The world we live in today is rapidly evolving, with innovative technology trends that help us do more: faster, easier, and efficiently. As new mobile technologies emerge, it is important for organizations to understand how these tools fit into the overall service strategy of project deliverables or organizational capabilities. The direction of mobile computing and technology is consistently developing tractions in various industries and there is no question that mobile apps are the future of commerce.
Technology enthusiasts and visionaries recognize the shift towards mobile applications in their respective organizations but may be unclear on how to transform their business to meet this global dependency on mobile computing. Conservatives and skeptics may cling to the notion that their organizations are secure and functioning properly as is, hence, may presume it is safer to continue business as usual or continue in their ignorance with the idea that on-demand access does not have any significant impact on their business operations. The reality is mobility has become standard practice since the infusion of smartphones and tablets in the workplace. There is a sustainable amount of disruptive change to be seen; from mobile security to mobile application stores and everywhere in between. It is important for organizations to review their positions and understand how they can provide differentiated value to their customers. The genesis of services is customer outcomes rather than specifications.
The purpose of this article is to view mobile applications as strategic assets that will help drive business results. This article will take a look at the ITIL service strategy concepts, the five core processes and its integration into mobile applications platforms. Organizations will be able to answer the why instead of the how as it relates to their mobile application strategy.
Strategy Management for IT Services
Business organizations need to examine four strategic areas: 1) perspective, 2) position, 3) plan and 4) patterns, when looking to leverage ITIL service strategy for mobile applications. The goal of perspective is to define for clients or employees who the provider is, what it provides and how it does it. The position will highlight how the service provider intends to compete against other service providers in the market or business function. The plan describes the tasks that the service provider shall perform to move from the current situation to the desired state. Lastly, the pattern will define the continuous, repeatable actions that will be taken in order to continue to meet the objectives defined for the strategy.
Before analyzing these four components, we must first perform a strategic service assessment of the existing landscape (internal and external) to determine the current situation, potential future changes or impacts and constraints that could hinder the ability of the service provider meeting its goals.
Strategic Service Assessment
The purpose of performing an assessment is to determine key organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) that will impact the ability of a business to get to where they need to go.
First, organizations need to perform a strategic assessment on the finances, customer, people, technology and process. These areas will enable organizations to assess the following:
- Identify and analyze existing mobile application services (if any)
- Determine the mechanism to be used to distribute these apps (Internal app stores or library)
- Determine how security and privacy will be handled in the mobile app environment
- Determine the number of times a business mobile app is downloaded from an internal app store (if available)
- Identify the number of unique mobile applications used over a period of time
- Evaluate audience characteristics and gauge user activities
- Perform determination of funding available for plan execution, forecasting, etc.
- Determine how people use their mobile devices
- Identify and evaluate the type of information people want to use
- Determine existing mobile operations and infrastructure
- Understand existing skillset of staff who can potentially support change (mobile applications)
- Understand workforce demographics, training opportunities, and development process
- Identify opportunities for consolidating multiple mobile apps (with similar functionality) into a single apps
- Identify where mobile application are currently stored
- Understand if any relationship exists between business units and server providers
- Determine resources and capabilities to offer these mobile application services to internal customers
- Determine if the organization will need to outsource to a third party company to provide mobile application services
- Compare findings to industry benchmarks and best practices
- Identify who are the existing service suppliers and existing partnership
- Determine how engaged and loyal their users are
- Determine the best method to retain customers and encourage usage
In order to maintain control while fostering learning or looking at the big picture while paying attention to details, organizations will also need to understand the different forms service strategy can take during the formulation of a mobile application service roadmap. They should utilize the four P’s of strategy of perspective, position, plan and pattern.
Strategic Mobile Application Service Perspective
The perspective section describes the vision and direction of the organization. The goal of perspective is to define for customers and employees the: who, what and how. The most common way of defining perspective is by declaring the vision and the mission. To ensure the business and services providers are aligned, below are some questions that need to be addressed:
Strategic Mobile Application Service Position
The position section describes how the service provider intends to compete against other service providers in the market. An organization will need to define its mobile application initiative by addressing the following questions:
Strategic Mobile Application Service Plan
The plan section describes the activities that the service provider shall perform to move from the current state to the desired state. Below are a list of areas and questions that need to be addressed:
Strategic Mobile Application Service Pattern
The pattern of action section describes the ongoing, repeatable actions that need to be taken to continue to meet the objective defined for the strategy.
