The cost of not planning for mobile transformation at scale

By Shamayun Miah

Many businesses have miscalculated the full cost of ownership of their mobile strategies. It’s fair to say that by now, just about every organization has implemented a mobile transformation with apps on multiple platforms in some capacity for its employees. Corporate app stores are filled with hundreds of apps for enterprise users. Consumers have access to 2.2 million apps in the Apple App Store, 2.8 million apps in Google Play and almost 700,000 apps in the Windows Store.

The commonality across all of these apps is that approximately 80 percent do not deliver the experience users expect, and within a few weeks after downloading, they end up in the digital dustbin. The problem of user adoption — especially within the enterprise space — is further compounded by the rising costs of building, integrating, maintaining and upgrading apps, which often results in apps becoming obsolete. On average, costs associated with maintaining and enhancing apps can exceed three to four times the initial build cost, thereby making the initial investment estimate of a few hundred thousand dollars misleading.

When talking to line-of-business leaders and product owners, there is a common pattern across industries. Many companies will develop between five and eight apps, rapidly lose energy and vision to continue the journey. Three common reasons for this are:

1. Apps aren’t developed across the app ecosystem

In many cases, apps are developed to satisfy a single use case which meets the users’ needs, however, greater value and an improved user experience can be achieved when the app integrates across the ecosystem — including B2C, B2E, and B2B — to deliver a cohesive user experience. For example, a B2C app and a B2E app can be integrated, like when you check in for your flight on your consumer mobile, the flight crew is notified on their enterprise app and have the same data available when serving you on board.

Find out the total economic impact of mobile at scale

2. Lack of planning and understanding of the end-to-end employee experience

Very few companies think through the end-to-end experiences of their employees as they perform their duties and work to achieve the desired business outcomes. As a result, companies tend not to create the roadmap that is necessary to capture the end-to-end needs of employees.

3. Inability to sustain the long-term journey

The third reason is “running out of steam.” App ideas are often generated on the fly, they are built individually with siloed design, lack of consistency, no DevOps, and by the time the app is released, there is a sigh of relief. The accomplishment is the delivery of the app, as opposed to meeting the desired outcomes. Without a robust app roadmap that spans an 18 to 24-month delivery timeline that can flex to meet the demand of changing user needs, businesses cannot sustain the long-term journey.

There is also a misconception about the cost of apps. Building apps is not a cheap or quick process. Enterprise mobile transformation apps can be as complex as building monolithic applications that require high levels of integration, development and automation and testing skills. Many organizations do not possess the capabilities in-house to fully take on building the app — and should not possess them, as they’re not core competencies of their business. Apps can be developed for hundreds of thousands of dollars — and some apps can even cost over $5 million — so companies must have a clear expectation of the value an app can deliver to truly understand both the value and the cost of development and integration.


Businesses must look at the overall cost of building and integrating an app, as integration effort and time can take up to 70 percent of the overall effort for the release of an app. It takes an immense amount of energy, investment, skill and vision to create and integrate a portfolio of transformative apps that deliver value at speed, scale and accompany it with an awesome user experience.

Put more value back into your mobile value chain

Creating and executing holistic mobile app management strategies is key to accelerating digital transformation across your employees, partners and customers. These strategies must be aligned with business processes and successfully articulate the tangible, quantifiable and non-quantifiable value and return. A disparate portfolio of mobile solutions that doesn’t align with your business plan won’t reach its full ROI potential.

By adopting an integrated, flexible and scalable approach to mobile app management, you will be able to quickly deliver new capabilities to your existing apps at lower costs. You will also find you have a solid framework for integrating emerging technologies. Mobile apps are a key user interface for the advancements we’re seeing in technologies such as AI, robotics, the IoT and blockchain. These symbiotic technologies will be the foundation of a new platform for digital business value creation.

When I talk with CIOs and business leaders about this problem, they express a desire to consolidate their mobile application providers, agencies, and in-house development teams. This would not only vastly reduce the resources and overhead required to manage existing apps but also free up their teams to create new, innovative and contextually relevant mobile services for employees and customers.

However, both IT and line-of-businesses struggle to measure and prove the value of moving to a factory-style development of their B2B, B2C and B2E mobile apps. Therefore, when going in front of their CxO for budget approval, their case for change makes complete business sense but proving the investment case becomes difficult.

With IBM Mobile at Scale, the process of app development has been refined to an efficient and effective system capable of not only creating great mobile experiences but also providing the maintenance, security and robust architecture needed to keep them running. A recent Forrester study commissioned by IBM helps CIOs and lines of businesses quantify the value of moving to a factory-style, integrated end-to-end delivery and maintenance model. This report is particularly useful for any organization that is looking at developing an enterprise strategy and business case to move to a mobile factory development approach.

What will your next mobile app project cost you?

Find out the total economic impact of mobile at scale

Written By

Shamayun Miah

Partner & Vice President at IBM GBS

Shamayun is an IBM global executive with deep experience in technology, consulting and business. In addition to his role as Vice President and Partner, IBM Global Business Services, Cloud Application Innovation Offerings, he has been leading the IBM Mobile Centre of Competence since…

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