“We’ve got to move at the speed of mobile.”
“Mobile app release cycles are like dog years.”
“Mobile is the key to transforming our business.”
We’ve all heard statements like these. In fact, PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey notes that 81% of CEOs think mobile technologies are strategically important for their business. That’s a huge number. Yuuuggge!!
This tracks with an Appian survey that shows IT decision-makers believe enterprise mobility (61%) will provide the biggest returns in 2016, with 87% reporting enterprise mobility as critical to their company’s profitability.
One would expect then that the enterprise would be going gangbusters building apps. But just how many apps are companies actually building?
Just today I ran across a reference to a Gartner report that projects there will be 1,400 custom apps in the average enterprise by 2024—a prediction so absurd it made me LOL. For one, 2024 is a loooong way away. So far away that we can’t even be certain the current smartphone form factor is still going to exist, or if the idea of an app is going to look anything like it does today. For Pete’s sake, the mid-2020s are close to Ray Kurzweil’s predicted date for when AI’s will pass the Turing Test!
Now let’s compare that 1400 number to where we are now. According to Apperian’s 2016 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report the median number of custom apps that companies have deployed to employees, contractors and partners is….13.8, with 80% of companies having deployed fewer than 10.
Source: Apperian 2016 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report
Worse yet, even those numbers may be optimistic. Good Technology’s* Q2 2015 Mobility Index report suggests the average organization has only deployed 3.4 apps to employees—in addition to email—with only 5% of organizations deploying more than 10. This includes items like secure browsing, messaging, and document access. Not exactly game changers.
While not necessarily stellar, these numbers are not completely terrible either. But they’re certainly not reflective of a mindset that considers mobile a major business priority expected to generate competitive advantage and significant process and productivity improvement.
So Why Aren’t Enterprises
Building More Apps?
One of the reasons I got involved in mobile is that I’ve always been interested in process re-engineering and mobile provides the best opportunity for this since the advent of the PC and productivity software.
Consider the innovation boom and increase in productivity ushered in during the PC age.
This is the floor of the opportunity mobile holds for the enterprise, particularly when you consider the variety of devices (smartphones, tablets and wearables) and the wealth of new data provided by both the sensors on the devices and by the connected items around us via the Internet of Things.
In fact, business process and productivity improvement are the #1 and #2 things executives expect mobile to deliver, per the recent Apperian report.
Source: Apperian 2016 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report
The good news is the budgets are there to build apps as 6 out of 10 companies plan to increase their mobile development budgets this year.
So what’s holding us back? Security concerns? Lack of skills? The fast evolution rate of devices and operating systems?
It’s a lot simpler than that. Many companies simply lack an overarching strategy for mobile within the enterprise. Which roles can get the most lift from mobile? How can mobile make jobs simpler? How can we improve the accuracy of data capture? How can we get the right information to employees at the exact time they need it?
Too few organizations are asking these questions at the start of the strategy planning process. All too often, companies lack the mechanisms for identifying mobile opportunities across the entire enterprise. Rather, projects are brought forward by individuals or teams in an ad-hoc manner, resulting in what we refer to as “Random Acts of Mobile.”
The projects that get funded happen through one of two methods: 1) First In, First Out; or worse, via the Kruschev Method—that is, based on whoever has the highest title in the room or who pounds his shoe the loudest gets his app built.
Neither of these methods, however, do a service to the company. Mobile development resources are fairly precious and we owe it to ourselves to use them to deliver the greatest value to the organization.
It’s for this reason that we urge clients to take an App Portfolio approach to building a mobile strategy. In the process, don’t just talk to one or two teams. Try to talk to as many divisions, teams, and departments as you can. Don’t just bring in executives and managers for guidance. Bring in the foot soldiers of the organization, those who actually do the work, those who would be the users of the new apps. Because when you capture a broad cross-section of potential mobile opportunities, you can evaluate each idea not just on its own merits, but against other competing concepts as well.
At Propelics we accomplish this through a series of structured brainstorming activities designed to collect a variety of user stories. It’s amazing the number of valuable ideas this process will generate. This is not a one-time exercise, but something performed episodically to refresh and expand the possibilities. Also consider creating avenues—a virtual suggestion box—for employees to submit ideas all along the way.
Next, create a scoring mechanism, taking into consideration the idea’s business value and technical complexity, as well as the company’s readiness to adopt the idea (spoiler alert: we have a framework for this). This helps identify which ideas are not just good on their face, but are ones that are within the reach of the organization to deliver. By first determining which apps provide the greatest value to the organization you can easily decide which to build first.
Armed with a richer, prioritized list of initiatives to pursue, it’s a lot easier to rally the organization around the vision for mobility. Additionally, you will then be well positioned to build dozens—perhaps scores—of apps that deliver strategic value and burnish your bottom line.
*(acquired by Blackberry earlier this year)
Mobile leader, speaker, blogger