Organizations need to determine which pattern style fits the service type. Things to consider:
- the “how-to” patterns set the operating style of the organization
- the “boundary” patterns set the focal point of the organization
- the “priority” patterns set the allocation of resources
- the “timing” patterns set the rhythm of the organization.
Questions that will provide guidance in the formulation of service patterns are:
Consistent and controllable patterns are part of the service provider’s distinctive capabilities. These patterns are valuable because they emerge inside the organization as a direct consequence of actions taken by managers and their teams. Therefore, they are likely to be a signature of the organization and a source of competitive advantage.
Conception of Mobile Application Service Strategy Definition
The purpose of service strategy conception is to define a set of opportunities for service providers to deliver value to a customer’s business through one or more services. When organizations are trying to determine service types, they need to think about the service portfolio. A service portfolio describes the business value of a provider’s services.
The service portfolio is a complete set of services that are managed by a service provider. A service portfolio is inclusive of the following categories: 1) Service Pipeline (proposed services), 2) Service Catalog (live services), and 3) Retired Services (services no longer being used). Questions that arise during this phase are:
- What mobile application services do we provide?
- Who are our customers?
- What mobile application service outcome do we support?
- How do they create value for their customers?
- What constraints do our customers face?
- Which customer assets do we support?
- Who are the users of our mobile application services?
- What assets do we deploy to provide value?
- How do we deploy our assets?
- What type of activity do we support?
- How do we track performance?
- How do we create value for them?
- What assurance do we provide?
A service portfolio has to be developed in order to represent all binding service investments towards the market.
Mobile Application Service Portfolio as a Strategic Asset
Regardless of the industry of your organization, there is a need to examine the market space and your customers in order to analyze which areas will provide the most value to your business. This analysis will require the organization to investigate their capabilities, resources, and suppliers to determine whether to run the business as usual or to grow it. The mobile adoption is a unique opportunity for business to transform their existing services to create new opportunity for the business.
To transform mobile application services into a strategic asset, organizations need to improve the service potential of its capabilities and resources. Service providers need to:
- Identify and understand the service needs of the business clients/customers
- Develop and keep the processes and mobile application services in top shape
- Develop the services provided by the service provider
- Develop mobile application strategic assets to their maximum capacities
- Prioritize the managing and development of mobile application services
- View and identify the value network of the service provider in conjunction with their service operation with their customers
- Develop and maintain service assets
- Understand the performance potential of customer assets
- Map service assets to customer assets through services
- Design, develop, and operate suitable services
- Extract service potential from service assets
- Convert service potential into performance potential
- Convert demand from customer assets into workload for service assets
- Reduce risks for the customer
- Control the cost of providing services
The key questions to be asked during this phase are:
- What is the market space?
- What does that market space want?
- Can we offer anything unique in that space?
- Is the space already saturated with good solutions?
- Do we have the right portfolio of services developed for a given market space?
- Do we have the right catalogue of services offered to a given customer?
- Is every service designed to support the required outcomes?
- Is every service operated to support the required outcomes?
- Do we have the right models and structures to be a service provider?
Strategic assets are dynamic in nature. They are expected to continue to perform well under changing business conditions and objectives of their organization. That requires strategic assets to have learning capabilities. Performance in the immediate future should benefit from knowledge and experience gained from the past. A great mobile application service provider is measured by the efficiency of its value creation versus its value capture.
Mobile Application Service Strategy by Industry
A mobile application service strategy is beneficial in any sector from financial services to pharmaceutical. There are a plethora of mobile application solutions that can fulfill a business need and add value to an organization.
Banking Industry: Mobile application strategy can be used as a strategic asset to assist with; in-branch operations, customer acquisition, loan and credit, risk management and compliance; or operations and back office. Potential apps include but are not limited to:
- Mobile application for banking
- Portfolio management applications for tablets (Apple IPad)
- Marketing Mobile Apps
- Customer Loyalty and CRM mobile apps
- Loan Recovery Workflow mobile apps
- Business credit scoring mobile apps
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML) mobile application
- Auditing workflow (internal) mobile apps
- Business Monitoring Workflow mobile apps
Insurance industry: Mobile application strategy can be used as a strategic asset to support the core insurance business, ensure high-quality customer service, enforce relationship with agents and partners, and boost sales and marketing. Potential apps include but are not limited to:
- Claims Management apps
- Billing and payments apps
- Self-service mobile apps
- Auto / Health mobile apps
- Agent portal mobile apps
- Service suppliers and customer portal apps
- Marketing and cross selling mobile apps
Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Biotech industry: Mobile application strategy can be used as a strategic asset to help manage the care of both inpatients and outpatients across all units, including integrated digital medical records and imaging, in compliance with Health Level-7 (HL7) standards along with various other functions. Potential apps include but are not limited to:
- Hospital Management mobile apps
- Materials and Procurement mobile apps
- Patient Portals and Services
- Drug Development mobile apps (R&D Dashboard apps)
- Blood sample record validation mobile apps
- Compliance mobile apps
- Human resource mobile apps (on-boarding/project time tracking)
- Business Support (sourcing and supplier management)
Other industries where a mobile application strategy can be used as a strategic asset is Manufacturing, Construction and Engineering, Travel, Leisure and Entertainment, Advertising, Media and Publishing, Technology, Public Sector (Govt.), Transportation and Logistics, Telecommunication, Energy and Utilities and Retail and Consumer industries.
