Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ingredients for Success in Mobility

I recently reviewed a study performed by IBM titled "What are the star qualities of successful mobile projects?" (9/2015). I thought it was well-written and being as complex as mobility development projects are, there is probably some merit in augmenting the ‘star qualities’ listed in this study with my own anecdotal observations.

Let’s review IBM’s list:

1.    Experience & Expertise: We can argue that employing superior expertise is an added advantage in all innovative endeavors. However, the rapid pace at which mobility technology evolves creates a unique set of challenges for technologists to contend with.

Employing a rich base of experience and expertise vastly increases the odds of success in mobility projects. It shortens the iterative development cycles and enables a project to keep up with the latest advancements in mobile technology

2.    Platforms: Importance of platforms cannot be understated. In broad terms, a mobile solution only partly resides on the mobile device. A symbiotic virtual partner also lives on the backend. Therefore, a robust backend service geared toward mobile consumption is a required necessity. Software vendors offering mobile backend services must be carefully vetted in accordance to the specific project needs and the scope of deployment.

Second, development efforts on the mobile device can be leveraged through the use of app development platforms. Rather than using two development teams to create iOS and Android versions of a single app, an app development platform enables developers to write one set of code for both operating systems and optimize accordingly.

Using Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADP) is, however, not a panacea. It introduces another layer of complexity to development efforts which can prove to be detrimental to effective app maintenance in the long run. Nevertheless, the cost savings associated with embarking on the MADP path are very tangible and may provide the needed differential for a project with limited budget.

3.    Collaboration: The IBM study emphasizes close collaboration among all stakeholders in order to see a project through to a successful completion and beyond. Arguably, close collaboration within any given project is a definite plus. However, contending with the complexity inherent within mobility projects requires close collaboration among stakeholders without which odds of achieving a successful outcome diminish precipitously.

4.    Analytics: Analytics data is collected and processed to gauge an app's reception by its intended audience. Usage and performance analytics when combined with direct feedback from the users produces an important set of metrics utilized to assess an app’s ongoing health.

I believe these guideposts are probably the four solid pillars for building a successful mobile app. Applying these principles will certainly increase the odds of obtaining the desired outcome. There are, however, some nuances within each pillar that may be worthy of a deeper look:

1.1  Experienced Leadership: With mobility projects, complexity is the order of the day. Navigating a team through this complexity requires a seasoned and experienced leader. More often than not, leadership in mobility projects requires possessing an active hands-on demeanor.

A strong track record of end-to-end project deliveries should probably be required of a mobile project leader. To put it succinctly, the leader has to be able to wear many hats and change them as quickly as it is necessary to see the project through to its successful completion.

2.1  Technology Agnosticism: Unquestionably every mobile vendor will claim to be the most suitable one for your project. But being technologically agnostic is very essential to mobility’s complex and rapidly transforming universe.

This means we don’t start the discovery process by being biased toward one set of tools or another. If you are employing consulting services for your mobility project then you must make every effort to not reveal your technology bias to your consultants. This way, you can receive the best guidance possible from a knowledgeable and experienced resource who is also abreast of mobility’s ever-changing landscape.

3.1  Technology-Driven Management: This may be a somewhat controversial suggestion yet I believe that the ultimate decision-maker within the framework of a mobility project needs to be the technical manager. Once again, this is important because of the inherent complexity involved in implementing mobile technology.

To navigate this complexity, the technical project leader must have the final authority on every aspect of the project to ensure its success. The common-sense approach dictates that business stakeholders drive the project requirements and direct course correction as needed.

But this traditional approach may not be suitable for mobility projects. Again, the complexity and rapidity of changes within the mobile space requires the project leader to frequently course-correct in order to remain in front of the ever-shifting technological tide. This will necessitate having a free hand to alter the project course without the need to be excessively concerned about receiving a backlash from business stakeholders.

4.1  Analytics-Driven Enhancements: I believe that roughly half of future enhancements to any given app should be driven by extensive review of analytics data. The other half can be driven by the user enhancement requests.

This is an important distinction because user enhancement requests usually are the primary driver of most IT projects. I am suggesting that this approach be altered to give equal weighting to analytics-driven and user-driven enhancement requests. Putting the needed emphasis on analytics-driven enhancements ensures that the app is kept relevant and fresh in the face of a rapidly transforming mobile space.
Unquestionably, nowadays mobility is the cornerstone of advancement in digital technology. No one goes anywhere without their mobile phones while computers generally remain tethered to workstations.

We are at the dawn of the mobile age. So this new era invariably requires that we alter our traditional approaches to application development and adapt to the rapid pace of innovation that has increasingly become the order of the day in this Digital Age.

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