“The mobile device has become our communication hub, our diary, our entertainment portal, our primary source media consumption, our wallet and our gateway to real-time information tailored to our needs. The revolution is now.”
– Nihal Mehta, Eniac Ventures
Companies are under constant pressure from their customers to innovate faster while at the same time keeping their core mobile services up to date, stable and high quality. Many are investing heavily in resources, time and money, but still not achieving the speed and agility that they need. The larger and more complex the mobile services are, the more challenging it is. Banks, healthcare companies, retailers, major commerce players and travel companies often need 2 months to define, 3-4 months to develop and 2 months to regression test and launch a new release. By the time the new service launches it’s already kind of old.
So what’s the big bottleneck and how can it be solved? We believe, as is often the case, it’s a question about breaking down the problem in smaller parts and build the solution in the same way. Here’s how you can accelerate you mobile innovation:
1. Break It Down
Break down your product into smaller parts and your product development team into smaller groups.
When the Facebook app started to become too complex, one of the first services that was broken out from the core product was Facebook Messenger. However, the process of breaking out services to individuals and teams started much earlier. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, Privacy, Photos, and Videos are all managed as separate products on mobile and web. Working and focusing on smaller problems means focus and accountability.
Google has successfully used this approach for a long time. Although we see Search and Maps or Google Drive, Docs and Gmail as integrated services, the teams work completely independently of each other besides common core functions such as the customer database and data. Smaller teams will achieve much faster and usually better results when given the chance.
2. Modularize and API the Technical Solution
For e.g. a bank, the biggest challenge is the core banking services that require extreme measures in terms of performance, reliability and security with billions in transactions every year. However, this is not necessarily where the innovation comes from. Provide internal APIs for the backend services so that developers within your organization can innovate with access to core capabilities such as customer data, business intelligence data, customer communication/engagement data and more. Separate the logical layer from the user interface layer to allow for changes and testing of the user interface without touching on core functionality.
We recommend banks and other companies with mobile services now delivering their core services to separate out their core capability in a module that is not impacted by new service development. This means that the core service can have a release schedule of 2 times per year whereas enhancements and new services can be added every month (or every 2 weeks as in the case of Facebook).
3. Develop a Partnership Accelerator
If you are a big business it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the speed of innovation of a start-up that can launch a new service or capability in a week. Enable your APIs for partners and set up a process that allows you to quickly approve and pilot new concepts. If proven successful, launch the service at scale with the partner or internally. This is an emerging trend across industries although tech companies, telcos and banks have been the early adopters.
To accelerate innovation you need to break down your core product into smaller parts, change your architecture to allow for smaller teams to work in parallel without interference, and enable partners to help you leverage the speed and creativity of teams outside of your business. Try this and you will have a much greater chance of becoming and staying competitive.
Magnus Jern, President of Mobile Application Solutions