Service Strategy Execution
The purpose of this section is to define and plan strategic initiatives, and ensure the implementation of those initiatives.
Critical success factors determine the service assets required to implement a mobile application service strategy successfully. Most critical success factors are a combination of several service assets such as financial assets, experience, competencies, intellectual property, processes, infrastructure, and scale of operations. Below are the performance indicators for strategy generations that will enable mobile applications are effective and efficient.
Service Portfolio Management for Mobile Applications
The Service Portfolio Management aspect of ITIL service strategy ensures that the service provider has the right mix of services to meet required business outcomes at an appropriate level of investment.
In the attempt to understand the opportunity costs of an organizations existing service portfolio, the first order of business is to collect information from all current mobile services as well as every prospective mobile service. This will allow the organization to identify the strengths of the existing services and opportunities areas for improvement or growth. They will also need to establish requirements for the expected mobile services and the associated business case for implementing the service.
Secondly, review the long-term business objectives around the mobile enterprise key initiatives and determine what services are required to meet those goals. Then, analyze the prospective mobile application services to understand financial viability, operational capability, and technical feasibility to determine how the organization will meet those objectives. Because mobility is still in its infancy stage, most organizations will be grouped into two service investment categories as it relates to mobile applications: Grow the business (GTB) or Transform the business (TTB).
GTB investments are intended to grow the organization’s scope of services while TTB investments are moves into new market spaces. Organizations that fall into the TTB category have not adopted a mobile strategy, and are looking to create new mobile app service in a new market space. Organizations that fall into the GTB category have adopted some form of mobility in their firm and are looking to create new services in existing market space.
In the approval of the service portfolio management (SPM), organizations make a decision to retain, replace, renew, or retire the existing and proposed services for the future state. Organization retain services that are aligned and are relevant to their strategy; replace/ rationalize services that have unclear or overlapping business functionality; renew services that meet functional criteria but fail technical fitness; retire services that do not meet minimum levels of technical or functional fitness.
The final step of the SPM is the charter. This is where a communication of action items to ensure approved services are implemented, budgeted and resources are also allocated appropriately.
An effective service management portfolio will assist organizations to make informed make-or-buy decisions about mobile applications services.
Business Relationship Management for Mobile Application Services
The Business Relationship Management aspect of the ITIL service strategy focuses on maintaining a positive relationship with customers. Business Relationship Management will focus on: 1) identifying the mobile application needs of existing and potential customers, 2) ensuring that appropriate mobile application services are developed to meet those needs, 3) maintaining customer relationships to ensure needs are being satisfied, and 4) monitoring and handling customer complaints for mobile application services. Questions that an organization should address are as follows:
- How will customer relations (consumers and prospects) be managed?
- How will the identification of mobile application outcomes from the customer’s perspective and harmonization with the service portfolio be performed?
- What are the agreed upon provisions in contracts for mobile application services with consumers or service providers?
- What does the customer satisfaction survey reveal about the mobile application services an organization offers?
- What is the expected user experience?
- What is the customer feedback management process?
- How should mobile application strategy performance be measured?
- How will the mobile application performance measurements be included in the overall performance?
- How often should management reports be shared with the board, senior business leaders, and partners?
- How often should status reports be generated?
- How can status reports be delivered to encourage better performance and course correction?
- How should improvement opportunities be identified?
The Business Relationship Management (BRM) that sits in the service strategy lifecycle is an important part of a mobile application roadmap for organizations to focus attention on achieving end-to-end business outcomes and success. Overall, BRM provides a good distinction and focus between managing business outcomes and strategic requirements and ensuring overall satisfaction.
