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Mobility Minute #9: Why you need to industrialize your Mobile Center of Excellence and 4 obstacles that hold back mobile innovation

In Mobility Minute #5, Ahmed discussed the rising demand for innovation and the new role of CIO as Chief Innovation Officer. Today’s question: how do you scale innovation to meet all of those demands – or can you? According to the skeptics, it’s not possible at all. Technology blogger, Vijay Vijaysankar said, “I used to think till very recently that innovation scales. I was wrong – it does not scale. I need to live with it. Innovation – and the associated disruption – is not every one’s cup of tea.”

Scaling innovation certainly does pose challenges – particularly when it comes to mobile, unless mobile is at the heart of your innovation strategy. Take Google, for example. When Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman announced, “Mobile first in everything” in 2010, it was considered radical, especially from the perspective of CIOs who were struggling to keep pace with demand for the “rogue” iPhone in their enterprise. The launch of the iPad a few months later (April 2010) would only add additional pressure.

Today, the top 5 devices activated are iPhones and iPads and enterprise adoption of smartphones is reaching 80%.App development has also accelerated. Companies who were experimenting with a handful of business apps are now deploying dozens or even hundreds of apps. And organizations that were once considered early adopters are now joining  the majority. Given the proliferation and impact of mobile, it’s easy to see why scaling mobile innovation is now critical.


But how do you accomplish this? And what role should your Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) play? We can look to history for some important clues.

In medieval times, when guilds were first formed, factories did not exist. An association of artisans innovated within secret societies to meet commercial needs. Not until the Industrial Revolution did this model really change – and only when factories allowed production to scale. Fast-forward to current times and you will see a similar pattern. Many CIO’s first set up small,innovative task forces. The next step was to kick-start MCoE’s by hiring full-time project managers. Now, they’re moving toward a factory model – just as in the Industrial Revolution – except this time, the ‘product’ is not spun cotton but mobile innovation.

When a MCoE is run on a factory model, best practices can be shared across the organization. Led by a Chief Mobility Officer, the MCoE can define fixed, pre-determined standards and reference architectures. More importantly it can help harness innovation and scale dozens of tactical mobile initiatives into a strategic asset that can be leveraged collectively across the enterprise.

So what is stopping you from moving your MCoE from the Middle Ages into the industrial age?  There are four obstacles that may be standing in your way:

1.     Putting All Your Apps In One Basket

Mobility is a channel, not only a technology. With expansive proliferation of mobile apps, mobile stores, point solutions and platforms, there is a significant risk of investing in the wrong place – or putting all your eggs in one basket — a point made amply clear by the high rates of mobile app abandonment after first use. While no one wants to introduce apps that are quickly shelved, identifying apps that generate true business value and user engagement does require some experimentation and risk. A broader portfolio approach can help to mitigate some of the risk as it allows you to make wise choices for the overall portfolio as well as the individual components within it.

2.     Organization Without Representation

Given the rapid pace of change in everything mobile – including user expectations – keeping innovation on track can be a challenge. How do you organize and operate to drive mobile innovation within your enterprise? What kinds of operating models can capture the strategy and innovation cycles of your mobile effort while also accommodating the sometimes-stormy implementation and survival phase?  Identifying influential mobile stakeholders will help you uncover ottom-up alignment opportunities amongst those who drive and support use case decisions. This approach can clarify the enterprise mobility needs of your organization and help define roles and responsibilities, as well as specific aspects of the governance, processes and functions that will move you towards your mobile ambitions.

3.     A Use Case is a Terrible Thing to Waste

In the past, businesses were focused on how innovation could potentially transform the information pathways and processes of an organization and its customers. Today with mobile, the transformation focus is shifting to business user behavior and engagement. Finding the right way to engage users or customers can direct process change and subsequently transform entire businesses and industries. Use cases that leverage mobile technology and provide the right level of business orientation ultimately become the strategic use cases that truly matter.

4.     Not Innovating Innovation

Examples of one-off mobile innovation are easy to find – take the addition of email and calendar functions to the smartphone some years back. But to realize the true power of mobility, especially Enterprise Mobility, the innovation process must be ongoing. It needs to focus on finding, building, managing and operating the right mobile portfolio at a predictable cost while also evolving with the needs of your users.

While overcoming the obstacles to industrializing your MCoE requires a shift within your organization, it’s necessary if you want to scale your mobile innovation in the post PC era.

JP Finnell

Head of Mobile Strategy & FSI Mobile Co-innovation, Services NA | SAP

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Jomy Pidiath

Global Mobile Strategy Consulting | SAP America

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