You Say, “Mobile Strategy.” IT Hears, “Let’s Buy a Platform.”

Glenn Gruber | November 19, 2015 | Mobile Strategy

In reading up on Windows 10, I happened upon a 2015 Mobile Iron white paper, “What Windows 10 Means for the Modern Enterprise,” and found a line that made my head explode:

“…the role of IT in the modern enterprise is quickly shifting from a pure technology and security focus to one that drives business productivity and user enablement.”

It’s mind-blowing that IT departments hadn’t already assumed their job was to deploy technology that enables the business, since the success of “the business” is what generates ‘the revenue’ that keeps them employed. Rather, the sentiment reflects the type of command-and-control mindset that’s been pervasive in IT for decades.

The line also sums up what mobile strategy means to IT and may be the root cause for why many IT organizations struggle with mobile. Let’s explore.

Communication Breakdown
From our experience, IT’s technology focus in helping build and define an enterprise mobile strategy all started with a software acquisition binge. CIOs are constantly assaulted with news about the revolution in mobile so they’re aware they need certain things—a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform to implement security policies, perhaps an enterprise app store (aka MAM or Mobile Application Management) to distribute the apps plus maybe an analytics package to track usage.

Don’t get me wrong…many of these items are necessary. And odds are that, individually, many of these big-ticket items selected via the RFP process are genuinely good products. But once the POs have been cut, CIOs assume the business is “enabled” and the “mobile strategy project” is done.

Unfortunately, this process doesn’t lead the organization to a place anybody wants to be. The “mobile strategy” has missed the mark (though nobody can articulate why).

But it’s simple. A legitimate mobile strategy must answer 3 questions: Why? What? How?

whywhathow
Why Mobile?
Do we know why we are trying to create a mobile strategy in the first place? Hopefully the reasons are more significant than “everyone else is doing it” or a C-Suite declaration. Every company needs to understand the raison d’etre behind the strategy. How does mobile align with existing business strategies and objectives? Rather than simply porting to the small screen, is there a real opportunity to redefine/improve existing business processes to create competitive advantage? Which primary actors or roles will benefit from the mobile strategy?

A strategy that refuses to take into account these fundamental questions—or glosses over the complexity of the answers—will fail to achieve its long term goals. The business process transformation necessary to deliver a beneficial and repeatable mobile strategy is directly proportional to the quantitative and qualitative benefits to the user base.

What Should We Build?
It’s often said that with mobile, the possibilities are endless. So you’d think that it’s just a matter of picking and choosing what to work on first. But for many IT organizations this is the most difficult aspect of crafting the mobile strategy.

The standard mechanisms IT organizations use to understand the needs of the business often don’t apply to mobile. Eliciting use cases can be tough, particularly when the goal is process-improvement. Tougher still is collecting the unspoken or unrecognized needs. Frequently the only reliable way to unearth these use cases is to shadow target users in a Day-in-the-Life study.

The next step is to determine whether an individual use case is worthy of its own app or to package or combine multiple use-cases into a new or existing app.
And once a list of use cases has been identified and rolled up into modules and apps, the next challenge is figuring out the order in which these ideas should be tackled. All too frequently these decisions are based upon the FIFO method, the title of the person making the request, or the persistence of the requestor.

At Propelics we recommend creating an App Portfolio view that takes into account all needs across the organization before deciding what to build and in what order. It’s similar to the approach “The Business” uses when deciding where to invest R&D dollars and allocate marketing funds in order to maximize revenue and ROI. Where is there opportunity for innovation that moves the needle versus just extending existing systems? Is there any low-hanging fruit you might start with? Which user groups are best prepared for the change?

Use an objective process to balance delivered business value, process maturity, technical complexity, and data risk to determine priorities across the organization. While you may not adhere strictly to the analysis, it provides directional value and helps manage stakeholder conflict during the decision-making process.

How are we going to get these apps to our employees and partners?
IT teams normally skip ahead to this technical question before even figuring out the answer to the first two components. It’s critical this remains the last step in the process as the answers to “Why” and “What” often make the “How” answer self-evident.

Do we build a custom solution or is there a third-party alternative that solves the problem? If a custom app is required, the importance of app performance or unique device capabilities helps determine whether we employ native development, use an MADP like Appcelerator or Xamarin, or deliver a mobile web-based solution.

Are we delivering apps only to employees or external partners? Are the devices managed or un-managed? The answers help determine whether we should distribute apps via the company’s MDM platform, through public app stores or via an Enterprise App Store solution from the likes of Apperian.

See how making technical decisions first can be problematic when a comprehensive enterprise mobile strategy is lacking? Lots of time, effort and dollars can be wasted acquiring the wrong technology platforms because the right questions weren’t asked when evaluating them.

Keeping business and technology needs aligned when delivering solutions is absolutely critical, and should be your first step to developing an effective enterprise mobile strategy—particularly when it comes to mobile’s rapidly evolving landscape.

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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