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I am working on a project that took a rather interesting turn. At the moment, I am trying to understand if this is a one-off situation or a natural problem of the Mobile Universe. I am leaning toward the latter and I would appreciate some feedback.

A customer initiated a project to customize one of SAP’s standard mobile applications. I wasn’t part of the original conversation, so when the project came to me to actually execute the development, I was excited about the prospect of an uncomplicated job. The project called for the straightforward enhancement of a couple of screens. The customer simply wanted to show some additional useful information to end users, and I thought “Great! It will be an easy job for a change.”

Everything looked good for a while. We verified the specifications in a design meeting, set up the development environment and went to work. The end date was approaching and I asked our contact person at the customer’s site to verify layout screenshots for screen completeness and to make sure that we hadn’t forgot anything. Soon I got a reply back that mentioned something that I didn’t completely understand. The comment was not related to our activities at all. I said “Hmm…” and created a detailed presentation explaining what our implementation team had done and re-iterated what the application does. Some more time passed… a phone call then a couple more emails were exchanged…

Two weeks later, after several “back-and-forth” communications, we realized that the customer’s organizational setup was not compatible with assumptions made in the standard application. The standard application needed to be customized in a completely different way to be useful in their environment. Surprise for everybody!

There was no real drama in the situation. The new changes weren’t complicated; the standard application has a well-defined extension point exactly for this kind of problem. But since the development team thought we had finished the development phase we had relinquished our access to the customer’s
development landscape and the customer had already re-purposed the landscape. So now we need to re-do all the project setup tasks. It’s time and money that could have been used more wisely.

Here are my thoughts about what happened with this project. The problem fell through the cracks in the organizational chart. The IT people didn’t understand enough about the business to see the problem coming; and people in the business team were not involved in the mobility project deeply enough to see that something was wrong. And the architect didn’t realize that he was talking to the “wrong” people. But that’s another subject.

The moral of the story is: if you think that your mobility project can be handled by just the IT team because it is “simply” a mobile application, then you are probably missing something. Mobile applications add a new dimension to your business — a dimension you probably don’t have experience with yet. Treat your mobility project with full respect and it will pay you back with new business opportunities.

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2 Comments

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  1. Oliver Betz

    Hi Mike,

    not really surprising to me – It happens in non-mobility projects as well in all case where IT is not well connected to the business and is not able to clarify all the business requirements. Only recommendation I have is to insist on direct contact with the business from the project start and to do validation with the business in the earliest project stages already leveraging an agile project methodology. Seems in Mobility projects these days are still mainly IT driven.

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  2. Mary Odabashian

    Hi Michael,

    I agree with Oliver…

    In my experience – when you have the right team members at the table, then things go a lot more smoothly. I thing this is true for mobility projects, in application implementation projects, and in life in general.  But I must admit that I’m curious to hear from others specifically on mobility and how they make certain that the right people are engaged since it does need such an interesting balance between IT and business team members.

    Cheers, Mary

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