Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mobile Apps Enable Product Managers and IT Teams To Make Little Bets

In software, particularly in enterprise software that is released in quarterly or yearly cycles, it is hard to experiment. Executives in-charge of investment decisions expect clear projection of returns on every investment decision. It is hard to predict and prove the returns on every investment a product manager makes. Sometimes the product manager spends years collecting data or making up data to justify the investment. Senior executives have openly told me to make up the numbers so that the investment goes through. I find this ridiculous and always wondered if there might be a practical solution that might work.

Thinking mobile first for enterprise software might help address this situation. It is possible to think about features and functionality for mobile personal devices such as iPads and smart phones first, test them out with a few users, prove the need and build such functionality on a larger scale and on the web later.

For a example a custom application for a particular role or audience can be built with an investment of a $ 100,000, assuming the basic objects necessary to build the mobile app are already available. The feedback from such a mobile app can then be used to justify and thus prioritize the development of the web version of the product.

In many cases nimble partners might be able to share the risk with product managers to experiment, if they see long term benefit. Such an approach makes innovation and experimentation possible even in large enterprise software companies or installations.

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