts the development effort, below is a list to start with:
- Ease of gathering requirements
- UI approach and capabilities
- Number of device types supported
- Migration requirements for legacy systems
- Data mapping/ integration needs
- Number of business processes touched
- Off-line capabilities of apps
- Scalability requirements
As for estimating the annual benefit potential, you can use a standard ROI model by looking at man hours*average rate saved (in the case of internal employee apps), increased revenue per employee (in the case of sales automation, order processing, etc. apps) and increased revenue from mobile (in the case of mCommerce).
Step 3: Select the Right Technology Approach (How)
Creating a ‘dream list’ of apps is only a good start. The most critical part of mobile strategy is deciding on the right approach for building apps. Businesses have been generating application ideas for decades; but mobile has been around for only a few years. Developing for a mobile-first world isn’t the same as developing for web, nor for desktop. The three-tier architecture used in the PC world can’t flex, scale, or provide the required experience to always-connected mobile employee and customers (Forrester). Executing mobile strategy is a challenge.
While it is true that there are a myriad of options for building mobile apps, the mere diversity of mobile use cases leave no room for a one-size fits all solution. On the other hand, only using point solutions (for native for e.g.) results in quadrupled development effort throughout your app’s lifecycle due to the costs involved in learning new skills and maintaining multiple code bases.
One important way to help you decide a technology approach is to compare the estimated TCO (total cost of ownership) of your app for multiple development options that you are considering. You can estimate the TCO of app development by factoring in the investment for the software, implementation, and delivery as well as the expected maintenance costs going forward. Below is an example of the summary costs over 3 years for 2 (you can include more) technology options (A and B):
In the example above by going with option B, the company could save $305,000 over 3 years.
However, the TCO is not the only tool that drives the decision for selecting the right technology, especially when it comes to purchasing tools and platforms. Security capabilities, support and service level agreements, and the vendor’s vision, along with the completeness of features, are key considerations in support of your mobile strategy. In conclusion
Failed projects, internal team frustrations, little adoption, and mounting maintenance costs are all part of the learning process in your enterprises mobile journey. But having a clear strategy could help you stay focused on the ultimate result you are trying to achieve and better optimize your development resources. In one of our recent blog post, 7 Steps to a Successful Mobile Deployment, we talk in more depth about the best practices in effectively managing mobile projects.
How about your organization? Do you have a mobile strategy in place? Have you been successful in implementing it? I would love to hear your stories.