Building an Enterprise Mobile Strategy or Just Building Apps?

Glenn Gruber | December 5, 2016 | Mobile Strategy

When we engage clients about building an Enterprise Mobile Strategy (vs building apps), we start by identifying mobile use cases across the organization and across roles with the intent of compiling a list of potential apps to build. This approach allows us to evaluate and prioritize all the opportunities for mobile in a rational fashion to better leverage company resources.

It’s certainly an improvement over how decisions around mobile app projects are usually made—First-In, First-Out. But occasionally it still leads to “random acts of mobile.” Many enterprises have delivered fewer than 10 apps across the entire organization, deploying an app here or there for a given role.

But there’s often no holistic analysis of all the tasks that can—and should—be re-engineered and mobilized for a single user, nor which devices are most appropriate to target. Rarer still is the business that explores how it might mobilize business processes and tasks across devices.

Which seems odd until you consider that IT is being bombarded with messages from two disparate ecosystems: Microsoft and Apple.

On the one side, the Unified Windows Platform camp says we should build a single app that works on any device—so long as it runs Windows. That’s great from a conserving development effort perspective, but doesn’t at all focus on designing for the unique device capabilities or input methods. It’s most akin to a responsive design approach. Then again, if your company hasn’t adopted a mobile or wearables platform and is doing everything in its power to blur the lines between tablets and notebooks, there’s not much difference anyway.

On the other side is the Apple approach, which employs a jobs-to-be-done philosophy—each type of device offers its own set of attributes and is uniquely suited to performing certain tasks. As shown in the graphic below, these tasks can be correlated by completion time and input method.

picture2

In what is seemingly against their economic interests, Apple encourages users to adopt these lower priced, less powerful devices because they believe the future is in touch-based and voice-driven computing. And they are expending their R&D and product engineering dollars to develop and improve the underlying technologies that support that vision.

Pursuing a Mobile Strategy: Getting Started

While obviously not the only approach, the following are some suggested ways to quickly identify the best approach for pursuing your Enterprise Mobile Strategy:

  • Identify your enterprise’s most “mobile” users: This shouldn’t be all that hard. Just find the people who don’t have desks (think factory workers) or who spend 50% of their time out of the office (e.g. sales people).
  • Evaluate the applications they already use as part of their workflow: Which apps do they use most? What devices do they access them on? For apps available on more than one device type or platform (e.g. the Concur travel expense management app is also available on the desktop) find out how much time they spend using the desktop version vs the mobile app.
  • Canvas the users: One way to learn which mobile features would be the most valuable is to simply ask those who would be using the app. Run a structured Ideation session(s) with actual users (not just managers or business analysts) about what they would like the mobile app to do. Collecting all of these mobile use cases will invariably lead to great app ideas—particularly when business processes cross systems of record that don’t typically communicate and require multiple inputs.
    As you’re collecting these use cases, ask participants to score the business impact of the idea as well as assess the organization’s readiness to implement them. This helps prioritize which features are most valuable and which can be actioned quickly.
  • Channel your inner Jane Goodall: Asking users which features they want is useful but nothing can be more enlightening than observing what they actually do ‘in the wild’. At Propelics we call this a Day-in-the-Life. Over time people develop their own habits about how they do their job and their own productivity hacks around (or through) the tools you provide them—oftentimes wildly different than the script provided in the “manual.” When trying re-engineer and streamline a business process for increased efficiency, a little anthropology can go a long way.
  • Stretch your mind: This is where the fun—and the difficulty—begins. It can be all too easy to run to the “let’s build an app” solution. But now that you have a 360° view of what the target user needs to do, think about how those activities could span across devices, a begin mapping out what the user interactions look like at each step. What are the handoff points between devices and which input and feedback methods should be used on each device?
    Take for example a manufacturing engineer on a factory floor. One of the CNC machines on Line 2 is starting to go out of process tolerance according to a sensor on the machine. If it’s not fixed soon, a lot of product will have to be scrapped. That sensor sends an alert to the ME’s smartwatch (which in turn taps his wrist via the Taptic engine). The alert identifies the machine in question and instructs the ME to investigate the situation. A few more wrist taps provide walking-directions to the machine. Once he arrives on the scene he pulls out his tablet to identify the root cause of the problem. He accesses real-time sensor and production data and conducts a visual inspection, assisted by the augmented reality in his VR goggles. To confirm the problem and diagnose the issue, he shares the VR video of the machine with his supervisor (who is on a laptop in her office). Together they identify a worn part and with a few taps the ME checks the MRO system to request a replacement part. Lastly, he calls the SOP to replace the part and proceed with the repairs.
    For help mapping this process out, take a look at our App Scoping and Prototype kickstart. One short engagement will enable you to quickly craft and refine an effective mobile solution before committing serious development resources.
  • Build a mobile Roadmap: Now that you have a more complete picture of the apps your users need and the platforms and devices that will best meet those needs, you can craft an actionable roadmap that really makes sense. A roadmap that answers the following remaining questions over a defined timeline: Which devices and operating systems will you continue to support (and which should you retire)? Which apps do you simply deploy (e.g. Concur or Salesforce) and which should you build from scratch. In what order should these apps be built?

If you find you’re having trouble getting off the dime, give us a call and in just a few weeks we will help you create an actionable mobile strategy encompassing all of these elements.

Let’s get to work.

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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