Billion Dollar Apps

Billion Dollar Apps℠: CIOs Predict Biggest Mobile Challenges for Businesses in 2013

December 12, 2012

  • Alex Bratton

Alex Bratton

As part of the research for my upcoming book, Billion Dollar Apps℠, I’ve spoken with many CIOs, technology leaders and executives to understand what they’re seeing in the enterprise.

This article taps the knowledge of Matt Hartzman, Tony Dillon, Robert Sarkis and Kevin Glynn to share their insights on applying mobile technology.

What challenges do you see for mobile adoption and implementations in the enterprise for 2013?

Tony Dillon

Tony Dillon – Platform Fragmentation & Business Cases for Apps

The biggest challenge is platform fragmentation. If you’re going to maintain your mobile applications with a relatively frequent set of refreshes, you need to understand exactly what platforms to do that on, and that can be a hard decision.Someone in your user base is gonna be disappointed, but real money is spent developing for multiple different platforms. This is the same problem faced years ago with the emergence of PCs. Incompatible operating systems – biggest issue in the mobile space right now.

It’s expensive to develop applications because you’re actually writing code different than rendering web pages. So, how many times do you have to generate that code, and how much are you going to spend to generate that code, and how much of your user base are you going to get to talk to with that spend? That’s the problem I’m looking at in the next release of our mobile product. Do I drop BlackBerry or not? Do I drop some of the older Android versions or not? How much will I save, and how many people will I disappoint?

Another business challenge is needing to have a clearly thought out business case in terms of how you’re going forward with the mobile application. It can be among the most expensive projects IT will do, and you have to have a reasonable set of expectations about how that product is going to perform in the marketplace and what your expectations are.

Once you start down mobile application, the worst thing that can happen is for you to put a mobile application out into the marketplace and then let it grow old and become obsolete in the marketplace, because that mobile application is your brand. So, if you’re going to go, you have to be prepared to go all the way in and continue to spend against that application. So, you need to carefully think through the business case. What do you expect? What consumer behaviors do you expect? What internal cost savings are possible and reasonable? And then, commit to make the spend or not.

Robert Sarkis

Robert Sarkis – Educating the C-Suite

I believe the biggest challenges for mobile in the next 12 months remains to be education. I don’t believe the C-suites are yet very educated. Most everyone outside the CIO like the VP of sales and VP of marketing really haven’t yet been given a fair enough education on what you can do with mobile.  If you’re a CIO and you want to talk about mobile, you need to really assess your audience in that C-suite and think about, “Are they ready to have that conversation, and do they understand why we need to have it?,” before you go anywhere near discussing, “Here’s what we can do with mobile”. If they themselves cannot touch and feel what you’re talking about, your idea will be short-lived. It’s important for them to actually feel mobile in their hands and be able to manage it, use it, think about it, and then, ideas will come through. You need that support from the entire boardroom, and if you want to get that support, you should to educate your C-suite colleagues and your bosses to help them understand the future impact of mobile.

Kevin Glynn

Kevin Glynn – Business Cases for Apps

I think the biggest problem for mobile in the next 12 months will be the continuing business case development. Why would you make this mobile? Why would you spend the money on a mobile device, which has some inherent shortcomings, over a PC, or why do you need to make that person mobile at all? And, again, the classic is the accounts payable clerk. Is there any advantage to putting them on a mobile platform – giving them an iPad? I don’t know. That’s a difficult business case.

On the other hand, for the next 12 months, I think mobile’s gonna go through the roof for people who are already out and about – so, salespeople, anybody in retail, anybody in a warehouse, in a manufacturing environment, customer service folks that are out in the field. Those applications are just too obvious not to do.

Matt Hartzman

Matt Hartzman – Platform Fragmentation 

I think, in the short term, mobile for the enterprise looks a little cloudy because you have organizations like Microsoft and Google making new strides into penetrating that marketplace, and I think that will make it confusing in the short term to make any long-term commitments to specific mobile technology platforms. At the same time, I think it will – by having those players involved, accelerate the eventual shakeout of the marketplace and get consolidated on standards.


2013 looks to be a huge year for mobile in the enterprise. These CIOs are approaching mobile apps as a large opportunity, but only when the business case to justify them is in place. Creating those business cases is often requiring educating the rest of the executive team on state of the mobile industry and how mobility is shifting the use of technology and access to information in general. Once a business case is in place, an additional hurdle is the handling of multiple platforms based on who the user base of the apps will be.