Without a doubt, a well planned mobile strategy has the potential to transform a business. Unfortunately, not all companies have the insight or commitment required to achieve their mobile potential. Preparing a world-class mobile initiative takes far more than simply realizing the need to reach your customers or enable your employees via their handheld devices. Constructing these initiatives takes strategic investments, time and effort to identify easy wins, a comprehensive impacts and costs analysis, and transformational goals.
Enola Labs’ CTO, Marcus Turner, has decades of experience in setting enterprise strategy and tactical execution initiatives. Specifically over the past five years, he has focused on leveraging these strategies and best practices within dozens of organizations (corporations, mid-tier businesses and large associations). The unique element of all of the companies is the recognition that a change is necessary and the only way to get there is truly transformative goals. We decided to spend an hour picking his brain on some of the most common questions and scenarios he deals with throughout his process of guiding companies through their mobile strategy planning and realization efforts.
I assume companies often come to you and say, we’ve read about mobile trends, we see the numbers and they reflect the need for a company to build a mobile app. What’s the process of determining whether this reaction is actually a worthwhile endeavor?
I think it’s important to start with how Enola Labs differentiates from others in the industry. We’re enterprise architects, business architects, and technical architects that do mobile. This is often a very stark contrast with mobile companies that attempt to do only “mobile strategy”. A logical piece of success criteria here is really connecting with our client’s business strategy execution, the tactical initiatives, and only then onto where mobile fits into the overall blueprint and landscape. Specifically where mobile has a predicted and measurable ROI and value.
We don’t work with a lot of companies that say, “we want a mobile app”, but not aligned to actual value or ROI. We work with companies to really assess their “mobile purpose” and specifically the need for mobile solutions. For example, how mobile solutions enhance and optimize business processes, enable remote workforces, and really provide information faster, often in real time, often in orchestration with existing legacy systems.
We call it enabling the enterprise. Everything we do is driven on a hard ROI basis. When companies come to us saying that we need to build a mobile app, determining their need to build a mobile app is really the alignment and execution of their initiative - how are we going to measure it, and what is going to drive substantial business value or agility?
How do you work with companies to define goals for a mobile strategy?
One of the things I like to tell people, is defining a mobile strategy is just like defining a business plan. Defining the goals of mobile strategy is no different than defining the goals for a digital strategy. Ask yourself exactly what are you trying to do with mobile, how you are going to measure the success and ensuring that the overall spend makes business sense.
Some of the things we can bring to the table is an understanding of what mobile allows. Think off-site enablement, transparency of information to facilitate decisions, enabling the remote workforce and accessibility to critical systems to name a few. The goals for a mobile strategy really need to be in tight alignment with the business goals, the tactical initiative, and really ingrained with your larger overall business strategy.
What are some of the pain points you hear most often from companies you work with?
“We did a mobile app and it’s not doing anything, or it doesn’t realize any business value.”
“We’re not getting users.”
“We’re not substantially helping the business.”
What we do is go back and take a look at the strategy, the mobile purpose and the entire lifecycle of the application. In every case, these customers either don’t have a well defined mobile strategy or it was done for the app and not the organization or business.
I often use the analogy that you never set out in a boat just to see how far you can sail, you always set a destination and a purpose. Having a purpose for a mobile application helps you define how you’re going to measure whether you’re achieving that purpose.
What is some advice to organizations struggling to find their mobile purpose?
If you’re struggling to be able to define a mobile purpose, stop and rethink “mobile” as a logical part of your overall initiatives or integrated into your existing digital strategy. Sometimes this is exactly where our customers simply need facilitation and the benefit of our experience.
A lot of times we work with companies by job shadowing so we can take a look at where mobile can be applied. Working with EMT’s is a perfect example. Why not try to send somebody in an ambulance to see what type of data they’re passing back to the hospital. The question is how can we more efficiently prep the hospital for a patient’s arrival. The driver of this strategy is ultimately to help save lives, but it also optimizes the workflow and efficiency of the entire process. This is an easy example of clearly defining a mobile purpose.
What are some things to consider when choosing the right mobile environment?
We have a process where we go through and really evaluate. Lately, we are finding a lot of success in really driving one of two directions: native or mobile web. Hybrid is a low-cost entry into mobile, it works in a lot of environments, but within the enterprise, we find that the logical decision is typically either native apps or (more commonly) mobile web. I would say nine out of ten discussions that we have really resort back to mobile web, and its such a long conversation that it often dumbfounds me.
