Mobile strategy in a rapidly evolving industry

Benedict Evans, the well-known mobile industry analyst, has posited that we actually have no idea what it will mean in five years to “install an app on my smartphone”.

The market and the technology that powers it is changing and evolving so fast that there is no way to know how the industry will look in five years time. Will a smartphone still be a rectangular device with a screen that you carry in your pocket? Will it have already been absorbed into an invisible network of embedded, connected, wearable devices? What will be the form factors that define ‘mobile’ in five year’s time? How would you develop experiences for them?

For everyone in the business of creating and distributing mobile experiences, the dependency you have to the mobile ecosystems is the single largest pertinent factor in your strategic profile. How does not having a clear view not the future impact your strategic planning? What will your business model be in five years? What will your business be at all in five years?

It is an interesting lesson in strategy definition to be able to separate the WHAT from the HOW.

The HOW is a constant evolution of the environment you’re operating in. The WHAT is much more constant, and can absorb even large changes in the environment.

The WHY… it could last perhaps forever.

Why you should love your computer and your phone

My father, in his younger years, was an interstate trucker. As was common in those days, he owned his own truck, instead of leasing one or driving one that belongs to a company. His truck, the trailer, the tarps and ropes and chains, were all the tools of his trade.

During the week he was always away, somewhere on the Pacific Highway, a roughy 1000 km stretch of coastal highway between Brisbane and Sydney. On the weekends at home, he would care for his tools.

He would start by washing the week’s worth of road grime, dirt and bugs from the truck. He would carefully unroll his tens of meters of tarps and inspect them for holes and scuffs. He would untangle the chains and oil the ratchets, fill the water tanks, check the tyres…

The point is, he loved his tools. His tools were a part of who he was, and he knew he would only be as effective as his tools were.

I don’t have a truck, and I don’t work with chains or ropes or tarps. The physical tools of my trade are my computing devices and my software. But I still love my tools as my father loved his.

You mean you love your MacBook? You really love Illustrator? Keynote? Outlook?

Yeah, I do.

(Ok, so I don’t love Outlook. It’s hard to love Outlook. But you get the point…)

To be truly productive, I think you must love your tools. You spend your whole life with them in your hands. They shape your words, they communicate your ideas, they turn your dreams into reality. How could you not love that?

How horrible it must be to spend your whole day working with tools you dislike, or even tools you hate. How can that be anything but negative for your productivity? For mental health? Your well-being?

There is nothing worse than poor quality tools. But, like spanners or wrenches or cordless drills, the tools of the information profession have a variety of quality levels, and as the saying goes, you really do get what you pay for.

A professional mechanic isn’t using the 30€ set of wrenches from the supermarket.

Invest in the tools of your profession. Buy the right tool for the right job, and pay for the right level of quality.

And love your tools.

Special note for employers: your employees will only be as productive as the tools you give them. Sure, the 500€ Dell PC might seem like a bargain now. But the question is: what price do you put on the productivity of your staff?

Are you in love with making software, or making products?

Software is a solution to a problem. Or rather, it is a part of a solution to a problem.

A product is more than just the software, and it’s more than the solution. A complete product encompasses an entire product business: a consumer value proposition, a profit model, resources, processes and tools. Marketing and channels. Suppliers and customers.

If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a product is designed, built and released, but no-body can find it and no-body uses it, does it exist at all?

Building products is a responsibility. Not just to create a great experience (great software, great hardware, great whatever), but to get that experience to your customers. Maybe also to their customers.

And most of all, to generate value for your business.

If you put on the hat of Product Manager, you’d better be ready to think bigger than just your software, because a product is much, much more.

So what are you in love with?

(If you’re not in love with either, then a career in software product management is maybe not for you.)