FOR ENTERPRISE MOBILITY &MOBILE LEADERS
Building a Mobile Center of Excellence: Where to Start and How to Succeed
A Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) is a dedicated resource within an organisation, put in place to guide the mobile strategy in its entirety across all lines of business.
This kind of initiative is an approach which ties together all the various sets of projects which many enterprises allow to function independent of each other, and helps piece together the mobile puzzle.
In order to successfully build, and maintain, a Mobile Center of Excellence, business leaders must be fully aware of the requirements and the necessary investment, to give mobility a platform to deliver significant benefits.
This report will explore the business case for building, what roles are involved, how organisations can run their own iterations, and what kind of ROI could potentially be achieved from doing so.
The search for mobility strategy excellence
Mobile technology is now so pervasive within modern enterprises, that there is no single business or technical ‘owner’ of mobility as such, and virtually no limit to the reach of workflows and organisational processes that can be touched by the benefits mobility offers.
Because mobility isn’t restricted to departmental or line of business remits, it requires a robust and holistic strategy that, in order to deliver on its full potential, should be cohesive throughout all areas of the organisation from the top down.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of mobility’s most prominent use cases within the enterprise setting, and an unequal requirement for such solutions throughout different lines of business, mobile maturity will inevitably be found at diverse stages of progression in each department.
However, this doesn’t always have to be viewed by senior leaders of the organisation as a negative outcome. When looking at mobility through the lens of a Mobile Center of Excellence, departments where the deployment and adoption of mobile solutions have developed can be drawn on to help less mature areas of the business mobilize more seamlessly, and with more preparation for resulting challenges.
What is an MCOE
The term ‘Mobile Center of Excellence’ is still one that some companies and professionals will be relatively unfamiliar with, and even fewer will have any first-hand experience with. Furthermore, it is a term that will often mean different things to different organisations, and will generally evoke contrasting impressions for certain people.
Most importantly, what an MCoE stands for is something that will be fairly unique to each individual business, and this will vary based on organisational structure, size, culture, resources, infrastructures, and many other factors.
However, the concept invariably comes down to developing a unified organisational competence to be able to work with mobile technologies, and transforming the way a business operates from within, to be able to successfully nurture mobile initiatives consistently across the entire company.
Essentially, an MCoE is a console for organisations to both standardise and optimise mobility, rather than making the mistake of allowing mobile solutions to remain spread out in the peripherals of the core business strategy.
Why build one
Despite the staggering rate at which mobility has gained recognition as an essential catalyst for productivity (and countless other advantages for businesses), those working closest to the technology remain surprised by the lack of a clear intention to capitalise on the available opportunities in the wider market.
It is still somewhat common for senior decision makers to make empty promises regarding their plans to strategically invest in mobility, or even to launch mobile initiatives inefficiently with little conviction, which can have a longterm negative impact on the business.
The decision to build an MCoE may be reached when an organisation’s leadership realises the pressure being applied by the integral need for mobility, whether it be from specific departments or in the form of requirements shared across multiple lines of business.
If there are parts of a company that are struggling to scale and deliver on mobility consistently, or if there is a disconnect between how mobility is facilitated in different areas of the organisation, Mobile Centers of Excellence have emerged as a promising way for business leaders to re-gain control.
This will also translate to securing a commitment across different lines of business as well. Representation from numerous angles of the organisation, providing different perspectives for the MCoE, can maximise the value and take existing mobile initiatives out of restrictive silos.
Where to begin
A natural and logical launch pad for an MCoE for the majority of companies is of course within the IT department, and many find success in using this as their starting point. This is due to the relevant expertise and knowledge available within IT, as well as the mind-set of approaching such projects in a certain way, for example starting with security, then moving on to development, and so on.
“Effective MCoE teams will generally include line of business representatives, IT and end users, who interact with each other to codify the mobile best practices appropriate to the business,” said Tony Rizzo, Mobile, IoT and Wearable Enterprise Research, Blue Hill Research.
Wherever the MCoE begins to gather momentum, organisations must identify what is already in place to support its mobilisation, and from this identify gaps which need to be filled.
Richard Harding, Innovation Strategy Consultant, Heathrow Airport explained, “Building an MCoE, in most organisations, is moved forward by finding an appropriate individual to act as a ‘champion’ to endorse the concept. This person should ensure that the organisation as a whole, understands the business case and appreciates the necessary efforts to facilitate enterprise mobility as an organisational differentiator.”
