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The Five Big Lies about ‘Going Mobile’

Mobility is not just about building ‘apps.’ Like any transformative technology it requires a coherent strategy that the entire organization is equipped to carry out.

“First, man defines his infrastructure. Then his infrastructure defines him.”
Anonymous

You have proven ability. You’re CEO of your company because you’re extremely good at what you do. But that doesn’t mean you are ready to tackle the complex world of mobility. Why? Because mobile is completely different from anything you’ve done before, and you need to throw conventional wisdom onto the dust heap of out-of-date thinking.

You may have a bunch of people in business and IT that are telling you how you should approach mobile, but beware. They might not even recognize that mobile is different in every way from previous technology waves.

More times than not, companies focus on mobile as a task on their to-do list, because they are not equipped to deal with designing, building and integrating a mobile solution that makes a strong impact. As a result, companies create mobile apps without business value, and they end up throwing away most of the stuff, after the fact. It’s been reported that 70 percent of all apps built between 2008 and 2011 will become obsolete and candidates for redevelopment by end of 2012, according to MGI research.

What makes mobile so profoundly different from earlier technology waves?

Mobility presents a new set of challenges. Development has to be shifted to a different technology platform that requires fresh skill sets and experience. A mobile solution should be something that thousands of people can use on any of the 200+ platforms anytime and anywhere. You must provide devices for your employees or establish bring-your-own-device policies. You must sync content with your website, support it and keep the application refreshed. And let’s not forget that all this must be accomplished without compromising security or performance.

In order to fully take advantage of mobile, you must resist that conventional wisdom that you may hear from your staff. The C-suite needs a Truth Meter to spot lies and dispel misconceptions about mobilizing the enterprise. Here are five Big Lies that might slow your progress.

  1. We just need a mobile presence… fast. What good is speed if it doesn’t accomplish real business value? You only get one chance to make a first impression in the marketplace, and you don’t want that to be a bad one. Customers have megaphones and shout their evaluation of your app with one to five stars. A bad rating is hard to overcome. Do you really want to waste time and money to get negligible business results that may damage your reputation? Even if eventually you get it right? It is critical to recognize that mobile is a business enabler not a check off. 
  2. You have in place APIs, which let you access all of your enterprise data and software. So your team just needs to focus on building an app and then connect it.Sounds good, but it’s often not true. APIs can be missing elements or are unable to support the real-time, high-volume interactions that a widely distributed mobile solution will bring. There must also be middleware software to hook together discrete programs, such as payment systems, to your app. It’s estimated by Forrester Research that the 60 percent of the cost of a mobile solution is the cost of middleware and integration. Mobile is not simply the thin layer of code on a device.Stand-alone websites didn’t drive business value. Web-enabled business processes did. Amazon is a prime example of exploiting the Web to the fullest. So too must mobile apps evolve to mobile-enabled solutions that allow companies to leverage its existing business infrastructure.
  3. Our creative team can design the interface.Probably not. Undoubtedly, your staff can design the interface to your website and visual assets, but designing for an interactive mobile experience is fundamentally different. You need to understand how your target customers will connect with the application and then deliver that interaction in useful and compelling ways.According to Pinch Media, on the day after an app is downloaded, only 20 percent of users use it again. By day 30, that’s down to 3 percent. User-centered design gets to the essence of the apps functionality and usefulness before you ever consider its look and feel. Experts in this field test designs with actual customers and create solutions based on what the customer wants, not what you assume they want. You may think you understand your customers from getting up close to them on the Web. Mobile, however, is getting up close and personal with them. Because a phone usually has one primary user, you need to know if you are interacting with a 17-year-old girl or a 35-year-old guy. You can customize your content accordingly through mobile analytics.
  4. Our staff can handle the development work. Just because a member of your IT staff developed an iPhone game doesn’t mean he or she can code an enterprise-class mobile solution. There are so many aspects to think about and design and code for. What happens if your battery dies while using the application? If you get on an elevator, lose the connection and then get back the connection? How do you cache all information so you don’t have to restart? If you are in low bandwidth world, does your app detect and act differently than when you are in a 4G environment? It’s about working cross-platforms, updating the application and surviving the app store approval processes.
  5. Finally, we can worry about security later. While you don’t want security to get in the way an engaging user experience, there’s no way security should be an afterthought. You need to follow the data and secure it as you go—while not compromising usability. For example, an insurance company’s mobile application is worthless if it doesn’t tie into individual policy data when an accident is reported, a bill paid or a policy updated. Starting on a mobile device and ending up on your website is not a great mobile experience.If you’re not convinced that security is of primary importance, take a look at the sobering statistics. Juniper Networks found that in 2011, mobile malware attacks reached a record number, jumping 155 percent, hitting the Android platform hardest.

    It is irresponsible to open your organization to such risks since they can be minimized when building an enterprise solution.

Conclusion

Mobility is not just another technology fad. It is, unquestionably, the next transformative wave that will drive deep changes in how employees, customers, partners and suppliers interact. And it is important to realize that enterprise mobility is not about just building apps. Approach mobile as you would any other business strategy. Carefully devise a plan. Find the right people to design, build and deploy it. And don’t be deceived by the Five Big Lies.

About Bill Seibel

Bill Seibel is founder and CEO of Mobiquity. Prior to Mobiquity, Seibel had been CEO of Gumball, a consulting firm. In addition, Seibel is Executive Chairman of LogMatrix, and currently serves on the Boards of Cardinal Resources and Compliance Assurance Corporation, and on the Advisory Boards of OnPlane, Aprigo and Profitect.