3 Steps to Define Your iPad App Portfolio

Eric Carlson | November 11, 2011 | Mobile Strategy

Recently, we updated our approach to defining iPad App Portfolios for our customers – and by extension their mobile strategy. You can take read our approach to Mobile Strategy as well as the details of our iPad App Portfolio Definition Workshop. As we’ve worked with our customers, and spoken to other firms looking to identify their iPad App Strategy, we’re consistently asked what they can do to begin this process – how can they prepare their organization for iPad use.

There are 3 specific steps we believe are important to execute before bringing in an external iPad App Development company or hiring to your internal team. These steps don’t need to be 100% complete, but the output from the steps below should meet a level of organizational agreement. iPad App Development is no different than any other enterprise system development; for every dollar of IT spend, we should be able to identify at least a dollar of business benefit. Whether that benefit is revenue gain, cost containment, or profitability, we should only build these applications to directly impact a core business metric.

As we’ve executed Enterprise Mobile Strategy and Enterprise Mobile App Development projects for our clients, the firms that have undertaken the steps below have been far more prepared for success. They’ve have more consistent organizational alignment of goals, a higher level of engagement with the process, and a much tighter integration between the business need and the IT support required to deliver the solution. We’ve identified these 3 steps that will assist your firm in building a benefit based iPad App Portfolio.

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Identify the Metrics for Change

The single most important part of this exercise is getting away from treating the iPad as a hammer looking for a nail. There are too many instances where we see clients begin with iPad features looking for a problem to solve. “We have this great device, now what?” They start looking for ways to use the iPad – forcing iPad scenarios when there may or not be any quantitative benefit to do so. This is a difficult to avoid, as that’s the natural tendency of human thought. It’s easy to start with the iPad as the solution, and then find scenarios where this tool can fit. This may lead to some great ideas, but more often it leads to questions and doubt as the costs are discussed and the organizational change discussion begins to happen. This can be especially frustrating to IT owners who are fielding multiple business-led initiatives and concerned about direction and value.

We consult our clients to begin with the metrics we want to have impact on. Let’s use an example. One of the most common scenarios for iPad app development is putting these devices in hands of the outside sales team. The team of individuals responsible for in-person sales to prospects and customers. For this team, what do we want to impact? Typically, we hear metrics such as:

  • Reducing the numbers of sales calls needed to deliver a proposal/quote to our prospect/customer
  • Increasing the opportunity win percentage
  • Increasing qualified opportunities in the sales funnel through better lead qualification and targeting, or
  • Reducing the time it takes to answer customer questions of our products and/or services

Or more qualitative measures, such as:

  • Increasing our customer’s awareness of our brand and messaging, or just
  • Creating differentiation from our competition through technology

Propelics certainly hasn’t invented the thought to “begin with the end in mind” when it comes to IT technology implementations, but we’ve found that the iPad can be an incredible tool to impact metrics like the ones I’ve laid out here. Because of those possibilities, it’s easy to get lost in the features of the device and lose sight of the underlying goals. There are many ways to begin and facilitate this process within your organization. This is a key step in Propelics’ Perspective and typically the first exercise in any of our engagements. This also leads us directly to Step 2:

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Understand the Levers

For this exercise, build a team of end-users and executives familiar and responsible for the benefits identified in Step 1. It’s time to build some scenarios. Continuing the example scenario above, walk through the current sales process. What’s hindering us from moving the needle on the identified metrics? Are we following this process based on the status-quo defined from our current applications? Are our internal applications hindering this process? Many times we’ve found that current applications or processes have dictated how we interact with customers. Similar to some examples mentioned in our Mobile Primer for the Enterprise, we often find that the sales process has been built around outdated assumptions: We need a projector to show a presentation. I can’t build a quote in real-time with our customer because our quote tool shows margin. I need another sales call because I need time to pull together documentation and video to help answer my customer’s questions.

In every one of our engagements, we’ve found situations such as these. Scenarios built not because it’s the most effective way to sell or service our customers, but because our technology strategy has limited us in doing so.

In this exercise, it’s time to re-think some of these scenarios. What if we were able to pre-load all relevant documentation and video for a customer on the iPad before the meeting. What we if we were able to quote our product with the customer, not in a conference room, but while walking their shop floor identifying opportunities. What if I took a picture of a customer asset in need of repair and sent it back to my support team in real time – reducing downtime by quoting the repair in one visit. How about if we popped incoming web leads on the iPads of our outside sales team based on their current location – reducing the time from customer contact to face-to-face meeting.

Building these scenarios – even if some of them are impossible to implement – helps the team focus on re-thinking the customer relationship and opening up doors for change. These scenarios become the levers to impact the benefits as defined above, and a necessary aspect in the creation of your iPad App Portfolio. As an organization, Propelics has worked with many firms to identify these scenarios for change as part of their iPad App Strategy. Sometimes it can be helpful for an outside firm like ours to facilitate this process.

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Build some Mock-ups

Jumping to application design might feel rushed, but for your users it’s overdue. This can be performed in conjunction with Step 2, and it’s a great way to visualize scenarios and help move the innovation process forward. As we’ve mentioned in our iPad UI Design series, the sky is the limit in terms of how to structure information for the purposes of impacting your identified metrics. There are best practices in iPad App UI Design for sure, but a little freedom in application look and feel does wonders in opening up scenarios in changing the customer experience.

Listen to your users. Remove application and data constraints and for now ignore how this information will make it to the device, or how data changes will make it back into Enterprise systems. Use paper and pencil to build some examples of screens and navigation that could be used. Allow the ideas to flow.

From here, the more difficult conversations can occur around data management, device integration, and other items important to enterprise iPad App Development. But for the customers who have performed these 3 steps to begin their iPad App Strategy, we’ve seen an increased success rate in building great applications – and more importantly seen a real impact on metrics like the ones identified above. The iPad is truly an enabler of great possibilities in the Enterprise, whether those applications are internal or customer facing.

For more information, check out our iPad App Portfolio Definition Workshop – it includes these 3 steps along with additional processes and deliverables around prioritizing, phasing, and building the architecture needed to support these scenarios in creating your iPad App Strategy. Chances are we’ve helped an organization similar to yours with a similar process. Let us tell you more.

Eric Carlson

Eric is a seasoned leader with a keen eye for emerging technologies. He is well respected in both technical and business circles, due to his ability to match up the right amount of technology "geekiness" with business understanding to craft truly unique solutions. As a seasoned executive, with startups through successful exits to his name, Eric has the experience to advise companies on the discipline and objective approaches that are needed to turn ideas into reality. Eric can be reached at eric.carlson@propelics.com or on twitter at @ericjohncarlson.

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