The Secret to Mobile Success

By Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise App Strategies, 451 Research — July 28, 2014

That mobile is the new battleground for enterprises trying to win over customers should not surprise anyone reading this article.

Easier said than done.

451 Research's Business Decision Maker June survey shows just how hard companies find it making mobile work for them. Upwards of two-thirds say that scaling policies, managing costs and software upgrades are all difficult, due mainly to mobile's heterogeneity.

Nevertheless, around 60% of companies and 80% of very large companies say they have a comprehensive mobility strategy in place. All must be good then, right?

Well, not quite.

Last month, in this column, I wrote about the changing role of the IT department and lines of business and how the former needs to get out of the way of the latter. In most organizations there is however little real organizational alignment around roles, responsibilities and who and how to change internal workflows to scale mobility across the business.

Where is the Help?
Furthermore, although 70% say they will be increasing the number of employees they have dedicated to mobile projects, it’s not obvious that there is sufficient quality or quantity. The cursory scan I did of the curricula of the marketing and IT programs of the top three U.S. universities in each of these fields shows a curiously staid focus.
 
The next generation of bright young marketers may know about "analytics informing consumer insights," and "the digitization of media channels and platforms," but there was curiously a lack of options for more technically focused modules.
 
The information management programs seemed to fair a little better, promising "a combination of business knowledge with technology skills" and the "combining of ITM with finance, marketing or management," but again coverage seems shallow.
 
There was also incredibly no mention, which I could see, of mobile technologies on either program of any of the six leading U.S. university websites that I surveyed for either program.
 
Put Process First
So, companies want to adapt, but are stifled by technology complexity and a lack of available and adequate skills.
 
What to do? Simply put, enterprises need to focus on process first, and hope the people will follow.
 
What does this mean?
 
Set up a factory or two—application factories that is. The standardization of technologies, workflows and people around specific different application use cases, to expedite time to market, regularize governance and security and allow more regular and rapid iteration of those applications.
 
Keep an eye on consolidation. The fragmented mobile lifecycle is consolidating across pre and post-production capabilities, slowly but surely.
 
This won't ever amount to a one size fits all solution, or as vendors like to put it "end-to-end," but by compressing the mobile stack, enabling integration of previously siloed technologies, and embedding collaboration functionality, consolidating vendors can help companies' remove some complexity across application factories.
 
Break silos by flattening the data model. One of the key obstacles reinforcing paralysis is how much enterprise data is siloed into a whole estate of different backend systems.
 
To deliver much more rapidly iterated mobile experiences companies have to look at how to flatten their data model so as to both mashup data into single applications more easily and to make accessible, orchestrate and process data at the speed of mobile.
 
Don't bank on new graduates to bring the needed skills. As forward-looking as their curriculum are supposed to be, the mobile industry is so nascent as to be reflected in University programs.
 
Companies shouldn't assume the latest crop of the youngest and brightest are the change agents sometimes they are assumed to be.
 
Bring greater coordination and collaboration around the above. Our surveys show IT and lines of business having often very ideas about who is directing the mobile strategy. Confusion over who is doing what, and how is the lowest of low hanging fruit that companies should be addressing.
 
Definitive roles are not needed as these will change, but basic awareness of initiatives across the business is a good starting point to joining more of the dots already discussed.

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