Guide to enterprise mobile app development and SOA
A comprehensive collection of articles, videos and more, hand-picked by our editors
Anne Stuart, Site Editor
In Clay Richardson's view, there's no doubt about mobile computing's impact on the current business landscape.
"Mobile is the No. 1 disruptive force facing companies today," the Forrester Research senior analyst says in opening this videocast, the first in a two-part series on mobile business process management (BPM). Why is mobile such a powerful factor? "Because mobile touches everything: all parts of a business' ecosystem -- customers, employees, partners, suppliers," Richardson says. "Everyone is reaching for mobile to leap buildings with a single bound and to move faster than a locomotive."
While many companies view application development as a big first step toward going mobile, Richardson believes reengineering business processes should be a higher priority. "The actual work behind the scenes to make mobile more engaging and tie back to core systems is where most of the hard work is," he says. "That's the real opportunity."
In this presentation, prepared exclusively for SearchSOA.com and its sister TechTarget site ebizQ, Richardson discusses real-life mobile BPM successes and failures. He also explains why mobile BPM may not be the best choice for every situation and describes two key factors that BPM professionals should consider before mobilizing any process. In part 2, Richardson drills down into specific steps for making processes mobile.
Editor's Note: Following is a transcript of this presentation on mobile BPM, featuring Forrester Research Senior Analyst Clay Richardson. This transcript has been edited for clarity and editorial style.
We know mobile is the number one disruptive force facing companies today. But why is that?
It's because mobile touches everything, all parts of a business's ecosystem. Customers, employees, partners, suppliers--everyone is reaching for mobile [as a way] to leap buildings with a single bound and to move faster than a locomotive, which begs the question: When we pull these devices out, are we seeing them as phones? Are we really seeing them as phone booths that we can turn to, to become Superman for our employers and our families?
Just to give you an example of the expectation gap that we're seeing between what people want to do with mobile and what they're actually able to do with their mobile devices, [I had] a Superman experience of my own, where earlier this year I hosted a slumber party for my daughter, 10 years old.
I'm sure you can imagine being at a slumber party with a bunch of young kids, 10-year-old girls, screaming and saying "Where's the food" and trying to figure out, "Okay, how am I going to get this done? Am I going to pick up the phone and call the pizza delivery place?"
So here's where the Superman part came in. I figured: "I'll pick up my phone, I'll download that pizza-delivery company's app and actually get the download, have the app downloaded in 10 seconds and then have the pizza ordered in maybe another 60 seconds." How long do you think it took to actually get the pizza ordered? It actually took 20 minutes to order the pizza, which is crazy.
I'm sure you're asking yourself: "Why did it take 20 minutes?" I could have just picked up my phone instead of using the app, and just called, and waited on hold, and had the screaming kids in the background. It would have been less frustrating if I had actually just called.
It made me ask myself: "What was it about that experience that made it such a bad experience and gave me a poor outcome, an unexpected outcome?" So let's look at this.
I'm sure many of you have had the same challenge and run into these same sorts of problems as you started to use apps more and more to connect with your employer and connect with the companies you do business with. The key here was that I realized that friction came from all directions in terms of being able to place the order and actually complete the order on the mobile device. I had friction coming from the fact that device was the device, and the app on the device was not optimized for the form factor. So as you can imagine, I was fat-fingering all over the place trying to get this pizza ordered.
It's kind of interesting. I felt bad about giving the pizza company such a hard time recently. So I went back, downloaded the app again, gave it another try, and realized, "Wow, it still took me the same amount of time because they [still] had not optimized the actual ordering process for the form factor."
Mobile BPM: A matter of context
The other piece that was interesting is friction came from not having context to other completed tasks. [For instance,] where I might have ordered pizza in the past, [the app] actually did not recall the [previous] pizza that I ordered. It didn't take into account my location, and maybe [it could have] offered suggestions such as, "Do you want to order this pizza? Do you want to order a pizza that has half pepperoni and [the other] half pineapple and barbecue," since my daughter likes barbecue and pineapple together. It should have been able to notice, or I expected it to notice, that I had ordered pizza from this location in the past and to at least make some suggestions. This is our expectation.
What I also notice is inflexibility around legacy apps. This is kind of my interpretation. What I realized as I was going through the process: I felt like when I was placing the order for the pizza, actually constructing the pizza, that [experience] was very disconnected from the actual payment process. So I could feel like I'm using this new fancy app, but in the background, the payment process felt like it was legacy and very disconnected from the actual mobile experience.
