When it comes to mobile enterprise strategy, most large companies don’t solely focus on mobile apps as critical success factors. Instead, they often treat them as tools for business development, marketing, or ancillary customer touchpoints. Nevertheless, change comes quickly in the world of mobile technology. Experiences on the web and trends in design shift slowly by comparison, while mobile embodies a constant stream of new features and apps.
Customer expectations on ubiquity, consistency, and intuitiveness continually advance. Predicting where and when the next significant disruption will land takes a lot of effort.
One thing is sure — disruptions will land given the explosion of mobile initiatives in the past years.
If we take a look at statistics, we see a stable upward curve depicting mobile’s global presence. In just four years, the number of internet users having a smartphone grew by 14 percentage points to 95% in 2019, as per a GlobalWebIndex report. In comparison, PC/laptop ownership, which stood above mobile in 2015, dropped from 88% to 70%.
This is not to imply that mobile technology spells the end of the web. In 2019, the time users spent an equal amount of time online between their smartphones and their PCs/laptops — around three and a half hours a day. Instead, mobile is now critical for businesses as they prepare for the challenges of the day.
So the logical question is: how do they do that?
The answer is pretty straightforward (that’s not to say simple) — through a carefully devised mobile strategy. Protect against brand damage and business disruption in the mobile space. Formulate and execute a cohesive enterprise mobile strategy. That’s good practice for enterprises large and small.
Enterprise Mobile Strategy Step 1: Make Sure Your Business Is Ready
Once a company understands how valuable the mobile space can be, the journey has only just begun. Even enterprises with mature IT and software development organizations stumble when venturing into the app space. But several key groundwork steps prepare your enterprise for the work ahead.
Product vs. Tool
What do you need mobile instruments to do for your business — will they generate revenue or control costs? What do you want them to do — show off innovation or disrupt a legacy business model? Are there already tools you can buy that fulfill part or all of your purposes? Blue-sky brainstorming sessions predicated on questions like “What if…?” and “How might we…?” lead directly to enterprises’ actionable ideas in many industries.
What are your competitors doing in the mobile space? Do they offer best-in-class mobile tools to their customers, or do they adopt a defensive stance mobile? When looking into what direction your enterprise shall go and how competitors are faring on the mobile front, you will come to deal with rather crowded app stores. In this sense, it is all the more essential to develop a precise concept of how your application(s) will fit in what’s already there.
Building a mobile app is one challenge. Supporting and managing it is another. Set up your organization for both by mapping skills and gaps in technology and subject matter expertise from your product ownership team.
Enterprise Mobile Strategy Step 2: Understand Your Audience
Not every mobile app needs to be the Next Big Thing in your app marketplace of choice. Like any digital project, the key is understanding the purpose, ROI, and key performance indicators of the project before designing and building the application.
That means that having a crystal-clear vision of the app’s intended audience is critically important. For most enterprises, the first question in audience analysis is whether the app will serve an internal or external audience.
Internal audiences differ in several important ways from the world outside the company’s walls. These ultimately come down to different layers of control for the company:
Control Over Business Model
Internal tools can improve efficiency and operational awareness, driving costs down and reinforcing existing business models. However, externally facing apps present various issues for brand managers, product owners, and business leaders. These issues revolve around the boogeyman of modern digital business: DISRUPTION. Once an app is “in the wild,” it is fair game for competitors and aspirants to draw inspiration and think about how they can do better. Smaller, more nimble companies can achieve competitive economic scale at breakneck speed with products centered around mobile experiences. Larger enterprises need to make relatively considerable investments to maintain relevance and competitiveness in the marketplace. Otherwise, they risk disrupting their business model entirely.
Control Over User Interactions
With an internal audience, the company can dictate the purpose of the app and the user’s interactions with it as a condition of employment. External audiences are a consumer, rather than a producer, of the company’s product, and have a less controllable stake in a mobile experience. That means that internal audiences’ features can afford to lean on usage manuals and user training. You must respect your external audiences’ expectations of intuitive interactions and gestures.
Control Over Device Profiles
The major equipment manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola, etc.) and software platform providers (Apple and Google) have come a long way in standardizing interactions between software and hardware components in mobile computing. However, when building for an internal audience, the enterprise still has a greater degree of control over which devices employees will use. The most obvious example is dictating whether an app gets built for Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS platform, but hardware specifications have a role to play as well. Conversely, careful audience analysis is required when building an app for public consumption. That analysis determines which target audience uses platforms and devices and how best to encourage download and adoption.
Case Study: Uber/Lyft
Uber and Lyft are two of the best-known industry disruptors centered around mobile apps. In completely changing the taxi industry, their businesses function under a disintermediation model, reducing friction between consumers and car rides in one direction and providing their drivers with a way to monetize their property’s rentable capacity (cars).
The companies’ apps are carefully tuned system integrations, linking GPS networks, messaging protocols, and pricing algorithms. They created seamless experiences for two distinct audiences — drivers, who need notifications about riders to pick up, and riders, who need a ride that’s as easy as entering a destination and pressing a button.
The companies spend an immense amount of time and effort ensuring that their mobile experiences work consistently and intuitively on all major software and hardware platforms to support a truly global audience.
Enterprise Mobile Strategy Step 3: Start Getting It Done
Once these pieces are in place, your business can start designing, building, and deploying mobile apps.
Done! Right? Well, not quite. Mobile technology expresses the modern reality that software is never truly complete.
Creating and sticking to a product management cadence is the most critical element of an enterprise mobile strategy. This cadence requires attention to the rhythm of mobile ecosystem changes. Software platforms publish major-version updates in the fall and flagship phone releases—minor version updates in the spring address out-of-band issues and features. APIs and tools are frequently updated or deprecated. These changes can cause unintended behavior or disruption in apps that aren’t updated regularly. Aligning ongoing product management efforts around them provides the enterprise with a straightforward way to manage platform evolution and feature development on apps themselves.
It was only a few years ago when venturing into the world of apps meant simply adapting your desktop or web interface to a mobile version. Now, we switched to a mobile-first (and user-first) logic. Mobile is the foundation around which you can build future opportunities. With the tools mentioned earlier and approaches in hand, you can distinguish your business from competitors and disrupt entire industries. Mobile technology is indeed a vehicle for business enablement across the enterprise, but make sure your business has a sound strategic grounding first.