Next to Harvard Business Review and Stephen’s Lighthouse, ReadWriteWeb is “must scan” for me each morning.  I scan for anything about organization’s planning, strategies and “people-stuff” that make me think about their implications or applications for libraries.  

As libraries focus on developing more and more mobile applications, they need to consider their strategies for mobile services and applications, and see if other organizations have learnings to share.  Too often libraries have quickly adopted new tools without considering the implications and asking hard questions: “What’s the impact of this tool or this service on our existing services? Is it complimenting other services? or cannibalizing or competing with other tools or services?”  Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for quick adoption.  I’m also for quick consideration of implications & quick setting up for success.  Remember when virtual services were initiated in 2000? Many libraries thought we could put a link on the reference desk computer and have the same staff responding to in-person, telephone, email and virtual patrons.  After a few months of stressed staff or no virtual traffic at all they realized they needed to consider their service delivery model and strategy —- was virtual reference replacing or enhancing the other service delivery modes?

Now libraries are considering their mobile strategies. Klint Finley summarizes Forrester’s report on a strategic framework for mobile development: POST – People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology.

People: profile the group you are targetting with mobile.  Forrester identifies 4 groups of mobile users:

  • task workers
  • information workers
  • wannabees
  • superconnecteds

Are these the groups for libraries? Who are the segments in your community or campus or market? The library has to segment its audience(s) to understand the behaviours and preferences of the segments and then determine which segments the mobile app is intended.  Cuz it’s not for all segments in the same way. One size doesn’t fit anyone very well.

Objectives: clarify what the library wants to accomplish or realize through the mobile app….. IN WRITING; there’s nothing like seeing the words to ensure the people involved, developers, managers, librarians, etc., are on the “same page.”  One of the easiest ways to articulate an objective or goal is to describe what success will look like from the library’s perspective and from the users’ perspective (that’s 2 different perspectives). And, most importantly (and this isn’t covered in the summary of Forrester’s report), talk about the implications of the channel for OTHER library channels, services and programs.  How does it impact other ‘engagement points’?

Strategy:  agree on how the channel will be developed, delivered, tested, and maintained.  Forrester recommends asking questions like “How many users do we need to reach?  What will their experience be with the app?”

Technology: after working through – and probably cycling through again! –  the POS examine and select the technology to be used.  I’ve purposely left out arrows in the graphic since this isn’t a matter of “do the people, then the objectives, etc.”  Mobile isn’t linear.  Life isn’t linear.  And determining why, who, how and what you’ll use to engage users and staff with services and the delight of libraries isn’t linear. Just leave the technology selection until you’ve had the previous conversations.  The tool shouldn’t determine what the house looks like — and the technology shouldn’t determine how the channel will work or for whom.