With the rise of mobile technology, and no indication of innovation in this area slowing down, one dominating question has arisen: should teams be platform or product-led? In our recent roundtable event, Paul Stringer (Principle Consultant at Equal Experts) and specialists from a range of leading organisations explored the implications of each side of the argument, what it means for customer journeys, and predictions for the future.

Navigating the Product vs. Platform dilemma

A key consideration when addressing the product vs platform dilemma is to think about what your organisation wants to achieve; is the main goal of your app to be cutting edge, or quick to market, or an elevated customer journey? Being driven by the overall outcome is a great starting point that can help to clarify the direction of your planning and implementation, and therefore the direction you take in your approach. The ‘structure follows strategy’ business principle should apply.

Add into that the different limitations you may be facing; does your app need to align with other commercial constraints, or adhere to strict protocols and legislation? Do you have limitations in terms of technology, budget, or talent resource? Factoring in these elements will encourage a more realistic outlook, and consequently the creation of a more realistic strategy which can then be followed with the appropriate structure.

The internal impact of your mobile app is another important point; will it require input from across the business or influence the work of other departments? Implementing a platform team that works across a technology, rather than an integrated team that works cross-functionally across a product, may have less of an effect on your organisation as a whole, but isn’t always a suitable solution.

In the current landscape, mobile is central to the user journey, but with such a unique development and deployment process, an organisation’s web-centric technology and product capabilities don’t necessarily align with what the customer values about apps, and these limitations can become frustrating when not addressed.

The trend towards harmonisation of skills and teams around product in technology is causing a potential shift towards mobile becoming less platform-focused and more product-focused. How your team should be organised, what strategies you should be using, and what technologies lend themselves to those elements will all be a defining factor in the success of your mobile app. 

Building a successful mobile strategy

Resourcing is a fundamental factor when it comes to building a successful mobile strategy. A platform-centric approach requires specific skills, experience, and expertise in a highly specialised environment; a product-centric approach is more flexible. Product teams should develop in-house capability, while platform-centric teams may suit contractors or third-party suppliers.

When defining your mobile strategy, consistency is vital. Customer experience, the bread and butter of every successful business, must be aligned across your different customer journeys – mobile, web, store – to ensure brand integrity and recognition. As a result, relevant teams must work together to coordinate their efforts, whilst also retaining individual measures and outcomes for their own areas.

Defining key success measures from the outset will keep your project on track and could also help to identify whether you lead with product or platform. If your quantifiable outcomes lend themselves to one approach over another, it’s clear which path to take.

If you’re building or managing a large mobile team, it’s challenging to have many hands working on the same platform. Dividing by territory, customer journey, or sub-products makes the process more efficient and prevents a bottleneck from building up in specific areas of development.

It would seem that product team organisation is the more advantageous approach. By dissolving mobile-specific platform teams and bringing mobile experts into product, silos can be removed and the potential to scale and grow becomes more realistic. However, there are trade-off considerations around performance, platform differentiation, and development efficiency.

Mobile development in the next five years

As the mobile space continues to evolve, it’s likely that a new platform or type of application is somewhere on the horizon. Across the tech industry, AI is certainly the next big thing, and particularly Local AI in the mobile space. As with VR and Blockchain, it could have a place, but may not replace the fundamentals.

One prediction is the move away from physical screens to virtual ones as the primary point of experience, with user interfaces becoming integrated with the physical world via spatial computing. With Apple Vision on the horizon, the question to consider is this: will it do for spatial computing what the iPhone did for mobile computing? The implications on the customer journey are huge – the approach to marketing, buying, and brand interaction would all need to adapt and will require their own highly-specialised skills and processes.

For support with building your own mobile team, or to find out more about our total talent solution, contact Louis Gush.