2016-02-21

Thoughts on the mobile enterprise #9: Long term strategy

In a series of posts I will elaborate on how enterprise applications can embrace mobile devices.

In part 8 we took a look at factors influencing the decision whether to make or buy a mobile app. I concluded by saying that the long term strategy of an organization has great influence on that matter.

Who can define the long term strategy of an organization primarily depends on its legal form. If the organization is an ordinary company, its destiny is ultimately controlled by the owner. He, of course, may delegate the task. This is also true if the ownership is shared among many people, as in corporations. In such scenarios, we usually find a chief information officer, who is in charge of everything related to information technology. Though he is not responsible for the long term strategy of the organization as a whole (which would be the chief execute officer), he needs to make sure his decisions comply with it. This might mean answering the question whether to build mobile apps.

The situation may be a little more complicated if the organization is public, such as authorities. Their organizational structure is determined by law, as is their long term strategy: public institutions are not supposed to make money, but to fulfill a specific purpose (for example ensuring the welfare of the people). Still, larger authorities do have chief information officers these days. Now, would he decide if his organization should build mobile apps? To answer that question, let us think about the term long term strategy a little bit more. 

For an ordinary company it might mean increase the market share by 5 percent within the next five years. How this can be achieved depends on the product the company is selling. If that is traditional desktop software, the company must seek new platforms, since the number of new personal computers being sold has been shrinking for quite a while, whereas smartphones and (to a lesser degree) tablets still sell like hotcakes. So, yes, that company should build mobile apps.

How about authorities? Here, part of the long term strategy might be increase the quality of service by, for example, making it easier to contact staff or to check if a claim has already been decided. It certainly makes sense to offer filling in forms or tracking status electronically (over the web). But does there have to be a (native) mobile app? I am by no means implying that there should not be one. I just want to stress that there has to be someone who weighs the benefits (increased level of service) and the costs (for developing the app).

To sum up, the long term strategy of an organization determines where the organization whats to be in five or ten years. This may have great influence on product development, recruitment and training of the personnel. It most certainly influences the decision whether to deal with mobile apps. Whether this means making or buying, has to be decided afterwards.

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