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7 minutes read

Enterprise Going Digital? Who Should Really Oversee New Products and Technologies?

By Jonathan Tarud
By Jonathan Tarud
7 minutes read

Is your company making the leap into building a consumer-facing app?

This is often a key step on the path to becoming a “digital” organization, and perhaps one of the more obvious initiatives for the company.

We work with a number of organizations of varying size and one of the big questions that has to be grappled with is: who should oversee your new products and technologies? When you’re striking into new territory, it can be challenging to figure out the best way to navigate it.

Sometimes the answer that seems the most obvious (“give it to IT”) isn’t really the most effective, so let’s explore this question – who should oversee your new tech?

What happens now?

When enterprise CEOs decide to “innovate”, the responsibility of building new apps usually falls on their marketing departments (and particularly CMOs).

These companies might have internal IT departments, but those teams are usually in charge of maintaining internal systems, not developing new products or learning how to master new technologies.

If they do have a development department, CTOs are then in charge of building the products, but they are often understaffed, because innovation is seen as high risk and rarely the focus for these types of companies. This can lead to a disjointed effort to build the new app, where resources are stretched and perhaps they may not have the appropriate skills within their current team.

Key challenges

There are always some challenges involved when an organization is taking the path to digital transformation. When it comes to enterprises building customer-facing apps, here are some of the most common challenges we see:

Finding appropriate internal resources

While mobile has been on the rise for the last few years, it’s still a relatively new competency for most organizations. Traditional IT teams may not have the skillset needed to develop for mobile and even if some do, competencies required may be different between internal or customer-facing apps.

Organizations are often challenged to find the right skills to develop UX and UI with a customer-facing app in mind. This makes sense that it would be a focus as that app will be representing the brand and needs to demonstrate that the company can create a great customer experience.

Besides that, whoever is in charge of the project, whether that be a CMO, CTO or Product Manager, must have an excellent understanding of not only the business and its goals, but the mobile space too. The problem is that it’s difficult to find the right people who fulfill these requirements. The “war for talent” is real.

In an article outlining the jobs with the biggest talent shortages, Fast Company stated:

“In a nationwide survey of over 1,000 HR managers and recruiters, 86% reported that they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent and 75% think the time-to-fill for roles has increased in the past three years.”

Looking more specifically at areas of tech where there are skills shortages, mobile ranks high up the list. Gartner predicted this a couple of years ago:

“By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.”

This certainly looks to be true…

Enterprise Going Digital? Who Should Really Oversee New Products and Technologies?

Product iteration

A customer-facing app isn’t a case of simply creating it and putting it on the market; organizations need to be prepared to continuously improve the customer experience of their app.

Mobile is an area that evolves constantly – an iOS update might render a feature unusable or there may be new technology in place which provides the opportunities for improvement. Customers will also provide feedback if there are elements that need improving so regular iterations and constantly seeking to improve become important.

This can be a challenging notion for a stretched internal team. How will they ingrain a culture of continuous improvement?

Mobile-ready APIs

Depending on what it is that the enterprise does, there is often a need for mobile-ready APIs – a method of tapping into the organization’s main tools or databases. For example, a bank needs to have an API developed so that customers can access account information via their app.

The challenge may be that the current systems need an API built from scratch in order to work with mobile. The internal IT team will need to devote a lot of time and energy to getting this done well, which puts further strain on resources.

Who should oversee development?

When it comes to enterprise apps, we’ve often seen this idea that one CMO, CTO or “Chief of Mobility” can handle overseeing app development company-wide. The reality is that the development of enterprise apps often involves 20 or more people in the company, including heads of business units and other key stakeholders. The role of that CMO, CTO or Chief of Mobility then becomes more like a traditional project manager, wrangling different participants and trying to keep development on-track.

This can be a lot to handle, particularly if the enterprise is also grappling with some of the core challenges outlined above. How simple is the task of “deliver on time and within budget” if you’re also needing to build up internal mobile competencies at the same time?

It’s often the case that the person in charge of the project doesn’t necessarily have skills with mobile themselves, which can add to the challenges. How will they know that UX has been created with best practices, for example?

According to Gartner, a solution to delivering mobile that 55% of enterprise organizations are currently using is to adopt a mixed-sourcing model. This means that some work is outsourced to a trusted partner for mobile app development (which is why many enterprises come to Koombea), while some development is kept in-house.

A mixed-sourcing approach can help the enterprise to develop better internal skills for mobile over time, without the pressure-cooker of having to get a new customer-facing app out on time and within budget. The enterprise benefits from the knowledge and expertise brought by the outsourced partner as well as lower internal costs. Perhaps in time, they will have the capability to develop fully internally.

For some enterprises, it may make even more sense to go with outsourcing as a solution from the beginning of their mobile journey. It may come down to a matter of priorities – are skills in mobile development going to be a long-term need for the organization? Will they be the basis of core activities? If not, then it would make sense to outsource so that internal resources are directing their attention toward the most important goals.

This can also ease pressure when it comes to things like the need to iterate on the mobile app. When a contract is signed with an external partner, part of the deal usually includes a clause on iterations, debugging or improvements.

Final thoughts

When enterprises decide that it’s time to build a customer-facing app, this often involves drafting in Marketing or IT and putting them in charge. This doesn’t necessarily help in terms of getting out an excellent app on time and within budget.

Organizations face challenges such as a shortage of the mobile competencies required and the fact that perhaps mobile isn’t their core purpose or focus. It’s difficult for CTOs or CMOs in this situation to get much traction with development.

A solution being adopted by large numbers of enterprises is to go with an outsourcing partner, either as a mixed-sourcing initiative which allows them to build up internal skills, or as a solution to completely outsource the project. Enterprises can take advantage of the vast skillsets that an external team has with mobile without the challenge of needing to source those skills internally.

Koombea is a mobile development partner for several enterprise companies. Talk to us today about how we can help you.

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