Getting the right team is critical for advancing SAP mobility

Getting the most out of an SAP mobile center of excellence depends on a range of factors, including who's on the team, writes Michael Bestvina.

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Editor's note: This is the second of the two-part series on mobile centers of excellence. Read the first part to learn more about the role centers play in developing an SAP mobile strategy.

While every company may set up a mobile center of excellence differently when it comes to advancing their SAP mobility strategy, each must give careful consideration to certain roles and responsibilities.

A mobile center of excellence (CoE) is a shared team whose primary objective is to help evaluate and facilitate the adoption of mobile technology by providing leadership, training, research and support. A common pitfall when establishing a mobile CoE is trying to share resources from a variety of groups across business and IT. The team must be organizationally isolated from the rest of the company, but able to work closely with it.

Finding the right person to lead the CoE is critical. One of the most important and often misunderstood responsibilities of this position is marketing the CoE's services to the rest of the company. Since the group initially employs a pull strategy to establish its services, it is the job of the head of the mobile CoE to make sure the whole organization understands how the CoE can help. Setting up workshops and seminars for the various lines of business is a crucial step in this role.

Before these exercises take place, however, it's important for the director to establish an overall strategy. In an everyday setting, this person is responsible for maintaining the overall process and adapting it where necessary. They must also be in tune with the latest mobile trends and strategies when it comes to mobile application development and device management so they can provide technical leadership on deployment decisions.

The team should also consist of people with user and project management experience to support the head of the CoE. These individuals are responsible for taking ownership of product planning. They will have to work closely with identified "customers" and relay their feedback to the development team.

Mobile app developers are the next part of the CoE team. Their responsibility is to write the program code and set up the integration points for making apps available to customers. One of their most common questions will be which platform to use, a highly debated subject that will ultimately need to be decided by the head of the mobile CoE as part of the broader mobile technology strategy.

There are also a variety of roles that can supplement the CoE, but are not essential for getting the organization up and running. Roles such as change managers, trainers and support engineers may be needed, depending on the nature of the apps being built and the culture of the organization receiving the app. For example, if you're releasing an app to a department full of mobile enthusiasts and early adopters, there may be much less training and support required to get them to use the app.

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What problems can be solved with mobility? Quite possibly one of the hardest initial responsibilities for the team will be to figure out problems that can be solved by mobile solutions. Once the CoE becomes known to the whole company, educate your employees to log what processes they'd like to see mobilized on their smartphone and why, instead of just talking about it at the water cooler. Apart from a company Intranet, other online tools can streamline ideation and management of the discovery phase.

For example, firms such as SAP use BrightIdea, and some smaller companies are using vendors such as Kindling for managing the mobile development process.

Once the team's exposure to the business grows, there will undoubtedly be no shortage of ideas for mobile applications, and it will become increasingly difficult to assess which ideas should be implemented and which should be put on hold. To deal with the problem, the CoE will need to establish guidelines for submitting business cases. Each idea should then be evaluated on a scorecard for potential cost savings, employee efficiencies or business growth potential. The idea with the highest scorecard gets implemented.

Once an idea has been selected, it is up to the CoE team to make the app a reality. A prototype typically takes roughly three months to design, code and deploy. It should only be given to a small number of early adopters, using Agile methodology to allow for frequent iterations. The purpose of this three-month exercise is not to produce a fully deployed app, but rather to prove that the business case is valid. This is often the most understood part of the process, since stakeholders will want to see immediate business results. Once this has been validated, the app can be tested rigorously and further developed in line with IT governance policies.

Most IT organizations are still figuring out how to implement mobility, and many lack experience in implementing centers of excellence. Therefore, it often makes sense to bring in an external partner to help implement a mobile CoE project and provide the expertise in Agile development and user experience design that many organizations lack.

About the author
Michael Bestvina is the head of mobile technology at London-based consultancy Xoomworks, where he helps business leaders adopt mobile applications. Find him on Twitter: @techdisruptive.

This was first published in March 2013

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