Looking back over the past decade or more in the mobile world is something I always love to do.  Mostly because it reminds me how far we’ve come. I was at the Mobility Bootcamp at CTIA recently, and I love the way Philippe Winthrop put it – “We are at the end of the beginning of mobility”. When it comes to mobile apps I think this is absolutely true. Mobile applications in businesses have been around for a long time.  Over the past ten years they have most frequently been for sales forces or mobile ‘frontline’ field workers. With the advent of mobility for everyone, the opportunities for the broader workforce to enjoy the benefits of mobility has grown significantly. So now its time to look at the next steps in getting started: which apps to deploy and the architectures to get it done. If you missed the first two parts in this series please catch up by reading Why are so many companies launching mobile applications? and So you want mobile apps… now what?

In the “A Guide to Successfully Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications” whitepaper written for SAP by Chris Marsh of Yankee Group, there is a great chart that looks at apps that enterprise already have deployed, and the apps that companies plan to deploy in the future. (See Exhibit 4 in the whitepaper, which uses data from Yankee Group’s 2011 US Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey, Q1-Q2, and 2011 European Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey, Q2)

There are a few interesting things to notice in this chart. First, is that historically mobility was about extending access to existing applications – notice how almost everyone has email and many have access to corporate databases and intranets. What we are starting to see in the future is that smart devices (and especially tablets) are really transforming how things are done. They aren’t necessarily just replacing laptops or paper-based processes – today mobility is bringing about brand new ways to do business. 

So now that we know we want to build mobile apps, it is important to figure out which apps to mobilize first.  Of course, it will be different for every company and will be determined by how you want mobility to contribute to your own strategic or tactical goals.

In the whitepaper, Chris Marsh outlines a framework to help prioritize the focus for companies when making investments in mobility solutions. The entire framework is included here for your consideration.

  • How will you measure success? A successful application will be one that provides measurable benefits. These will vary but could manifest in measurable productivity gains, staff engagement, new customer business or rationalized infrastructure. Applications that can tie back to measurable KPIs should be prioritized.
  • What integration, if any, needs to occur with back-end IT systems? In addition to sales force and field force automation applications, there is growing interest in business intelligence applications that give information workers access to real-time data and operational applications addressing, for example, stock, order and supply chain management. The latter typically require deeper integration into back-end IT systems that will be a key determinant of the platform being used and the type of applications being deployed on that platform.
  • How many users are being targeted? Clearly the scale of the implementation is a key factor determining how an application is deployed and the cost of deploying and supporting it. The degree to which this is an acceptable cost inevitably depends on the anticipated strategic benefits of the implementation.
  • Are the targeted business processes B2B, B2E, E2E or B2C? Identifying which processes have a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-employee (B2E), employee-to-employee (E2E) or business-to-consumer (B2C) orientation lays the foundation for more specific considerations on user roles and application types.
  • Is the process transactional, informational or collaborative? In tandem with identifying the target audience, it is important to establish the exact use case in the contact zone between these end-users. For example, a B2E mobile app might need to fulfill one or all of the following: relay information to employees, transact a particular process such as an expense form approval, or provide access to collaborative tools such as wikis and portals.
  • How mobile are the user roles identified for deployments? The right combination of device and application features and, crucially, the policy management governing the application solution will be strongly determined by the degree to which the worker being targeted is mobile. While applications can have transactional, informational and collaborative capabilities, the extent to which the end-user is mobile will determine his or her mix in the final solution.

Once you’ve thought through these questions, you probably can begin to narrow down some uses cases that may make a good starting point. With a first well-defined use case, the fun part really begins – and its time to decide what kind of app to build.  Of course, this new topic introduces yet another level of complexity since there are many mobile application types (nothings easy, is it?) Again, in the whitepaper, Chris Marsh outlines four main models of application development. Each one may or may not address every use case. All four models are briefly introduced here and are compared in detail in the whitepaper. 

  • Purely customized development and deployment: These downloadable apps are customized for specific business objectives, but they lack the agility and pace of standardized development and deployment.
  • Prebuilt and off-the-shelf: These downloadable apps provide quick deployment and task-oriented applications but lack the close and customized alignment with business processes.
  • Modifiable templates: As enterprises look to more closely align mobile apps with specific business processes, there has been a change in direction among vendors. Increasingly platforms are pursuing a middle-road solution attempting to offer downloadable apps with a combination of flexibility, customization and speed in design and deployment.
  • Web-based/HTML5: Rather than being downloaded onto the device or via an application store as a piece of software, Web-based apps are more akin to a Web site designed specifically for a mobile device.

It is important to note that one size doesn’t fit all. You should not attempt to choose one single model for all of your applications – in fact if you try this approach I can assure you that you will most certainly fail.  This is because every use case and every user has unique requirements for mobility. I encourage you to read the full whitepaper comparing the pros and cons of each model for your own needs.  I think Chris makes a great observation that is very important to consider. In the whitepaper he stated “The optimal solution for the CIO is to have a platform that provides as much of the flexibility to facilitate all of these ways of deploying applications as possible.” In other words, by relying on a platform you don’t need to choose – you can have the best of all worlds.

I’ve shared a lot of great detail from the whitepaper in this article, and I’ll continue to cover more this week and next.  If you haven’t signed up yet, please register now for this webinar with Chris Marsh on November 1st.  

