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May 28, 2015updated 21 Oct 2016 5:49pm

No business I speak with is mobile ready

CEO Briefing: Now with Waitrose and Ladbrokes as clients, Chelsea Apps Factory boss says when they started out no-one knew anything about apps.

By Sam

Mike Anderson and a couple of pals started a business on an instinct. This business didn’t know what to sell and its prospective customers didn’t know what they wanted to buy.

Five years later it is still going and still growing.

"Chelsea Apps Factory (CAF) is five years old. It was born on the same day as the iPad. It came about because we were following an instinct. There were people queuing around the block to buy devices and people being cheered for having bought them and Steve Jobs and others were on the front pages of every newspaper talking about tablets and new computing," Anderson says.

At the time everything in the device world was focused on the consumer so it was all about games. That quickly changed as device owners brought them into the workplace because of usability and that began the consumerisation of enterprise IT.

"We got hired by brave chief execs who wanted to change their environment and how they operate. So really that started to affect the whole IT infrastructure," he says.

But first the firm had to bridge the credibility gap.

He says in the beginning there were three of them in a room making it up as they went along. It was a brand new market and their target buyer didn’t know what they wanted.

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There were lots of what he calls ‘Chinese meal meetings’ which would end with everyone feeling excited but coming away ‘not really sure what we were going to sell to the prospect and them sitting there saying they really want to get into this apps thing but didn’t know what to buy.’

"You get shaped by your clients. At that point people were talking about garage developers and that’s what we were. We all had business experience [Anderson had a 20 year media career which saw him in senior exec roles at News International and as MD of the Evening Standard] so we could make our garage look big and professional and that gave us an advantage. We understood about solution delivery for the client."

Credibility Gap

A major milestone was securing KPMG as a client and which invested in the business. KPMG helped bridge the credibility gap with large corporates and led to bigger projects.

"A large corporate, while it loves the invention, can’t work with disorder. We do innovation labs and the mobilisation of business and behind each of those things we sell a process. That is what the C-suite wants. They wanted to be comforted. They want someone to walk them through the process and want to see that there is an outcome," says Anderson.

That outcome is based on consultancy, design, delivery, the user journey, the integration to the system, the sustainability of the platform and the testing.

"We walk into customers and at this point no-one is mobile ready. So the first engagement is about getting people mobile ready. Once you get them there you can move very quickly."

He offers Ladbrokes as an example.

When Chelsea Apps Factory engaged with Ladbrokes, the project started in November, was running in December and had the Football World Cup as a deadline to deliver a vastly improved product.

"When you watch the rise of new companies and brands coming into the gambling space, they didn’t have to build infrastructure like the established players. They could operate in a faster more agile way. Speed meant technology could be built and used in weeks, not in years. When you use the enterprise word in technology it was like hiring a builder – the level of confidence in the outcome was that it is going to cost three times as much and take twice as long."

Companies want to work with agile suppliers. CAF positions itself as big enough to offer confidence in delivery and small enough to care. Anderson contrasts this with companies bringing in large consultancies and then not being able to get rid of them.

The plan is to tap into global demand for mobility.

In a five year old industry the challenge to scale is gathering the talent.

"There isn’t a business that doesn’t need a mobile capability. It would be as ridiculous as saying that businesses don’t need web sites. We’ve gone from projects to programmes and we are helping companies expand into new territories. It is a global opportunity. The challenge is choosing what to focus on."

Case Study: Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership

Waitrose, was one of the first organisations Chelsea Apps Factory engaged with to talk about enterprise apps. The organisation had a very mature desktop system which operated the stores.

Anderson says that they could instantly see a whole suite of applications that could be built and deployed on a tablet device.

"I came away from that first meeting with the strangest excitement and fear. I was thinking there is so much work for us to do it could be overwhelming. I thought: "We’re gonna need a bigger boat!"

CAF came up with a candidate list of different applications for business processes that a store manager could operate on the floor of a supermarket in front of the customer with the data in their hands.

"And we could see how compelling that could be. So we started to build out the use cases. Areas like assisted selling, stock control and management. We produced something called the daily numbers so they could what they were selling by the day. We helped execute promotions and display stock to maximise their impact. The business efficiency of doing that in a live environment, instead of running around with guns, pointing at bar codes and printing off reports was obvious."

"This was not a backward retailer trying to catch up. This is a company at the front of the pack creating great customer experience and business efficiency," he says.


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