Then, finally, there's this disconnect from back-end processes. That was another piece of friction. Keep in mind: I'm a process guy. So I'm always looking at, "Okay, what is the process? How's the process actually supporting the outcome and the experience that I want?" I could see that the process itself was disconnected as I was going through ordering the pizza.
So just giving you that example, we know that mobile is not something that companies can hide from. Companies can't put their heads in the ground and say, "You know what? I'm going to skip this mobile thing," or "I'm going to halfway do it," because our numbers show that by 2016, 126 million tablets will be in use by U.S. consumers. And we also know that there will be an explosion in the number of mobile apps that are used on mobile devices--$60 billion projected by 2015.
Mobile BPM: 'Three-way tug of war'
But how are companies beginning to deal with the mobile challenge? That's the real question. That’s what I hear all the time from our customers and companies…What I see when I look at companies that are beginning to take on the mobile challenge, is really a three-way tug of war.
The first direction in the tug of war is focused on building really cool apps for customers. These are the customer-strategy and product-strategy people, focused on building really nice, almost Angry Birds-like, apps for the customer experience, to engage the customer.
The [second] pull on the three-way tug of war is around mobile application development. A lot of these conversations are really focused on, "Should we use HTML5? Do we build native apps for the mobile device? How do we actually build for the mobile device?" So really this is focused more on this: "How [do we] best approach building apps for mobile?"
Then the last piece of the tug of war that we see is from the infrastructure team that's focused on locking down the devices, locking down smartphones, iPads, tablets. The key there is: These guys are not concerned with what people are necessarily doing on the phone. They're more concerned with making sure that the phone is secure.
The key here—I'll ask you: Does it look like something is missing or a role is missing? What we found is: Where teams don't focus, and where the real challenge is, is around business process, and reinventing business processes for mobile. So all these other areas within the organization that are focused on mobile often leave the process disconnected from the mobile experience.
The business processes typically tie together all these different areas--the device management, the mobile app, customer strategy. So [it's about] employees trying to get things done, customers trying to engage beyond simple app interaction, and then going beyond HTML5 versus native OS app-development conversations.
Mobile BPM reinvention
Data that we have at Forrester indicates that most companies in the future will place heavy investment in reinventing processes for mobile. Let's take a look at this.
In today's terms, we know that $1.6 billion is being spent on mobile app-development service, so companies are going out and getting service providers to help them build mobile apps. We also know that $600 million is being spent on the managed-device services area. Then, $200 million today is focused on mobile-process reinvention--going out reinventing, re-imagining, rethinking business processes for mobile. So those are today's numbers.
Let's fast-forward to 2015. The numbers change dramatically, with $5.6 billion focused on mobile-app development services. But by 2015, [we see] $7.6 billion in spend on mobile-process reinvention. So the numbers for mobile-process reinvention will be more than what we see for mobile-app development [during] this time.
I'm sure you're scratching your ahead thinking, "Okay, why? Why is the number for reinventing processes going to significantly jump in this time frame?" What we see is our companies looking at the application development part of mobile as the tip of the spear. That's the beginning. But the actual work behind the scenes to make mobile more engaging and tie back to core systems is where most of the hard work is. That's the real opportunity.
So now that we have your attention on how mobile process reinvention will grow, the real question to ask is: How are companies beginning to reinvent business processes for mobile? What are the strategies? That's really the core of the research that I've been focused on: looking at the specific strategies that work, what strategies aren't working.
Mobile BPM: A strategic approach
So we'll walk through some of the strategies that we're seeing. The first strategy that we've identified as we've talked to customers and companies moving into mobile process reinvention is focused on reengineering the entire process, end to end, for mobile. As we talk to customers that have gone through this, they've told us that that approach doesn't work well because it's focused on assuming that every step in the process can benefit from mobile—when, in truth, that's not always the case.
I came across this article recently that reminded me of this scenario of over-engineering business processes. The article talked about BMW's ActiveHybrid 3, one of their first hybrid high-performance cars. In the article, it talked about how great this hybrid car is, but it also talked about that it was over-engineered.
This was really a warning when I read this. It kind of matched up with the research I was doing around mobile process reinvention. And it made me think one of the keys for business process professionals—really, anyone engaged in reinventing business processes for mobile--to take away is: You can engineer to greatness, but doom process to failure.
So we could over-engineer processes for mobile, with every step engineered for mobile; every step, we assume, is optimized for the mobile experience. But it's actually cumbersome to use because every step tries to assume that mobile is going to be the way of engagement. So this is more of a warning.
I'm definitely a big BMW fan; that's why I was reading the article. But the key here is to make sure, in this strategy, to not focus on over-engineering. This is where most customers say that when they went down this path, it really didn't work for them. Customers [and] employees did not engage as much in mobile because everything was developed to the lowest common denominator, as opposed to being completely optimized.
