Digested read

This month we’ve launched our first-ever official research project – Mobile First Mastery. Helping us to explore and better understand what separates the elite mobile-first and mobile-native businesses out there from the masses.

From leadership styles to cultural priorities, organising principles to tooling and the all-important navigation of leaps in scale. We’re digging into the details with technology leaders on the front line, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we learn with the mobile engineering community at large in early 2023.

Mobile First mastery report open

Fourteen years of mobile motion

We’ve been helping all kinds of organisations make a big impact on mobile for over fourteen years now. In that time, we’ve seen the dynamics of what we do, the problems we’re invited to solve, and the value we help create change significantly.

  • We no longer need to explain the strategic importance of mobile to the leaders we meet. They (almost!) universally get it. Now we get questions on how to lean into mobile harder, not whether or not to lean in at all.
  • Mobile leadership, mobile teams, mobile systems and practice. We’re primarily working with well-established groups that already have some serious chops. They mostly just need a few more good (expert!) people on deck as they work to scale their impact fast.
  • Since Covid-19 sent everyone home for the first time, a new mobile primacy has emerged. Getting customer experiences, service delivery and employee productivity tools right on mobile, at scale, is the order of the day. Mobile has moved from the edge of the contemporary organisation to the heart in many cases. Even the laggards have mobile on the boardroom agenda.

What we’ve started to notice

We’re a mobile engineering company, so our worldview’s skewed by all things mobile, of course. But we’re noticing something we think’s important: 

  1. Those organisations and leaders who’ve adopted a mobile-first mentality are, more often than not, the ones who are thriving. They get it, and they’re getting to the value fastest.
  2. Those who still have a ‘channel mentality’, those still leaning into their (often ageing) web-centric strategy – they’re more often than not the ones who are stalling.

Those thriving mobile-first folk have their own subset of challenges, mind you—scaling intelligently from one high-performing, mobile-optimised state to another as they grow with investment and success. That’s also created a new and fascinating opportunity for us to help our clients.

Mobile-first deserves a new movement

We think enough’s going on globally for the mobile-minded amongst us to warrant some serious sensemaking and exploration of all things ‘mobile-first’.

Is what we see important? What can we learn from the mobile-first masters we’re meeting that their aspiring contemporaries might value learning too? Where are the patterns that point to progress? How can we better anticipate what our clients will need help with in the future?

We want to understand better what separates the mobile winners from the rest in a structured, evidence-based, pattern-recognising way. And we want to share that picture with you. So finding answers to those questions (and more besides) is why we’re here at the starting line of our very own Mobile First Mastery study.

The Mobile First mastery report cover on a blue and grey background

Where’s the manual for mobile-first mastery?

We’re big fans of the substantial, growing canon of ‘self-help’ books for the digital transformers amongst us. Our copies of Accelerate, Beyond Digital, Sooner, Safer, Happier etc. – they’re dogeared, and the value surfaces in our daily work. So many of the lessons, patterns and principles these books convey apply directly to what we do for our clients on mobile.

But we’re missing something—the mobile-first take on transforming and scaling digital business. The same lessons, first principles, anti-pattern exposes etc., but framed for the mobile-first and mobile native.

We have a big enough cohort to warrant some special attention! And yet, once you get past Mobile Apps at Scale, things get a little quiet. It feels like there’s an instructional gap. A few more stories on making moves to mobile-first could be helpful, right?

Taking on our own mobile-first research 

phone and speech bubble illustration

It makes sense for us to take the lead in this field of research. These are the challenges of the organisations and leaders we serve through our business. A better understanding will help us to provide more meaningful help. Sharing what we learn widely will help everyone make good progress, and sometimes we’ll be one of the teams helping to make that progress happen. Everybody wins.

So we’re talking to a broad range of technology leaders at all different stages of mobile maturity. Mobile-natives, organisations that have successfully shifted from web to mobile-centric ways of operating. Folk who are progressing at pace through their mobile transformation journey. And those who are simply stuck somewhere in the messy middle.

When we’re finished, we’ll produce our own practical, evidence-based field guide to help inform the strategy and actions of our contemporaries in the mobile engineering leadership community. We’re sure product/ design/agility leaders will value what we create too, but the tone and focus of our work are intended to help the engineering audience we serve specifically.

The top topics we’re touching

We’re exploring a whole host of topics with the generous contributors to our research:

  1. The masters unpacked: What do the very best mobile-first companies look like on the inside? How do they organise, prioritise, strategise, operate and lead?
  2. The path to mastery: Boardroom battles or scarcity of skills? Cultural sticking points or technological trauma? What are the real highs and lows on the path to mastery?
  3. Accelerating progress: From mobile-specific DevOps practice to team profiles – what are the critical levers when looking for traction and accelerated positive change?
  4. Missing links: What other contemporary issues might lie between today’s engineering leaders and their mobile-first destiny manifest?

We’ll double down on those emerging themes and patterns, following up with in-depth, subject-specific interviews to better understand them. Then, once we’ve got a good angle on the big talking points, we’ll wrap our first round of learning up with a quantitative take (you got it, a survey!) that builds confidence that what we’re seeing is significant and of value to others.

Where we’re at in the process

We started interviewing this month, and we’re finding our feet. We’re not a research house by trade, but we’ve got some great minds in the mix to help boot the biases out of our research interviews.

We’ll be interviewing 50-100 technology leaders in total – from Engineering Managers to Chief Technology Officers – across various shapes and sizes of organisations. You can apply to participate here. The interview process will run into early 2023. After that, we’ll share our early insights with the world at large as soon as possible.

Illustration of a Rube Goldberg machine turning a messy ball into a yellow circle

Fashioning our final field guide

What will the field guide look like? In short, we’re still working that out. We know we want to create a genuinely helpful, instructional piece of work, not more soul-crushing, content-marketing fluff. There’s enough of that to go around already.

When it comes to the contents, we know how we like to digest our instructional industry info, so we’ll be modelling the guide on what we find most helpful:

  • Honest interviews.
  • Confessional & inspirational stories.
  • Powerful questions unpacked.
  • Patterns & anti-patterns exposed.
  • First principles thinking. 

And perhaps the odd listicle and informative infographic for the attention poor amongst us!

Keeping up on our progress

We hope to share some of what we learn along the way here on the Novoda blog, so check back in from time to time to catch up on progress.

Alternatively, you can sign up for early access to our preliminary results.

In the meantime, wish us luck and thanks for reading!

The Novoda Team