The Christmas slowdown always gives me the opportunity to catch up on my reading list and I was surprised how much of it related to mobile technology. Perhaps I should explain that my systematic approach is to keep a running list of URLs with the title of the piece in topic groups. And heading the mobility list was the promising-sounding online Harvard Business Review article ‘Building a Mobile App Is Not a MobileStrategy’. I expected the article to make the distinction between a ‘mobile application’ i.e. making a traditional cloud server application available on a mobile device by overcoming the variable nature of synchronization, and the newer meaning of ‘mobility’ referring to any device, at any time, making any connection through a variety of services which are broadly likely to be wireless. In this case there is total mobility between, and at, every layer of the interaction, which is usually based on Internet services.
To my fascination, Jason Gurwin, a cofounder & CEO of venture-backed next-generation mobile coupon company, Pushpins, wrote back at the end of November 2011 an excellent piece that confidently assumed that a Harvard Business Review online (business?) reader fully understood this and therefore needed no such definition. Instead, he offered four clear points to remember when creating mobile apps to be used by potential customers as part of your company’s cohesive marketing strategy. As he says at the beginning: ‘everyone wants their own mobile application, I have heard this consistently’. Me too, Jason, but the big point I want to make is how does the creation of a series of mobile apps to be placed in app stores, or on the enterprise’s own Website, to be downloaded by customers and offer them ‘a brand experience’, fit in with the development skills of internal IT?
Read the article again with this point in mind, and how this should or should not be linked with social CRM and governance, a point I touched on a previous post in which I suggested that social CRM would cause IT project failure to be much more visible. SAP added nicely to this topic with a recent article on the topic of ‘app stores’ in which they asked the question as to what exactly did the term mean. SAP stated: ‘there are multiple, somewhat-overlapping definitions of the enterprise app store floating around in the minds of techies and business-types. All of them borrow heavily from the original Apple App Store – that is, a Website or mobile portal serving up apps to users. But they differ in how they work and who they are intended to serve.
The article goes on to list four types of app stores with different characteristics in their use/users and governance:
- InternalEnterprise– accessed and used by enterprise users for their work
- Externally Facing – providing enterprise apps for their customers, market, and partners
- Third Party – operated by Apple, Google, etc, public with little control over downloads
- Vendor Operated – generally associated with apps to expand enterprise packages such as SAP.
There is a really important principle in this around splitting up the whole mobility topic from the point of view of who is using what app, from where and under what governance and controls. The marketing people may well want to use a specialist company to produce their ‘viral’ apps that will go on the Third Party app shops, and in this case the quality of the technical build will be tested by the app shop operator and therefore the risk of a poor execution is low, and the decision on the experience created is solely a marketing concern. At the other extreme, it’s pretty clear that the IT department should be fully in control of the Internal Enterprise app shop in every sense from technology to content. More difficult is the Externally Facing app shop, running from an internal resource where marketing may wish to be free to do what they want, but the reality is that the IT department needs to have control over the technology and governance of the apps at least.
As with all of these things it’s not too much of an issue if the principles are recognized and established at the beginning before deployments start. It’s a big issue after something has gone wrong, with blame and the challenge of examining and reworking a significant number of apps! So in the words of the title to this piece; mobile enterprise applications have their own model in the internal IT governance and it’s clear, but mobility owes nothing to this model, has no pre-existing governance model, but does have a lot of demanding powerful internal advocates to get apps out into their market. So beware they don’t have to come to see IT about it, any more than they did when seemingly every department started to create Websites!!