My first decade in the technology industry was spent producing service side software for very large enterprises in the Telecom sector. Since then my personal path led me to migrate my focus to Mobile client solutions, spending several years gaining experience and expertise in producing them for both commercial and enterprise companies. Architecting them, creating and most importantly distributing them to end users and monitoring the usage patterns. This strange mixture of experience has led me to see a clear pattern in regards to adoption of mobile focused products in the enterprise.
Enterprise companies, large and small, continually produce an inordinate amount of failed mobile projects.
Why is this? Don’t they successfully produce many great products from other technology domains?
They do. Spanning hardware like routers and mainframes to software solutions addressing security, cloud, big data analytics and API Management the enterprise does many things very well. But great enterprise mobile solutions remain elusive. What is missing?
The languages and tools of Apple and Google are widespread, easy to learn and it is easier than ever to write and deploy mobile solutions on a wide scale. In fact, learning mobile technology is much easier than learning traditional server side technologies. So if the technology isn’t the problem, then what is?
It is the mindset. That’s it. It is a deceivingly simple answer that while very true, is also difficult to define and even harder to conceptualize.
What exactly does that mean? And why do so very many highly intelligent people struggle to acquire the mobile mindset?
It is another seemingly simple answer. The traditional enterprise mindset and the mobile mindset are diametrically opposed in several basic ways.
How so? There are many.
Enterprise solutions are typically conceived, architected then executed from a ‘bottom up’ viewpoint. Solutions are typically very technical and usability is an afterthought, the last thing to be considered. The results are what you would expect.
Mobile solutions are typically conceived with end users in mind. Usability is foremost in mind when designing a solution if done by experienced mobile solution designers. A ‘top down’ viewpoint.
Enterprise solutions are largely proprietary, tightly controlled by vendors. There is little to no sense of ‘community’. Open sharing of code is rare at this time.
Mobile is immensely open source with many, many freely available libraries from which to choose. UI components of all types, networking, security, data storage and more. If you can think of it or have seen it in a mobile app, there is almost certainly a library and its source code to freely use. The sense of community and sharing among mobile developers is very strong.
Enterprises still tend to follow old business models that in technology circles map to obsolete ‘Waterfall’ approaches which means reaction to change is slow and time consuming. It can take a long time to put a new, or updated, product out the door to reflect the current environment. This is a big problem in the growing BYOD environment where the Big Two mobile companies are pushing new devices yearly, forcing consumers to upgrade on two to three year cycles.
Mobile moves very fast and changes constantly. Huge changes can occur on a yearly basis, sometimes even month to month. This is true of the business side and the technology side. It is the quintessential ‘Agile’ technology.
These are a few of the main points on mindset. But is that the only problem?
No, another big problem is the lack of experienced Mobile experts with the appropriate mindset in Enterprise organizations management and executive roles. These types of people are essential in pushing a company to transform it’s thinking to enable it to address this fast growing Mobile enterprise business segment.
Changing the mindset of an organization to the modern reality of today’s Mobile focused world must to a large degree begin with those in the leadership positions.
If the leaders don’t support or understand the need for this type of transformation then it will most likely not occur.
If it does not occur then an organizations Mobile ambitions will almost certainly fail.