Mobile Applications

How CDOs can thrive in tech's toughest job of 2016

The following is a contributed article by Yoram Mizrachi, CTO, Perfecto Mobile  developer of a cloud platform for building, testing, monitoring and optimising apps.


In 2015, chief digital officers (CDOs) stepped out of the shadows and proved their mettle at major brands across the globe. But in the coming year those who work in the relatively new CDO role will wonder if the title is a bit of a curse. Why? Because digital innovation is fast-moving and complex to manage. While there are examples of brands doing amazing work in digital, there are still profound challenges in moving from a waterfall to an Agile process to release apps fast enough. The fact is, old methods of quality assurance are putting too many error-prone apps onto users' screens.

As a result, the expectations for today's CDOs are sky-high. They're assigned the cross-functional task of unifying business needs with technical capabilities and managing the fast delivery of high-quality, revenue-generating mobile apps and websites. And the stakes will only rise in 2016 as mobile payments, voice activation and virtual reality move from periphery to mainstream.

So how can CDOs prosper in such a rough-and-tumble year?


Keep up with the market or else

Smart CDOs know that the digital market waits for no one. Research firm Gartner expects release cadences of mobile operating systems to drop from 10 months to six months between cycles, and mobile device releases to go from 10 months to eight months.

The market will keep demanding quicker release cycles in 2016, so CDOs must steer DevTest teams to keep up the pace. It's not an option to tell customers that a service is only available in Internet Explorer or that an app only works on Apple devices. As the facilitator of digital production, a CDO needs to embrace an Agile approach to software development to deliver a new app version every few weeks that works on multiple devices and OS versions. Simply put, CDOs need to be obsessed with the demands of the market, or risk watching the market roll on without them.


Know that 'digital' = the best of web and mobile

Pity the CDO in 2016 who thinks that developing and testing for "digital" follows the same practices as the traditional "web" with its stable environments and infrequent browser updates. Sorry, but those days are gone. The purpose of digital is to unite web and mobile assets and deliver a memorable user experience. However, the fragmented nature of mobile complicates the equation. Mobile devices change frequently and are not always stable and the mobile environment -- where I am, what I'm doing and under what conditions -- will always vary. In the end, it's the CDO's job to make sure the customer has the same high-quality "digital experience" on a desktop, a mobile browser and a mobile app.


Be open to new DevTest scenarios

With older QA methods no longer adequate for the speed of digital, CDOs should consider how a cloud-based lab – with its remote access to devices and 24/7 availability -- is better suited for today's app and web testing.

A cloud lab can integrate tools like Visual Studio and Eclipse for building apps, and Appium and Selenium for automating test scripts so remote teams can continuously release apps in a fast and Agile way. The rise of digital has also given way to the "cloud test environment" where QA teams do performance testing and monitoring for specific customer types (i.e. personas) in different geographies, running different devices under real world network conditions.

Outdated processes are a death knell for CDOs. It may seem convenient to buy and test manually on mobile devices in-house but costs add up. You will have to purchase the device, fix it if the screen cracks, update the device, ask IT to fix driver conflicts, and replace it if it's lost.

Just as it's time to move on from slow and steady web development, CDOs can lead the charge to upgrade an in-house testing lab to the cloud.


Stay ahead of the competition and customer

Probably the most dangerous thing a CDO can overlook in 2016 is the changing face of the competition. Let me be clear: What Amazon has done to retail stores is happening in banking (PayPal), transportation (Uber), hospitality (Airbnb) and travel (Expedia). Is there a digital disruptor out there with eyes on your business?

Digital channels make it very easy for consumers to move to an alternative. Customers are switching banks because the app is not performing well. They are switching airlines. They are going to another retail store. The onus is on CDOs to analyze customer usage data -- What devices, OSes and networks are customers using? How often do they open the app and how long are they staying? -- and then work with DevTest teams to make sure those customer desires make it into the next app release. And the one after that.

While CDOs will definitely be under the gun in 2016, they're also in a sweet spot where digital innovation is rewarded. If they play their cards right, CDOs won't feel cursed, but blessed.


« What are Apple's chances of success for its Latin American retail push?


News Roundup: Facebook vs. India, Watson for President, and Chinese chips »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?