Many years of working with scores of companies have shown that becoming a mobile enterprise means adopting a new approach to business, says Katie Lips. It is a transition that many find tough to make.
The results from the Mobile Maturity Survey provide a detailed view of how companies of different sizes across a wide range of sectors are realising the potential of mobile technology. Most are still in the early stages of their journey to becoming fully mobile-enabled and the survey responses so far confirm what we have seen over the past five years of working with companies to help them mobilise. A series of similar issues crop up time and again, and the survey results therefore offer a valuable opportunity to identify the challenges that most companies can expect to face.
Businesses today can run a lot of their operations through mobile – both consumer-facing services and internal processes that require access to the company’s IT systems and data. The responses that we’ve had so far from the Mobile Maturity Survey show that a lot of companies are aware of the opportunities that mobilisation can offer but are engaging with it through a small, separate team within marketing or IT while everyone else gets on with business as usual. This is a problem because companies will increase their chances of success by setting out a strategy that involves everyone and creating a multi-disciplinary team to execute it; senior management must be fully engaged, IT and security teams have to be involved as well as marketing, operations, HR and the key suppliers that provide parts of the IT infrastructure.
The first major issue that the survey highlights, therefore, is the need to engage the whole business in the project: setting up a mobile team is a good start but on its own is not enough.
The second big challenge that most companies face is to adapt to new ways of working. Efforts to embed digital technologies have been going on for years but many businesses say that they still face problems in supporting mobile projects, often because their IT planning and budgeting is too inflexible. Traditional IT projects tend to have fixed start and end-dates, and many companies will work only on one project at a time.
Many of those completing the Mobile Maturity Survey also say that their company’s IT plans are drawn up a year or more in advance and are difficult to change once they have been agreed.
In our experience, this way of working makes success in mobile projects much harder to achieve. Chelsea Apps Factory follows a “build, adapt, learn” approach in which a lot of critical development happens after a product is launched and we can draw on the experiences of live users. This means that, unlike traditional IT projects, mobile developments do not have a fixed end-date and are necessarily more flexible. For a lot of businesses, this presents a major challenge and helps to explain why they find it difficult to adapt to the more flexible, fast-moving and open-ended way of managing the delivery of mobilisation projects. Making that transition requires a fundamental shift in thinking that does not come naturally to most businesses.
Finally, the survey also reveals that, although some companies are able to create a robust investment case for mobile investments and measure their returns, many do not have the tools to do so. This is important because mobile projects can often create very significant returns and can pay back quickly – opportunities that may be wasted if those sponsoring the mobile project within the company cannot present a powerful investment case and set out clearly how the results will be measured.
People tend to think that becoming mobile-enabled is primarily about technology. Our experience and the insights that we are gaining from the Mobile Maturity Survey tell us there is more to it than that. Mobilising your business means involving every part of it in the project and understanding that success means adopting a new approach to how you operate. Making the transition to mobile brings undoubted challenges, but also major rewards.