Going Mobile: How to prioritize your application portfolio

It is now commonly accepted that the world is a pervasively connected place. More and more customers’ and stakeholders’ expectation is that work and play will occur anywhere, anytime and via any device. Below are a few facts from the recent publication Digital Government: Building a 21st century platform to better serve the American people:

  • Mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to grow from nearly 1 billion in 2011 to over 5 billion globally in 2016
  • By 2015, more Americans will access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs
  • As of March 2012, 46% of American adults were smartphone owners – up from 35% in May 2011
  • In 2011, global smartphone shipments exceeded personal computer shipments for the first time in history

These facts are driving the requirement for both the public and private sector to provide access to resources their stakeholders need in this new mobile context. There are many issues that an organization will face in attempting to meet this new expectation. The effort to go mobile will often be tied to other efforts around digital strategy. At times it will be a component of a larger push towards service orientation, in concert with data management initiatives, or coupled with any one of a number of transformational shifts within the technology landscape that are changing the way that organizations do business. Tying an organization’s mobile strategy together with other initiatives will often make sense. The natural synergies that come into play enable the efforts being made to achieve one objective to simplify the attainment of other goals.

With that being said, I have tried to keep thing simple in this article and focus primarily on the characteristics that should be evaluated as the organization looks across its application portfolio to prioritize what should go mobile first. This is an inherently simplistic approach that does not take into account the myriad of opportunities to reduce redundancy, become more efficient within customer facing processes and tie to a cleaner implementation of the organization’s data layer. There are simply too many variables involved to address them within a single article, however addressing these issues within the application portfolio should be considered a critical step in developing a real mobile strategy. The following characteristics should therefore be seen as tools to better understand your application portfolio in the mobile context and not as a comprehensive approach to creating a mobile strategy or methodology for evaluating your application portfolio in the mobile context.

With those caveats in mind I think that the following are some of the key characteristics that should be considered when evaluating the application portfolio for mobile opportunities:

Number of Users
Sensitivity of Data
Application Lifecycle State
Criticality
Mobile Requests

Number of Users

I think that the number of users is a both obvious and underappreciated criterion for going mobile. The numbers game at the top of the page tells the story. With so many mobile users and with almost half of the American population owning a smartphone it is highly likely that any application with a lot of users will also have a lot of users who expect to be able to use the application in the mobile context.
Sensitivity of Data: This is critical because of the implied dependency to maturity of the mobile capability of the organization that will be deploying the application. Having a mobile application that includes personally identifiable or sensitive information requires the application provider have put time and effort into the security of the information in transit and on the device as well as general mobile device management and security.

Application Lifecycle State: This is a factor because the cost of “going mobile” may be easily rolled into the re-development or refresh of an existing capability or built into the development of an early stage application development effort. The return on investment may not be as high on an application that has just entered its maintenance phase; of course the ROI may also be highly dependent on other criteria.

Mobile Requests

Many organizations have begun to change the manner in which they engage with both internal and external stakeholders. The entrance of social media and the focus on enabling conversation has made it easier for stakeholders to advocate for things like mobile access applications. Are you listening? Evaluating your application for mobile opportunities can be much easier if you engage your stakeholders directly with regard to their priorities.

Criticality 
See the factor above, but add your understanding of the organization as an executive. You can’t crowd source leadership. The factors above are things that should be considered from a common sense perspective however every organization has unique circumstances, political factors, maturity challenges, and opportunities. Get the most out of moving your stakeholder experience to the mobile world by ensuring that you don’t put too tight of a box around how you move forward. One critical mistake that can be made when considering the move to mobile is to simply begin “porting” applications to mobile.

Conclusion

I think the characteristics above should help you begin to think in the right direction, figuring out what works for your organization will require some tailoring. If you have an approach you are using at your organization that has been working I’d love to hear about it @jmillsapps on twitter.

                                       

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