Identifying mobile BPM opportunities
The second strategy that we uncovered focused on a more strategic approach to identifying the mobile opportunities within processes and across the enterprise. So looking across an enterprise, all the processes that we have and for each individual process, [we need to] identify where we can optimize the process for mobile, reinvent the process for mobile.
For companies following this more strategic approach, we found that they looked at two dimensions to identify the opportunities in processes and across the enterprise. The first dimension that they shared with us was around context. [This involved] trying to look at processes, and tasks within processes, where bringing in more context could actually change the outcome dramatically, change the way that the customer engage and the outcomes they receive, change the way the employee engage, change the way they manage and absorb the outcomes.
When we talk about "context," this is a really tricky word. It's a very broad term. When we talk about context here, we're really referring to the additional real-time information that provides an understanding of what's going on right now and helps the employee or the customer make better decisions. So we look at the phones and we think about context, [such as geolocation technology]. It knows where I am. It knows what my preferences are. It knows where I've been. It knows what I purchased.
All that information provides context for driving better outcomes. With this dimension, it's really about looking at those processes and tasks. We're bringing in greater context; more context can change the outcome dramatically.
The second dimension was around time. Here, we're looking for processes and tasks that have a short window of time to drive to the right outcome. If we're able to deliver the information, the context, and complete the task in that short window, we're able to change the outcome dramatically. These two dimensions are both focused on outcomes, being able to drive better outcomes. So the key here is in the time window. We're looking for tasks that have a short window of time where we can drive a better outcome.
The two key dimensions of mobile BPM
[Context and time] were the two dimensions we were able to identify as we interviewed customers as key dimensions for identifying and finding the best opportunities for mobile-process reinvention. Let's give some examples here…
One of the customers that we interviewed shared with us some of the challenges they had around customer self-service, and even employee self-service, where they wanted employees and customers to be able to [serve themselves] instead of picking up the phone and calling. They wanted to allow them to submit tasks, and even complete tasks while they're on the go, anytime, 24/7. Instead of being on the phone all day, they can get the task done faster by adding in more context. So that's an example of a process we're seeing that’s ripe for reinvention.
One of my favorite examples is around inspections. We know customers and companies are turning to mobile as a way to provide more engagement for inspecting things like wind turbines, and also for inspecting cell towers, and even inspecting physical facilities.
Think about a store that needs to be inspected. The inspector [can] go around with a mobile device, whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone, and do the inspection there, getting the context, getting the inspection done in a short period of time.
As an example, one of the customers we interviewed was Starbucks…They reinvented the inspection process for mobile; it allowed the inspector to go in and do the inspections for the different stores.
But one thing they noticed, once they took away the paper and empowered the inspector with the tablet, it changed the process. It allowed the inspector to actually engage with the manager on what issues they saw in the store that might have also been related to other stores. So they're able to bring in this rich context and provide real-time guidance to drive better outcomes.
Another example that we see for reinventing business processes for mobile is in field sales. This is focused on, again, a short window of time. Think of an insurance-sales rep--someone selling wealth products or investment products, but [who] engages directly with the customer in the field. Reinventing the sales processes that provide guidance and provide an opportunity to drive a better outcome at the moment of truth is really critical. We're seeing customers extend the field-sales processes that were tethered to PCs and laptops and being able to extend these to mobile devices to provide better engagement. In some cases, [they've developed] co-creation opportunities to actually build the policy or build the sales with the customer right there on the device.
The key here is, you should take your processes, run them through the same dimensions that we have [discussed] here, to identify which ones are best…For [some] customers we interviewed, reinventing the process for mobile maybe wasn't the best fit.
Order management is an example that we uncovered where one of our customers, one of the companies we interviewed, built an order-management process that was extended out to mobile. But what they found was, the process was so long-lived it really didn't take advantage of the short windows of time. They found they could have left that particular order-management process [alone].
Recruiting was another process that surfaced as not a critical process in terms of the time window. [Companies are] not really worried about "Do we get the candidate within the next minute, or do we get him in the next week, or the next month?" So there's no time sensitivity, but there's also context. When we interviewed the customer, the company, around this process, context really was not a critical factor in terms of being able to drive to a better outcome. So it's maybe not an ideal process for reinventing for mobile.
This just gives you some idea of how we're beginning to see customers reinvent business processes for mobile. The key takeaway is to focus the opportunities for mobile reinvention on context and time. Using those two dimensions as your compass will guide you to a very strategic focus on the best opportunities for mobile process reinvention.