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5 Comments

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  1. Graham Robinson
    Hi Milja,

    thanks for your blog. I must say I haven’t read Chris’ whitepaper you refer to – perhaps a link to it would have been useful – but in looking at the framework Chris lays down for prioritising investment focus it seems to me he has things a little backwards.

    Surely the most important thing about mobile app is the user experience? Chris seems to be coming at this issue from exactly the opposite direction to the user. In fact it reads more like a guide for a sales plan.

    IMHO – Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Cheers
    Graham Robbo

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    1. Ethan Jewett
      It is definitely a good blog. Thanks for that! Like Graham, this framework just doesn’t feel right to me. I agree that the key aspect that is missing is user experience.

      Providing benefit (IMHO, applications can be successful without providing benefit that shows up in measurements) is possible only if people are willing to use the application. People will only use the app if there is a *perceived* benefit above and beyond the alternatives. In the enterprise, that benefit might be keeping one’s job, but that is not generally a recipe for success.

      Clearly, different aspects of the framework will be stressed when selling projects to management and when actually developing the application. The focus here seems to be on the former, but it is just as important that the framework support the actual development of the app.

      Cheers,
      Ethan

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      1. Milja Gillespie Post author
        Hi Ethan – thank you for reading and providing your thoughts on the topic. I replied to Graham’s comments about UX and have providewd a link to the full paper below. It certainly will help to read the full context as the UX is talked about throughout.

        I completely agree that people will only use the app if they see a benefit to them – and if it is seamless for them to get and use (that is the topic of that blog I just posted that follows this one).

        Take a look at the full paper – looking at the framework Chris provided alone doesn’t tell the story.

        I asked Chris his opinion on UX and thinks that the experience can’t be the absolute starting point in determining which specific apps to create. When laying the ground for a more strategic tied-together mobility policy yes, but when prioritising from amongst different app projects the business case needs to start with the process in mind and an understanding of what benefits are being sought, with the user experience then a key determinant from the start of the design process and running through to implementation in making it a success.

        The framework he uses actually helps with the prioritisation of which project to focus on over another, but also form the point of view of understanding the  experience you are looking to deliver.

        To get the full story I recommend you real the other blogs in this series and read the full whitepaper here (http://download.sap.com/download.epd?context=4FFB4797DABA20E4C85D5FDA985FA2786A682B562DC98E20A1CA83560807057D38C641456E2FA445CF578F04FE7135C90E393D956C7BCAB1)

        Hope this helps!

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        1. Kevin Grove
          Milja:

          I have been able to read all five of your blogs on mobility and understand better the strategy that SAP advocates for pursuing corporate mobilization. The current “freemium, open-source” mobile app model is easy – and inexpensive – access and that is fine for individual use. That model has to be modified to fit into the enterprise data security requirements. Much of the friction/frustration that Graham and others are voicing is the steep up-front investment that the SUP/Gateway platform requires (see the blog by Richard Hirsch – and extensive comments: The specified item was not found.).
          If I can quote from your previous post ( So you want mobile apps… now what? )
          “.. “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course is “one bite at a time.”  So if you’ve gone the path of ‘opportunistic mobility’ as Chris describes it, just consider it your first bite of that elephant. But don’t stop your journey after one or two bites. Think big while you start small. In fact, starting small can often reveal the policy and management issues that you are going to have to face when you tackle a bigger company-wide mobility strategy”
          I submit that the SAP solution is at least an elephant — if not a whale to digest. For many companies finding some low cost, low risk method/platform to take the first “small bites” that is required to build prototypes before the whale can be put into the budget and plan.
          I am registered for the webinar and look forward to the presentation and the opportunity for questions. I tried the link above for the download of the whitepaper, but I was returned a blank page using IE.
          Thanks for these blogs that further the dialog around this very important and somewhat impassioned topic.

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    2. Milja Gillespie Post author
      Hi Graham – thanks for your comment. I agree it would certainly help to read the full paper and have placed a link to it below.

      In the paper Chris actually places a lot of emphasis on the User experience, referring throughout about how important it is to get the experience consumer-grade. Read the paper and I think you’ll agree – at the start for example when talking about consumerization, then when he lays out the difference between strategic and opportunistic mobility which calls for a more seamless experience across mobility solutions, and at the end it’s one of the 5 foundations we lay out at the end – ‘Focus on the UX’. Both Chris an I agree that Ux is at the heart of any successful implementation.

      I asked Chris his opinion and thinks that the experience can’t be the absolute starting point in determining which specific apps to create. When laying the ground for a more strategic tied-together mobility policy yes, but when prioritising from amongst different app projects the business case needs to start with the process in mind and an understanding of what benefits are being sought, with the user experience then a key determinant from the start of the design process and running through to implementation in making it a success.

      The framework he uses actually helps with the prioritisation of which project to focus on over another, but also form the point of view of understanding the  experience you are looking to deliver.

      To get the full story I recommend you real the other blogs in this series and read the full whitepaper here (http://download.sap.com/download.epd?context=4FFB4797DABA20E4C85D5FDA985FA2786A682B562DC98E20A1CA83560807057D38C641456E2FA445CF578F04FE7135C90E393D956C7BCAB1)

      Hope this helps!
      Milja

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