Ideally, this type of responsibility will appeal to employees that sit within hybrid roles, involving a combination of technical skills and business-focused accountabilities. These people are crucial to the development of an MCoE and are, in most cases, the best qualified to drive the strategy, due to the balance of their expertise directly resonating with how the center’s cross-functional goals will take shape. Examples of this could range from Enterprise Architects, to IT Strategists, but whoever emerges must be invested in the idea and believe in the cause.
Alternatively, organisations that don’t feel the necessary expertise or vision exists internally should look to bring in a mobile thought leader, solution provider, or an experienced strategist, who can use their proficiency with enterprise mobile technologies to help guide those involved in the process.
There are a wealth of third-party options that enterprises can implore to help them galvanise their efforts and introduce some valuable direction to the MCoE, further signifying the intent to deliver advantages across every area of the company.
The strategic approach
When putting in place a strategy for creating an MCoE, enterprises must think carefully about what they are looking to achieve. Business-driven improvements and operational efficiencies are where the benefits of deploying mobile solutions most often arise, so it is critical to identify suitably placed stakeholders who can evangelise mobility in-line with the MCoE to reap these rewards.
The implementation of the mobile strategy must be propelled by the right people, and the MCoE is the ideal structured forum to bring the bigger picture together, by supporting the organisational change which will follow in a positive and constructive manner.
If this isn’t the case, and the focus of the MCoE is allowed to be diluted, the governance and consistency of the mobile initiatives will not deliver equal benefits throughout the organisation.
An example of maintaining this, as touched on previously, is in using the past experiences of more mature areas of the organisation to guide the mobile deployments in departments that are less familiar with technology. There are likely to be existing resources within an organisation who have already learned lessons and can assist projects elsewhere, to minimise risk and reduce the problems which can stall the mobilisation of certain workflows.
To construct an MCoE which is well-prepared and equipped to succeed in its core goals, these key stakeholders must then engage leaders across all the crucial areas of the organisation with their strategic vision. From the very earliest stages of planning, each department must buy-in to the idea and support the required efforts, in order to allow the necessary organisational and cultural changes to be made.
Finally, another important thing to consider when putting a strategy in place to give an MCoE the best chance of succeeding, is to have a clear and consistent charter that maps these goals out. “The objectives behind the MCoE, and the people communicating them throughout the organisation must be clear from the very beginning, as should the exact role the MCoE will play within the wider business strategy,” said Marty Resnick.
Overcoming the challenges
The introduction of mobility will inevitably cause some challenges to arise, as employees are disrupted in the ways they are used to working to varying degrees, by new devices, applications, systems, procedures and levels of security.
For a number of employees that sit within departments such as HR or customer service, mobility can be an entirely new and foreign concept, as traditional paperbased processes and other less dynamic patterns are still present in certain industries. Any shift of this nature must be kept in consideration at all times, to ensure that each individual level of familiarity within the organisation is accommodated during the transition processes that will follow.
Difficulties in the actual process of setting up the MCoE can also be expected, especially if there is not a clearly communicated, well-defined business case which is relevant to the employees it will affect. It is paramount that the business case for the MCoE can justify the necessary investment, and more importantly justify the change so that resistance from the workforce is minimised.
This relates directly back to the need to strategically map out the goals, actions and expected outcomes of the MCoE from the earliest possible stages for all to see, and remaining consistent in their execution.
For small organisations or those with less experience in mobility, internal resources (or lack of) can be a challenge as well, or at least a limitation. The required support and investment necessary for putting an MCoE together can be substantial, primarily in the form of the time and knowledge required from those involved to ensure that it runs efficiently. This reiterates the aforementioned need for a ‘champion’ from within, in addition to encouragement towards leveraging existing partners and seeking the assistance of third-party mobile strategists if possible.
Although, it should be noted that one person within the MCoE representing multiple groups from the organisation should ideally be avoided, as this can provoke conflicts of interest and impede collaboration. It is beneficial to have as many different perspectives and ideas being contributed towards mobile initiatives as possible, ranging from issues with compliance, operations, governance and architecture, and so on. This will help organisations achieve more fluent best practices, prioritised around the most important pillars to support the business goals. An MCoE will need to find the right people to dedicate their time, to ensure that mobility is treated as a business-wide project and receives the right amount of effort and commitment.