A lot of large organizations still aren’t mobile aware. Today, I can still find many organizations that still are not making good use of mobile; even if it’s only to provide better user (read customer) experience on existing digital assets.
Often, what we do is we say take baby steps. Engage with your customers in mobile and then start to undertake more advanced mobile initiatives. A lot of that starts from mobile web. Native apps are more lively; native provides lots of flexibility. But for people that are trying to get their toes wet in mobile, we really start with world-class mobile web solutions.
How often do mobile strategies involve repurposing existing technologies? i.e. websites, e-commerce tools, CMS systems, etc.
Overall we really try to take advantage of these technologies by providing better interaction to legacy systems. We make them mobile and tablet aware. We work on providing a new skin, a new user experience, and more personalization to existing applications. So that’s really the power of mobile - It’s a portal back into the enterprise; It’s taking systems that you already have that work, optimizing them, and making them more personalized within a mobile environment.
However, in many cases, these legacy interfaces are also missing orchestration and workflow layers within the overall solution architecture. This is where we can really shine. Inspiration without the ability for execution is simply more like hallucination.
What are some of the most meaningful impacts you’ve seen a focused mobile strategy deliver to organizations?
A lot of times when we work with enterprise companies, they ask how do we do mobile strategy? What we try to do is ensure that it’s not decoupled from any other existing strategy. Mobile in general needs to be connected horizontally throughout all of your strategies. You shouldn’t have a marketing plan, or a digital marketing plan that doesn’t have a mobile element and you obviously don’t have a digital strategy that doesn’t have a mobile component. Think mobile and work backwards. Employees, customers and even partners are mobile, so think “mobile first”. Mobile first is the guiding principle to how we believe companies should approach a business strategy.
How does an organization measure mobile success?
Our assertion is that measuring mobile success should leverage the same KPI’s that we do for any software solution. Don’t rethink strategies. Don’t redo business plans based on mobile. Instead, immerse mobile into everything that you’re doing; then think about new initiatives you could be doing that are enabled by mobile. Mobile should be a way of thinking.
The mobile first pattern and principle should be a guide to how we drive overall customer engagement. Measuring targeted mobile success should be based on metrics within your solution. Sometimes it’s user acquisition, sometimes it’s pure marketing purpose, and a lot of the things we do within the enterprise deal with employee engagement. This involves making really good use of the employees time away from their desks, so that while they’re on a train they can be doing X, while they’re with a customer they can actually capture the information and get it back to these channels without having to go back to the office and type emails.
In your experience why do mobile projects fail?
I think a lot of it leads back to the overall lack of strategy and direction. Often this happens in the early stages when a lot of the companies start led heavily by the marketing departments. This again is a big differentiator for our company; many of our competitors think that the CMO drives the board. Marketing is critical, but truly transformational applications are driven by the entire C-level group. We know business leadership through our business architecture and business consulting experience. We focus our strategy discussions with CIO’s, where most deal with the CMO. CMO’s have a definite play on customer engagement, but where we really find value is interacting with the entire C-level staff on enabling transparency and providing incremental or exponential improvement.
But a lot of projects fail due to lack of planning. They fail because they don’t know how they’re going to measure the initiative success. This happens when companies say we want to go mobile, as opposed to we want to solve this problem.
I’ve heard you talk about engaging customers that already have failed mobile experiences, what is your advice to them?
You should’ve come to us first (laughs). It’s really back to the strategy. What we do is engage at the consultative layer of the enterprise, and really talk about why we did the application. What are we trying to connect to? What is the strategic initiative? Then how do we do the overall tactical execution.
There’s a myriad of issues that we run into from offshoring as well. It’s very rare for them to really understand the business, mobile strategy, the KPI’s - how were going to measure success, how we’re going to improve on success, and how to reiterate and really focus on customer experience.
From my experience in the enterprise, we used to do $30+ million projects that didn’t have a line item within the overall project plan for user experience or design. We just gave the Microsoft looking windows, the three pane windows; that was enough. This is really the biggest difference that mobile has changed within enterprise - the expectation of the individual user. Whether it’s B2B, B2C, H2H - each side of the interaction expects personalization. They expect to be able to engage the way they want to engage. They expect the transparency that didn’t exist within earlier systems.