Mobile is Not a Bolt On

Eric Carlson | July 23, 2012 | Mobile Strategy

By 2015, 70% of your customer interactions will originate from a mobile device…

The 2011 Gartner quote above is a powerful one, and something we very much subscribe to at Propelics. The “mobile wave” began with the consumer space, but the impact to businesses is significant.

Methods of customer interaction will change

Your customer base will increasingly expect to interact with your business from mobile devices. Today, those mobile devices are primarily smartphones and tablets. In the future, these devices will continue to evolve and play more integrated roles in our lives. We are very much in the “first inning” of the mobile revolution.
Your organization will have to cater to these trends by allowing easy access to your content and services via interfaces that may be quite different from what you provide today.

But more than just having an App in the AppStore™ or a website capable of being navigated on a small screen, organizations today are also realizing quickly that their workforce – in the field or in the corporate office – are demanding tools to make them more effective away from the traditional PC. They’re demanding the elegance and simplicity of consumer apps in their Enterprise applications. Mobile is more than another screen for your IT department to support and build applications; it’s the natural evolution of technology to support your business. Mobile is not a bolt on.

Mobile is Not a Bolt On

So what do we mean about mobile not being a bolt on? For us, it centers on your team’s approach to mobile strategy. It’s important to recognize that mobile devices are not just “another screen” to deliver your current processes. That the projects under consideration in your mobile strategy don’t just constitute small bolt on projects for processes today, but as an opportunity to build the foundation for the next wave of IT solutions for your business teams.
[quote_right]Ensure that projects under consideration in your mobile strategy don’t just constitute small bolt on projects for processes today, but as an opportunity to build the foundation for the next wave of IT solutions for your business teams.[/quote_right]

This approach should eventually extend beyond your organization’s mobile strategy into discussions with all IT projects. We’re working with organizations today who are already bringing mobile to the table in all application development discussions – from ERP, Business Intelligence, to custom development in .NET and Java, each team is tasked to determine if, when, and how these processes could be delivered elegantly to users on mobile devices.

3 Questions for Your Enterprise Mobile Strategy

Here are 3 questions for you and your team to ask when vetting mobile ideas in strategy sessions.

 

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Ask “Are we evolving this process?”

Avoid developing for “another screen”. If the business benefit of the mobile application solely comes down to time savings, you may want to look more closely at the problem you’re trying to solve. Mobile projects are expected to be “easy”, and this expectation can create challenges in spending the time necessary to fix the core issues through a new approach.

Example: We’re working with a East coast retailer who has taken this consideration to heart. At first, the team was looking to replicate a long and time consuming “store checklist” process that district managers were required to complete during every store visit. The first mobile application was a smple copy of the paper process – and ignored by the users. The second version took at 10 minute process to 30 seconds – using GPS location to identify store information, allowing to capture just changes in status from the last completed checklist, and building analytics into the application to see their progress towards personal and corporate goals.

 

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Ask “What does this look like in 5 years?”

We field a lot of requests for mobile applications that just “fill a hole”. They’re small bite-sized components of larger processes (much like the retail example above). There are benefits here, but this is a slippery slope. In 2-3 years we’ll see organizations with 25-50+ mobile apps in use all “filling a small hole”. This will create challenges for IT, a dissemination of corporate data, and processes that are overly complicated and difficult to train. To avoid this future scenario, we try to ensure that each application under consideration has a vision and a roadmap for growth. This vision needs to be in-step with the larger business and IT strategy that support these processes, as well as clearly communicated to these constituents.

Example: A global manufacturer has been building internal apps to support the remote sales team. First, a simple document store for presentations and sales content. Next, a small sales commissions calculator. Third, proposal ROI calculator. Fourth, an application front end to the internal CRM system. Each of these Apps has value – but without working together each is an island of data and support. Today, we’re working with this group to build a sales canvas that is extendable in process which allows a common set of tools for sharing of data within the application, as well as integration back to the corresponding backend systems.

 

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Ask “Is mobile a consideration for all IT projects?”

One of the most common aspects of mobile strategy today is that it’s done in a corporate vacuum. A team has been established to understand the impact of mobile, to determine a direction for core technology usage (devices, MDM, development platform, security), and build a portfolio of app ideas. Beyond these core foundational items, the strategy begins to lose definition. From there, it becomes “what the business wants.”

However, the IT team typically fails to look at the projects and initiatives currently underway to determine if mobile is being considered in these engagements. Knowing that the enterprise applications being delivered today may in the future have a large employee facing or customer facing mobile component, are these considerations being discussed? Are there methodology, design, or process changes that could be made today to ensure a tighter mobile integration in the future?

Example: A national service provider to families and corporations has been redesigning and rebuilding their current back office applications. These applications are 3 tier web based applications, with complicated processes and large real-time communication needs. When looking at the mobile strategy, it became apparent that there was little design or process considerations for interacting with a mobile device. The processes assumed one channel of customer interaction – which when discussed on how to “bolt on” mobile – turned into a large, complicated initiative. Instead, the decision was made to reverse the development process and re-design key aspects of the application to ensure that the process was fluid regardless of interaction channel – web, mobile, SMS, etc. While this step was painful in terms of time and cost, there’s a common foundation being built to allow applications and interactions of all types in the future.

 

 

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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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