Further challenges may arise if the MCoE is allowed to develop operational tendencies, or follow tangents away from its responsibility to the business strategy, as this can take away from the overall goal.
“Leadership must remain focused on the objectives which originally fuelled the concept of an MCoE becoming a reality. We learned over time that it requires a ‘bigger picture’ vision, and that getting stuck on smaller projects and losing sight of the fundamental strategy must be avoided,” added Marty Resnick.
Finally, enterprises must be aware that MCoEs are susceptible to issues with prioritisation as well. There will be a vast range of different projects which must be managed, problems which must be solved and tasks which must be juggled once the MCoE is functioning. It is important to devise an approach to ensuring that prioritisation is fair and logical, and that everyone involved is in agreement of how to deal with such issues from within.
Taking these potential obstacles into account and planning for their impact when launching the MCoE will help businesses to create an efficient and influential body within the organisation to sufficiently govern and stabilise the presence of mobile technologies.
Benefits and achieving the desired mobile outcome
Most Mobile Centers of Excellence are put in place to instil best practices and help deliver consistency across the business, rather than quickly offering the more conventional tangible benefits associated with mobility, such as increased revenue streams.
“MCoEs ensure a high level of uniform mobile quality. Any large organisation must have an MCoE in place, in order to ensure they can deliver the required mobile solutions in a way that is both costeffective but also highly scalable,” said Tony Rizzo.
In addition to this, an MCoE is a powerful method of ensuring that employees, especially employees that may not necessarily have had access to useful employee productivity mobile apps and solutions, are fully engaged by the companywide mobile strategy to aid them in their work.
Once this has been achieved, the relationship can begin to work in both directions, allowing the development process of mobile systems to involve more information and input from the end users within the company, meaning that deployments are more successful and adoption is less of a challenge in the future.
When a larger percentage of the organisation is actively acclimatised to the mobilisation, there will be better data flows and streams of communication across different lines of business as well, further proving the value of the MCoE in streamlining operational functionality on a comprehensive scale.
Within MCoE itself, the communication and collaboration aspect is also crucial in terms of the advantages it can produce. Members of the McoE will become used to an in-depth sharing of knowledge, expertise, experience, and lessons learned, to ensure that each other’s priorities are met with proven solutions.
Marty Resnick added, “An example of this, from a personal point of view, is that we rolled out an app, and then put together a document based on the experience for the rest of the organisation. This included details on the testing, governance, support, and other crucial aspects which were involved in the process. This was massively helpful, and is a great way of demonstrating how an MCoE can deliver value.”
By encouraging this, the MCoE may also have the ability to open doors for better internal development capabilities, technological innovation, and a far more consistent ability to deploy and manage solutions throughout the organisation without high levels of disruption.
Furthermore, an MCoE can allow the overarching business goals, which resonate throughout every aspect of the organisation, to be aligned with the existing and forthcoming mobile deployments. This will allow the streamlined optimisation of workflows and operational processes to have even more of an impact.
Essentially, these kind of benefits gained through such positive results will deliver long-term cost savings for the business through the execution of the pre-determined strategy, and will provide significant ROI. Cost savings and strategic advantages will also be delivered through the experience gained and the lessons learned by the MCoE, effectively overcoming the need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when facing mobile projects and the tools which are available within the enterprise.
Richard Harding concluded, “It is often the case that organisations contain iterations of mobility, springing up in different departments in varying levels of maturity, often perceiving ‘quick wins’ as substantial improvements to the business. However, this type of unstructured mobile enablement is not sustainable from a strategic point of view, and crucial missing pieces such as governance and shared learning will soon become evident underneath the surface.”
A fragmented approach of this nature will eventually cause a conflict of interests for IT departments to try to manage, as well as frustration among employees that are not fully aware of the difficulties presented by the risks and challenges mobility can present.
An MCoE is a structured and efficient way to utilise the experience and leadership from particular areas of an organisation to instil a more cohesive mentality from the top-down, which will streamline the processes involving mobile technologies, and reduce the impact of a disparate mentality towards mobility.
A presence of this nature within the organisation will, in-turn, support the technological tools in place and allow for mobile processes to be accelerated consistently across the board, delivering even further value from the mobile solutions which have received investment.
It is here that a Mobile Center of Excellence can demonstrate a truly business-driven philosophy, rather than a technology or operationally-focused committee. It brings together all the business units and necessary internal resources to fuel fast, accurate and effective innovation through mobility – this is where the ROI will be delivered.