A few weeks ago, Dan Bieler, the Principal Analyst serving CIOs for Forrester Research, sat down with the Enterprise Mobility Exchange to chat about some of his conclusions from working with CIOs. Two weeks ago, we discussed some of the top priorities for CIOs over the coming 2-3 years. Given the outsized importance technology has earned within C-suite decision making, it seemed prudent to continue analyzing Bieler’s findings as they relate to enterprise mobility — specifically, what hurdles do most enterprises face when devising a coordinated mobile strategy?
1) Differing business units with differing priorities
As mobile solutions providers, we see this as much if not more than any other issue plaguing a firm’s mobile roadmap. Most enterprises are incredibly complex entities with hundreds if not thousands of moving parts. Different business units are responsible for different deliverables, and each wants to use the power of mobile to help their business unit succeed. The problem arises when each of these business units attempt to map out their own mobile solutions without taking into account the firm’s overall strategy. In this scenario, each mobile project becomes siloed, attached only to that specific business unit instead of to the overall company.
CIOs/CTOs must always listen to what their assorted business units need, but they must also lead from the top down to ensure each business unit’s mobile desires are folded into a larger, cohesive strategy.
2) Shrink to fit strategy
While many firms have gotten better about this in the last couple of years, it still haunts many enterprises when employing a mobile strategy. A “shrink to fit strategy” happens when a firm takes its website or its desktop-designed solutions and attempts to shrink them onto a mobile screen, instead of purpose designing and building a mobile solution to their business problem. Neither websites nor desktop software is optimized for a mobile environment, and simply shrinking them down to the appropriate screen dimensions will result in a terrible user experience. Bieler goes a step further, saying “it destroys any kind of user experience, of course.”
Mobile is without a doubt its own vertical, and it should be treated as such in order to extract maximum value from mobile solutions.
3) Legacy integration
One of the most difficult elements of mobile development is integration with legacy systems and solutions. So many businesses are built upon a technological foundation conceived before smart phones and tablets were ubiquitous within the modern business landscape. CIOs and CTOs face the undesirable challenge of developing new, valuable mobile solutions while ensuring those solutions interface with any and all legacy systems that firm relies upon. For some companies, they’re remaking those legacy systems to incorporate mobile natively. But for many companies, overhauling their entire technology stack simply isn’t feasible (whether from a time, monetary or technical perspective). As Bieler notes, cloud solutions provide yet another difficulty on this front.
Successful firms keep their eyes on the future, but the best solutions must also take into account the past systems upon which a new solution is built. Last year, we wrote extensively about the technology stack and the mobile application layer, a useful and efficient solution to legacy integration.
4) Enterprise user experience in a consumer app world
Enterprise applications are generally tasked with far more important responsibilities than consumer apps. Whether it’s improving employee productivity, growing a company’s user base, serving as the primary touch point between brand and audience, streamlining project management processes or a host of other possibilities, enterprise apps are becoming ever more the lifeblood of the modern firm. Unfortunately, many firms still cling to outdated approaches to solving software problems.
For decades, most enterprise solutions were predicated upon solving a business problem as quickly and cheaply as possible, without much thought given to the user experience inherent in that particular solution. But, in the age of consumer mobile apps, even enterprise employees expect a certain level of design excellence in whatever app they’re using. That excellence manifests itself in intuitive navigation, useful feature sets, stability, compatibility, and yes, pleasing aesthetics. Using old engineering tactics to solve modern mobile problems won’t work because your target audience — your employees — simply won’t use apps that are clunky, slow, or confusing.
Bieler summed it up well: “Many companies still underestimate the impact of consumer expectations in the mobile work environment. [Companies] think old engineering kind of tactics work, but nobody is using these applications so return on investment is going down the drain.”
Many firms cite a coordinated roadmap as the single mobile issue they’re concerned with the most. If you’re in that position, take comfort knowing some of the biggest, smartest and best firms in the world are in that boat with you. Hopefully, by knowing the four biggest hurdles you’re likely to face, you can overcome them efficiently and expeditiously, leading down a path of prosperity for your enterprise.