Congrats! You’ve been hired as VP Mobile... Now what?

By Mike Stern , written on February 13, 2013

From The News Desk

You’ve just become VP of Mobile. Sweet, that probably means you get a new smartphone or two... Other good news is that your company is starting to take mobile seriously. The challenge is that your company is starting to take mobile seriously. You’re in charge, but the stakes are high. Now what?

The recommendations below are the product of my team's experience in building over 350 top-rated mobile Web and app products while working with Fortune 500s, startups, and everything in between.

Getting started -- Ship something soon. Whether you’re responsible for B2B, B2C or LOB (line of business) products, get in front of your target users within the first six months, and ideally within three months, at least through a mobile website at first. Mobile innovation moves at breakneck speed with new devices on the market every week. If you want to time your launch correctly, it’s much easier if you plan a shorter path to market.

Your talent base -- Strong mobile talent is in high demand, so don't underestimate your hiring/retaining needs. A smart way to get to market quickly and effectively, while ramping up your internal team, is to leverage outside expertise in combination. But keep in mind, the closer your vendor can collaborate with you, the better the results.

Tools -- The Web 2.0 days are over, so consider new tools and lightweight processes that help you in a mobile-first world. Purchase all of your targeted devices so that you can learn different operating system paradigms and test your products honestly -- testing simulators won’t cut it on their own. Also consider a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) that will help manage the lifecycle of your build and release process.

The promise of “write-once-run-everywhere” -- Despite many promises of write-once-run-everywhere platforms, currently no such holy grail exists – and the proof is in the ratings. Even HTML5 is in its early days, and supporting multiple browsers/form factors can be as painstaking as building multiple native apps.

Managing internal stakeholders -- Since everyone has a device, everyone tends to feel like an expert. Also, mobile projects tend to touch multiple departments, with ownership driven from either Product, Business, IT or Marketing. Prepare for this by building business cases suited to each department and their needs, and include them when collecting feedback.

For example, one of our clients almost cancelled its project mid-way because of this issue. The Customer Support department became uneasy that the app would create an unbearable increase in call volume. To get client support, we built in an FAQ into the app that addressed the top-three questions that previously represented over 80 percent of their call volume. Now their support team has fewer calls than before and has embraced the company’s push into mobile.

Embracing external stakeholders -- Mobile is an ecosystem game; the proliferation of app stores, mobile carriers and third party services/APIs means that your success often depends on people outside the organization just as much as within. Start building relationships outside the organization early and strike partnerships to give yourself leverage. Win with the winners.

App marketing strategy -- Build it and they will come? Not so much. There’s an entire industry dedicated to gaming app store placement and ratings. Take this aspect as seriously as the build process itself. Design new KPI’s around downloads, ratings, and usage (or engagement, quality and retention, respectively).

Succeeding in your newfound role will not be easy. The stakes are high in a landscape that is ever evolving. If you can effectively own both the engineering and business functions of your job, delivering amazing mobile experiences on time and on point, it’s all but certain your company will be ecstatic they chose you as their VP of Mobile.

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