2014-30-April-Starting-Line.jpgThe questions around how to become a truly mobile enterprise currently centers around a “this vs. that” argument -- hybrid vs. responsive? Build iOS first vs. build Android first?

It's tough to figure out a mobile approach. But while these questions are great to ask today, they don’t tackle the bigger picture of mobile strategy tomorrow.

Don’t be discouraged. Many companies are in the same boat and just now tackling their mobile strategy because mobile devices took over seemingly overnight. And even worse, we are not exactly at the beginning of the innovation curve, at least where consumer facing experiences are concerned. Companies now deliver a personalized and optimized mobile experience for customers and your competitors may have caught on, so you need to play on a different level now – you need to constantly create, measure and change.

The good news: there's a way to make innovation the norm. And fast. To do so, let's take a more goal-centric approach to the “this vs. that” issue by asking a few goal-oriented questions:

  • What is the vision of the end goal?
  • Where do I start?
  • How do I get there fastest?
  • And the multi-billion dollar question: how do we organically evolve into an agile mobile enterprise quickly?

Well let’s break down each of the What, Where and How questions individually.

What is the Ultimate Vision for a Mobile Enterprise?

The Answer: My simplified answer to this question is scale. More specifically, “scale in the process that delivers experiences across any device.” We need to create a fast, self-serving mobile enterprise. So in other words we need to look at a people-first answer before a technology-first answer.

Think about what the word "enterprise" means when added to a solution. In simple terms it means more scale and back-end complexity. When big companies talk scale they don’t just mean throw in a few more servers to meet peak traffic. They mean organizational scale -- people increase with rate X and deliverables/revenue increase with rate Y, where Y is greater than X. You need to have power, flexibility, governance and -- most importantly -- a mature process in order to achieve this type of scale.

Let's now apply this to the mobile strategy: scale is the not-subtle difference between mobile apps and enterprise mobile apps, mobile sites and enterprise mobile sites and mobile strategy and enterprise mobile strategy. Whenever you add the word "enterprise" to the mix, it implies there are a lot of people and units from both the business and technical side managing the process. And on top of that you need to aim for more deliverables with less effort.

This can only happen when technical resources take care of non-trivial tasks, while trivial ones are automated, and business and creative units are empowered to take full charge of creating, delivering, measuring and improving in an ecosystem where something like mobile is implicitly taken care of as an integral part of the solution. Mobile apps will ultimately become an extension of your existing enterprise architecture and so you may have a system where everything talks to everything, everything is responsive and everything has an app. For example:

everything is responsive and everything has an app.png

Where to Start?

A mobile strategy in itself requires a great deal of prioritization. Do we start with a mobile intranet, a consumer facing app or a responsive site? How do we align the deliverables to maximize the goals?

The answer: The answer to this is: start ensuring systems are in place that can support an integrated mobile infrastructure and interface with the people accountable for the results.

With mobile we are still taking a screen-by-screen approach. Back-end systems still seem to be some kind of an abstract techie concept, or sometimes an afterthought. This can be compared to the time when developers used to write PHP or ASPX pages, and business units had minimal control over this process --they just gathered requirements and waited around. Currently we also take things one app at a time, but this is tactical, not strategic.

A strategic approach here will mean starting with questions like: what are the messages that I need to communicate to my employees or customers in a mobile context and how will a mobile medium enhance their experience? This is essentially a content-first and context-first approach, as opposed to just mobile-first. This principle explains why responsive design ultimately took over the web -- it was integrated, it worked with the same people and it definitely scaled. And yes, this also explains why things like content management will become the norm for enterprise mobile challenges, including apps.

How to Get There the Fastest?

The answer: Agile and, of course, with a plan.

It’s reasonable for enterprises to protect their great investment in a digital strategy that they’ve had in place for decades now. But how you do that without being stuck in the past? Think of delivering mobile experiences as a natural extension of your existing process and systems, and then (of course) enhance it with mobile-specific bells and whistles -- the engagement that the mobile medium brings to the table. The enterprise scale you have in place is still invariant, but you need to deliver more, with less cost, while accounting for the back-end complexity and scale. And of course replace the systems that are dragging you down.

That’s why responsive design has been fundamentally a bull’s eye for mobile strategy. With little investment we can push consistent experiences to web and mobile users and this experience scaled with minimal effort. Now we need to find approaches that work in a similar way for mobile apps, the Internet of Things, e-commerce, B2B, B2E and the next thing to come and disrupt. This involves evaluating the common denominators -- content, users, metrics, services and experiences – and aiming for strategies and systems that reuse them. Tactical projects -- the app to be delivered here and there – are necessary, but they need to naturally align to a content-first strategy. Then the "this vs that” answers come naturally based on your priorities.

And ultimately, agile is the only way to go. Quick iterations and constant improvement of the core framework, so that the next experience can reuse more of the same infrastructure and integrations. This way you can manage to build a mobile enterprise, whose outreach and impact is bigger than the sum of its parts.

And while this article may not be an exact answer to every mobile strategy question, a goal-centered approach is a great starting point by which a tailored, comprehensive plan can be formulated.

Title image by bikeriderlondon (Shutterstock)