Launching Enterprise Mobility Services – A Primer for Product Managers

Over the past year, few technology developments have challenged IT staffs more than the mobility wave.  Two years ago it was the social phenomenon.  Now it’s mobile computing.  Virtusa’s BFS business unit has seen a surge in the number of inquiries regarding mobile.  And now, the questions are not about “if”, they are about “how”.  Here is a familiar scenario.

You’re a product manager in a major financial or commercial company and you have just gotten the assignment of launching a mobile version of your product. You’re thrilled but you’re terrified. Your mind is racing. Where do you start? Pour yourself an herb tea or some other relaxing drink, realize that it will not be easy, and start planning. Even the organizations that appear as though they are miles ahead of you have probably only “mobilized” a small subset of their potential offerings. A major bank, for example, may be offering some exciting consumer goodies but, if you knew the mobile product team, they would tell you they have barely scratched the surface. The same bank’s B2B offerings are probably still on the drawing board at best.

How to begin? Start by looking at your firm’s internet capabilities. A lot of what you are going to be putting on that iPhone is already on your company’s website. Also, look at competitor websites to see what they are showcasing. Make a chart with a row for each of the web capabilities you offer for your product and a column for each of your competitors showing what they currently address with their mobile offerings. If your competitors are doing things on smartphones you do not do on the web, add new rows. If you end up with a chart that is mostly empty space, then your rivals are not too far ahead. However, they are likely working on the same project you are and who knows how close they are to launch. If a lot of columns are filled in, then you know what you need for table stakes.

Now it is time to start thinking about how mobile is different than the web. You can start with the idea that your mobile offering is your current internet offering on a device with a (really!) small screen – but, your customers will hate it. Guaranteed. At a minimum, make the screen usable. Then start thinking about the things that will make a mobile offering different. Phones take pictures and your laptop can’t. Phones know where you are and your laptop doesn’t. Phones can send and receive text messages to communicate in ways your laptop won’t. Web browsers are all pretty much the same but smartphones (iPhones, Androids, BlackBerry’s) are different from each other and much different from traditional feature phones. Then there are tablets. Some offerings pretend these are phones and some pretend these are laptops but the right answer seems to be in the middle.

What will make your product a winner in the emerging mobile space? Applying these concepts will give you a good set of basic ideas to get started. If the competition is already ahead, you may need to get to market quickly with a copycat offering and then come out with a more strategic 2.0 version. Use focus groups and similar techniques for customer feedback on features but remember that the big breakthroughs do not happen that way. And, to state the obvious, this is a big technical project and you need to be working closely with your technology team every step of the way.

Planning to kickstart your company’s Mobility program? You may want to listen to Forrester and Virtusa experts in our upcoming Webinar on “Overcoming Challenges in early-stage Enterprise Mobility programs.” Click here to get more details on the Webinar.

One Comments

  • Gene Loparco May 19, 2011

    Ray, great article! You’ve touched on many important points here and have provided a nice high-level roadmap for Product Managers to use.

    I particularly liked your paragraph on the differences between the mobile experience and the existing desktop experience. This is critical to creating a compelling user experience. It should be noted as well, that there really is no catch-all term like “mobile”. Even within mobile, there are devices of varying shapes and sizes, screen resolutions, and pixel densities. All of these things need to be considered in an Enterprise mobile solution.

    I’ve written a related article, here: http://blog.elemdage.com/technology/the-myth-of-wora

    It’s an exciting time, and over the past year and a half, our mobility capabilities at Virtusa have really blossomed! We’ve created several solution accelerators to help clients with their mobility efforts, whether they be Native Apps, HTML Apps, or Hybrid Apps.

    It’s good to see the Banking and Financial Services sector really commit to these initiatives. Their customers have been using more and more services on their phones and tablets, and will continue to do so in increasing numbers.

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