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Four Reasons Why Enterprise Mobile Rollouts Can Fail - Or Fail To Launch

Four Reasons Why Enterprise Mobile Rollouts Can Fail - Or Fail To Launch

Summary: Enterprise mobility rollouts are tidier and less risky than the multi-year, multi-million-dollar IT projects of yore. That doesn't mean you won't run the risk of falling flat on your face, though.

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Schools can stumble and fail while going mobile for four reasons, I discovered earlier this month while reporting on all of the latest tablet rollouts this back-to-school season.

That made me wonder: what are the reasons why enterprises stumble or fail at their mobile rollouts?

Coincidentally, several days later, I happened to be a guest on the business technology radio show, In the Cloud with Gamechangers, hosted by Bonnie D. Graham (and, full disclosure, sponsored by SAP).

Other guests included Sheryl Kingstone, director of mobile and CRM research for analyst firm, the Yankee Group, Blake McLaughlin, an associate consulting partner at IBM and the lead for its SAP mobile practice, and Matthew H. Schwartz, IBM's North American head of innovation around SAP software, including mobile.

The topic, "Mobile Moments: Opportunity or Catastrophe?" was a juicy one, and it ended up taking a turn around the biggest risks that enterprises going mobile face today. They included:

1) Brochureware. This was a dot-com term to describe Web sites so hastily and superficially built that they were no more interactive than the printed pamplets they were supposed to replace. Often, they were literally just scans of paper-based marketing materials.

dunder mifflin site

Brochureware for a fake paper company. How fitting.

Credit: NBC's TV show, The Office

History is repeating itself with mobile. "People are just taking their Web sites and mobilizing it and saying  'Good enough,'" Kingstone said.

Just as bad dot-com era sites failed to take advantage of the Web's interactivity, bad mobile sites and apps fail to take advantage of the real-time geolocation features of mobile devices. Or they try to jam too much information into a device's small screen. Or they forget about the advantages and limitations of a touchscreen.

Bad mobile sites and apps disappoint your workers, customers and managers. And they'll leave you far behind the curve of your competitors. Fortunately, they are easily corrected. 

2) Letting IT control mobile's fate. Not so easily corrected is the bad attitude of who should be mobile's biggest advocates.

Sure, in some organizations, the CIO is the force for pushing mobile forward. Take SAP's Oliver Bussmann, for example.

But in organizations with a traditional, command-and-control style, CIOs and IT managers can be mobile's biggest enemies (no surprise if you've seen my book, The Mobility Manifesto).

"The best ideas come from outside (IT). I see IT as almost an inhibitor," Schwartz said. Many CIOs "have a lot of concerns around security, and how to sustain and maintain the infrastructure around mobile. Unless the line-of-business steps up to declare that they will pay for this, IT won't go forward."

My personal take: half or more of organizations out there are in this situation today. Fortunately, that's changing. CIOs recognize that their role is changing, from the Department That Says No to a Partner and Enabler of the Business Side. 

3) "Paralysis by analysis." Sometimes the caution towards mobile is spread more widely than in IT. Mobile's very new-ness creates "many challenges" for organizations, McLaughlin said, due to the "moving parts" that touch many departments besides IT: legal, sales, operations, business processes, upper management, etc.

It's enough to create "a lot of guesswork and paralysis by analysis," McLaughlin said.

For Schwartz, inertia is more often the result of lack of a single champion for mobile within a company. "If I go to a company, and ask who's in charge of mobile, either no one raises their hand or 5-6 people raises their hand," he said.

While informal champions - think of the sales VP who evangelizes the success of the mobile CRM app for his charges - are good, companies typically need more, argues Schwartz. Companies should consider appointing Chief Mobile Officers and creating a Mobile Center of Excellence to help push mobile projects along, unify disparate deployments within various departments and offer guidance on the best way to deploy devices and apps.

4) Expecting R (Returns) without the I (investments). There are many organizations making huge investments in tablets and smartphones. Yahoo, for instance, is rolling out iPhone 5s to all 12,000 employees. 

Problem is, some organizations think it starts and ends with the devices, and, maybe, e-mail. If that's your mindset, then you might as well have stuck with BlackBerries, then.

"Organizations are failing to put a stake in the ground and make the tough choices to move forward and build apps as quickly as they can," McLaughlin said.

(Speaking of rapid app development, McLaughlin will present on this topic at the Enterprise Mobility 2012 conference in Las Vegas on October 30. Check him out as well as the all of the other SAP mobile experts speaking there.)

Other organizations hear the word app and are fooled into thinking that mobilizing business processes should be as quick and easy as buying something from Apple's App Store. That's Schwartz's beef. Companies "think it will be fast and cheap. And mobility isn't necessarily like that."

For example, if you run a manufacturing plant and want to ensure uptime and save millions of dollars, a single "out of box app may not fit your needs," he said. You will need to plan for multiple apps, and then customize then to wring out the full value.

What are the biggest reasons you've seen why enterprise mobile rollouts can stumble or fail?

Topics: UberMobile, Apps, Mobility, Tablets, Enterprise 2.0

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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3 comments
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  • Rubbish-quality in-house software by non-programmers!

    There is just such a project in Kent Police (UK), called "MDT" or mobile data terminals. It is laying on its back with its legs in the air. The would-be users are disgruntled. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of Kent Police and Essex Police money were spent on tough high-quality laptops which have been rendered useless (not to mention insecure).
    pratensis
  • You can't skimp on the planning and actual development work

    Sounds like they thought devices=cake and apps=frosting on top. When it should be exactly the opposite...

    But you seem close enough to know exactly what's wrong with this picture :)
    ericylai@...
  • Our advice: Have a Plan

    As StoryDesk approaches its second anniversary, we’ve seen the casualties of iPad apps gone awry. These failed projects cost businesses time and money. Domain inexperience is typically the root cause. Simply purchasing and deploying mobile devices isn't enough - an action plan must be formulated to articulate what the enterprise hopes to achieve with a mobile device + app rollout.
    With respect to app development, we recommend keeping it simple. The textbook definition of an application is a piece of software designed to perform a specific task. Singular. Apps that are specialized and focused win the day every time. By contrast, apps that take on too much often fail to meet expectations. For more insight, visit http://www.storydesk.com
    StoryDesk