Five signs your company could have an even more effective mobile strategy

By Phil Buckellew, on


“The company without strategy is willing to try anything,” as renowned business strategy scholar Michael Porter, of “Porter’s Five Forces” once said.

This thinking is consistent with what is happening in the mobile marketplace, where there has been a great deal of innovation and experimentation in developing a mobile strategy. The good news is that I’m encountering more companies that are working on putting mobile first and trying out many options to see what works best. In some cases, they only have a bare minimum of departmental collaboration and investment, at least until they’ve proven a model is successful for the business. Much of the experimentation with mobile is organizationally positive, as it produces learning and – in the best cases – agile adjustments that achieve results in the end.

However, with new innovations driving a connected economy, this means the future business results of such dabbling and experimentation might come too late. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that a majority of business leaders believe digital disruption is putting their revenue in danger as unexpected competitors use new technology to gain an advantage. Beyond this issue, all this experimentation can lead to disjointed pockets of innovation that become harder to reconcile with the larger organizational mission.

With the CIO’s office squarely focused on mobile and line-of-business leaders considering cloud and mobile as their top priorities in revolutionizing their businesses, investment is going up. That is a good thing. However, Mobile Marketer reported that few companies have a defined, consistent and organizationally robust operational mobile strategy, with some research indicating only 20 percent of companies have a real mobile strategy at all.

Why is strategy so important with mobile?

Mobile strategies guide your company’s tactical execution across departments, divisions and geographies toward a unified objective that aligns with your future vision. This seems obvious, I know, but if it’s so obvious, why do so few companies develop and codify that mobile strategy?

More often than not, the reason is that action and investment are not aligned or are even mistaken for a strategy. Companies might believe they have strategies, but in reality, they’re based on delivering applications or capabilities rather than focusing on long-term directions that integrate emerging technologies.

So, how can you tell the difference? The following are five indications your organization’s mobile strategy could use some refinement:

  1. Your mobile strategy is department-focused rather than company-wide or business process-focused.
    A good strategy is something all departments can wrap tactical actions around. If your strategy is to deliver a continually improving app to clients, what part does marketing play? HR? Other departments? If each department can’t play a role, is it really an effective strategy, or is it more of a specific tactical action?
  2. Your mobile strategy centers on a single horizon rather than an evolving one.
    If your strategy focuses on delivering a new set of mobile criteria, it is tactical, not strategic. A sound strategy for mobile should not be ephemeral and should be designed to work over the long-term, not a quarter or two. Mobile apps are not one and done — you must invest in continuous improvements.
  3. Your mobile strategy is capability-focused rather than business process-based.
    Where we see the most difficulty in strategy is when the focus is on the technology or on a set of apps rather than the business process. Technology is shifting and ever-changing, but the value that can be realized through optimizing a business process is a more consistent compass point. Choose objectives based on customers served and measurements based on the throughput of that business process, such as bookings or customer satisfaction measures.
  4. Your mobile strategy is device- or app-focused, rather than experience-based.
    Smartphones are getting smarter, wearables are gaining traction and drones are taking flight at companies. Large consumer technology is expressing an unwavering commitment to augmented reality and virtual reality, so the end-user interface and device will quickly shift. If a mobile strategy is comprehensive, it will incorporate all these technologies through the focus on an end result that matters. This also means paying attention to user experience and interface needs forethought and design as much as simplicity and pragmatism, so it can stand the test of time and emerging technologies.
  5. Your mobile strategy is led by an enterprising department or leader, rather than the top of the company.
    Another common pitfall is finding the best sponsor of a comprehensive mobile strategy. When a single department or leader, such as the CIO, owns execution, it can become a technical and tactical focus and lose focus with the end-user experience or the business process being improved. Another benefit of a high-level executive leader and sponsor is that it helps ensure the tactical execution is properly funded and rolled out company-wide. Mobile strategy deserves the focus of a broad leadership team, not just the CIO.

A good mobile strategy stems from business process planning, with a touch of imagination, user-experience knowledge and a strong desire to make continuous improvements. In order to get it right the first time, organizations need to consider all the possibilities and take the potential of mobile technologies in future incarnations very seriously as they start thinking about their return on investment from mobile.

About The Author

Phil Buckellew

VP of Enterprise Mobile for the IBM Software Group

As VP of Enterprise Mobile at IBM, Phil Buckellew is responsible for setting the strategy and coordinating requirements for mobile solutions across the IBM software portfolio. These solutions span the lifecycle of enterprise needs around mobility including: building and connecting, managing and securing, and extending and transforming business processes with mobile offerings.

Articles by Phil Buckellew
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