8 Lessons from a first Enterprise Mobile Journey

Mobile Experience : If Not Now, When?

In today’s competitive market, end users are expecting and demanding an optimal and transparent experience in both consumer and enterprise applications. Organizations realize that a strong mobile strategy is imperative for their business. However, the journey from web to mobile apps is not smooth and design leaders recognize that close collaboration with technology and business partners is even more important to succeed.

I share what happens when an enterprise organization enters the mobile space for the first time, the challenges it faces and highlight the lessons learned that you could apply in your own companies and projects.

If Enterprise organizations don’t have a mobile strategy today, they may be late already.

If not now, when?

When I was in undergraduate, as an industrial design student, I presented a project including details about the marketing approach, production and design. Before the final deliverable, I was very curios to determine whether the product would work as expected with the people I was targeting, so I performed my first paper usability test, adjusted my design and shared the results in the final project review. One of the jurors asked me — “why do you worry about that now?” Without missing a beat, I responded, “If not now, that I have the chance to learn, when?” From that same perspective, enterprise technology organizations do not have the luxury to worry about mobile later, the time is now. If they don’t have a mobile strategy today, they may already be late.

The Context

These lessons learned come primarily from the “first journey from web to mobile app.” A Fortune 500 company, global and multilingual, with several dozen web-based products in the enterprise market. The organization was facing threats from competitors who already had launched mobile apps. On the other hand, we did not have a mobile strategy in place.

It “renders” in the [smartphone / tablet] is not a mobile strategy.

Defining your Mobile North Star

Your organization must have a clearly defined mobile strategy before you write your first line of code, even before you sketch your first mock ups. The vision must be transparent and communicated across the enterprise. Let’s take a look at the pillars of the strategy.

You have to have the right talent to execute the Mobile Strategy


There must be a clear executive sponsor, the higher, the better. You also have to have the leadership infrastructure in place. The leader is accountable for the execution of the mobile strategy and she would call the shots. The buck stops with her. You have to have the right talent. If this is the first mobile project, you will need to bring new talent. As an organization, you may need to bring the skills up of the people already there through training across all disciplines, including technology, design and product management.

A piece of advice: Don’t hesitate to get external help. Bring a consulting group with solid mobile chops to help you get started. For most organizations, this is a short term solution while you bring the talent in-house and build the necessary expertise.


Your organization must answer questions around the mobile platform approach and device support. Are you going develop native applications? Will there be a web app? or are you going to use a hybrid approach? You also need to determine if this work is going to be carried out by a small team for mobile or if the majority of the product development organization is going to contribute with the strategic initiative.


From a process perspective, would this strategy require a culture transformation? Is your organization going from browser only to a mobile first? If this is the case, your executive team needs to be fully prepared to take a big-bang approach, because a piece meal culture transformation simply will not work. Is it going to be one app per team, business unit and domain area, or is your organization building one app tightly integrated?

Culture transformation to mobile first requires a big bang approach. A piece meal approach won’t work.

Empathy for the people we are designing for

Historically, the enterprise software price tag has been high, license based, with a large capital investment, where users did not have a choice. Enterprise software was and to an extent, it is still hard to use. Charles Phillips, CEO of INFOR once stood in front of his clients and declared — Enterprise Software Sucks!

However, enterprise users are much more demanding now than ever, they expect the same consumer experience with their everyday apps in the enterprise products they use. If they don’t like what they experience, they are not shy letting the social media world know that your enterprise app sucks.

We need to understand our users, the expectation that they can get what they want, in their immediate context and moments of need.

Cross Functional Negotiation and Collaboration

For a mobile project in a complex enterprise environment to succeed, the collaboration between product teams and across design, technology and business is critical. From a requirements and features perspective, you do not have the luxury of context, attention span and form factor to pack all the bells and whistles from your web product into the new mobile app. For example, you could start the mobile wish list discussion with product owners, technology and design with almost 150 features. After negotiating and iterating, you may need to come up with about 15 features that make the most sense for the target persona in the mobile context.

Context, attention span and form factor are critical to define the right mobile experience

From Macro-Aggression to valuable Micro-Interactions

Macro-aggression manifest in different manners. From closing the door without letting the user get in, because they are using the “wrong device” or the “wrong browser,” to interstitial screens that force them to download an app or share their contacts to access functionality. We need to move to high value interactions where we deliver the information they need in 2 or 3 taps at the most. We also need to give them value and delight, while asking from them as little information and effort as possible, without noise, without disruption.

We need to give them value and delight in every mobile micro-interaction experience

Establish Technology Standards

From a technology perspective, when you have a complex enterprise product ecosystem, the API contract is critical to drive integration across your product set. It is also critical for opening the possibilities with your partner ecosystem.

The API Contract is critical in complex enterprise environments

Recently, Mike Sutten, CTO of Kaiser Permanente said that their ecosystem had over 7000 partners. Their partners understood, that in order to play in this giant ecosystem, they needed to comply with their SaaS standards.

Your organization may not have 7000 partners or 100 products to integrate in the mobile strategy, but the technical approach has to be scalable and extensible from the beginning.

Leverage the Power of Analytics and Data Insights

Monitoring, instrumentation and data analytics are very important. Your team needs to know what is going on, what the users are doing, what areas of the app they are going to, where they are not going, the length of their sessions. You need to know how many active users you have and how changes to the app impact their experience.

Design the Mobile Blueprint

From a design and user experience perspective, the team must have a shared understanding of the product blue print, the information architecture and the details of the interaction. The team needs to leverage the mobile capabilities where ever possible to put the burden on the system and away from the user. As a team, the group should design, prototype, validate and iterate early and often.

Intellectual Curiosity in the Team and the Leader

The answer to your problem is likely outside of the way your organization has been designing and developing products until that point. Successful leaders and their team must be intellectually curious. This is important in general, but particularly for your first mobile project. Intellectual curiosity will benefit everyone, your end users, your product and your organization. Look outside your organization. Review your competition, get inspiration from outside your industry. What apps do you like, always asking why, what is good about them? From a technology perspective, challenge the status quo of your organization. You should look for new technologies, become an early adopter.

The Competitive race for Mobile is Real

The Mobile Revolution is a bigger shift than the PC Revolution, especially for enterprise technology solutions.

The most important focus in delivering the best mobile experience strategy is to collaborate across technology, business and user experience to:

  • Uncover NEW Ideas
  • Eliminate BAD Ideas
  • Prioritize the RIGHT Ideas

It would be great to learn from your experience. Join the conversation, share your story.

  • What were the key lessons learned from your first mobile project?
  • What were the biggest hurdles? How did your organization resolved them?
  • The most memorable quotes, the good and the ugly

This article is a companion to the presentation I delivered at the conference UXify 2016 hosted by Infragistics. It was originally published in LinkedIn.

I am the founder and principal of ITX Digital a design management consulting firm. As a user experience strategist and consultant, I help companies build and increase the strategic impact of their user experience programs.

If you would like me to speak at your UX conference, let me know -info@itxdigital.com