Demand Management for Mobile Application Services
Demand Management is a critical aspect of service management. The purpose of the demand management step in the ITIL service strategy is to understand, anticipate and influence customer demand for services.
As organizations take steps to understand the consumption of mobile application services, it is very important to study the business in order to accurately identify, analyze and codify patterns that will provide sufficient information when determining service demand. Demand will enable organizations to manage new mobile application service requests, capture current usage and demand, identify and validate future trends and analyze demand and requests.
Organizations need to consider these questions when framing ideas around demand management for mobile applications:
- What tools (in addition to the service catalog) are used for requesting mobile application products and services?
- Do the requests channeled through these sources reflect planned or budgeted activities already defined in the service portfolio? Have they been budgeted as part of the approved mobile operational plan?
- Do mobile application service requests reflect a new business opportunity or operational improvement within the organization?
- What kind of change management system will be used to capture the mobile app requests?
- How will the mobile app requests be categorized and classified?
- How will these requests be mapped to current services?
- How is the performance of the business-critical mobile app services?
- Are the availability target and SLAs being met? If targets are not being met, is capacity an issue?
- Are there mobile applications services that are not being used?
- Are adequate licenses available for mobile apps?
- What mobile application services are critical to the business?
- Are any services at risk because of increased costs?
- Do any current technology trends give the organization an opportunity to improve mobile application services?
- How often should a mobile application analysis be performed?
- How can the analysis support the pace of business demand?
- How should the analysis be delivered to ensure understanding?
- How are the key messages and recommendations conveyed?
- Does the business have expectations about the depth of information in the data analysis?
- How can the service provider present its analysis in a way that demonstrates alignment to the business and the importance of the mobile app services it offers?
By accessing the current demand for these mobile application services, organizations will be able to develop the best strategic solution roadmap to enable sound investments and future growth.
Financial Management for Mobile Applications Services
The Financial management aspect of the ITIL service strategy focuses on providing oversight of all IT expenditures, ensuring funds are available for planned events, providing detailed financial information for initiative proposed, maximize the return on IT investments through chargeback methodology and tracking expenditure against budget.
Organizations need to think about how they can provide mobile apps at a reasonable cost to their customer or employee base. Questions required to initiate this level of thinking are:
- How will you support your business in planning and realizing its mobile application objectives?
- How will you ensure mobile apps spending are acceptable?
- How will you minimize financial risk during the decision process?
- Is the organization’s differentiation strategy resulting in higher profits or revenues, lower costs, or greater mobile application services adoption?
- Which mobile application services cost the most and why?
- What are an organization’s volumes and type of consumed mobile application services?
- What is the correlating budget requirement aligned to these consumed services?
- What are the greatest mobile application service inefficiencies?
To accomplish these objectives, organizations will need to consider the following factors:
- Mobile application quality (capacity, availability, performance, support)
- Mobile application cost structure (expenditure and investments)
- What are the budgeting requirements for mobile apps?
- How will mobile apps be accounted for from a customer or service perspective?
- How will organization recover cost for services delivered?
- Customer requirement for these mobile apps
- What are the implications of an organizations existing infrastructure to support mobile applications?
By taking into account these factors, an organization can potentially decrease the risk of over-spending in the future. They will also ensure proper funding, visibility and guidance to mobile application services in business and financial terms.
As mobile computing becomes the preferred way that customers access information-based services and interact with business organizations, it will also become critical for organizations to think about a mobile application strategy while the concept is still in the infancy stage. Organizations need to have a keener sense of the attributes and dynamics of mobile services as a means of providing value to customers through strategic thinking versus operationally. The growth and prosperity of a trade are accompanied by greater demands on the tools of the trade. The capabilities and resources of these tools are the basis of creating value for competition and distinctive performance. ITIL service strategy can potentially provide guidance to organizations around but not limited to: 1) creating better mobile application service policies and procedures during the creation process, 2) enabling understanding of mobile application capabilities, functionalities and usage which in turn ensures smarter investments in apps that suit business needs, 3) understanding risk exposure, and 4) negotiating better contracts with service providers (external).
A mobile application service as a strategic asset can provide employees with a library of in-house or third-party apps, standardize application deployment to corporate and employee-owned mobile devices, control distribution and access to applications and help protect sensitive data in each application separately.
In conclusion, a mobile application service strategy will be useful to the organization in developing service management capabilities in growth, education, and maturity under the pressure of new challenges and opportunities and while maintaining a strategic advantage of providing value-added products or services to their customers.