Jens H. Hosbond, Peter A. Nielsen and Ivan Aaen
Department of Computer Science, Aalborg University, Denmark
Keywords: Mobile application development, scenario planning, innovation.
Abstract: In this paper we are concerned with innovation in the development of mobile applications. In particular, we
address how we may come to think systematically about innovative aspects of mobile applications. We
suggest that there is not enough support for this in the mobile systems literature and we hence suggest a
framework that supports the thinking about the possible innovative features of a mobile application in a
systemic and systematic way. The framework is inspired by the theory on scenario planning. In this
framework we see mobile social arrangements of node, dyad, and group as fundamental units of analysis.
We apply the framework to a case where the mobile users are truck drivers in a long-distance haulage
business. Our use of the framework illustrates how we can arrive at a consistent and systemic view of a
possible scenario for innovative mobile applications. We continue with a discussion of to what extent and in
which ways the framework gives rise to innovative thinking by relating to a common theory of types of
innovation and innovation processes.
Evolution of mobile devices in recent years has been
immense. We are constantly faced with an
increasing number of powerful and media-rich
devices each encompassing more and more technical
features. The inclusion of a yet larger amount of
features – e.g. high-resolution camera, MP3 player,
telephony, e-mail etc. – in mobile devices such as
PDAs, Smartphones, and cell phones, are indications
of a strong technical convergence. Technical
convergence has previously been suggested as one
fundamental driver for mobile information
environments (Lyytinen and Yoo 2002). Currently,
the convergence primarily takes place at the device
level and mainly at the hardware level. A similar
convergence at the software level (e.g., at the
Symbian or the Windows mobile platform) has yet
to be seen. Presently there is virtually no
compatibility between devices allowing the same
mobile applications to run on different devices. This
makes development of mobile applications a costly
and potentially risky business.
A costly development activity is acceptable as
long as a basis for creating sufficient revenue is in
place, however only few successful real-world cases
exist. Consequently, herein lays one of the primary
barriers and challenges for application development
Mass scale, is another fundamental driver
proposed by Lyytinen and Yoo (2002). For the last
decade, we have witnessed an immense adoption
and diffusion of mobile devices especially in the
Western parts of the world and in the Far East.
However, widespread use of mobile data services,
i.e., mobile applications, has far from been at the
same level. The unsuccessful adoption of the
wireless application protocol (WAP), which was
supposed to kick-off intense use of the mobile
internet (Helyar 2002), clearly illustrates this.
However, exceptions exist; for instance the case of
iMode in Japan with 26 million subscribers in 2001
(Vincent 2001) or the surprising success of the low-
cost and simple SMS application (though that
technology has not been well integrated with the
Internet). From a population of 5 million, 6.5 billion
SMS messages was sent in 2004 in Denmark
(National IT and Telecom Agency 2004).
Low adoption rates are just one out of several
difficulties facing mobile application developers
(Mylonopoulos and Doukidis 2003; Krogstie,
Lyytinen et al. 2004; van de Kar and van der Duin
2004). The question then becomes what constitutes a
successful application with respect to adoption
potential? The countless numbers of unsuccessful
H. Hosbond J., A. Nielsen P. and Aaen I. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - ISAS, pages 23-30
DOI: 10.5220/0002377400230030
mobile applications surely indicate that something
should be done differently. With this paper we opt
for increased focus on innovation in mobile
applications. Hence, we pose the question: How can
we support innovative thinking in mobile application
Following Tidd, Bessant & Pavitt we see
innovation as a process of turning opportunity into
new ideas and of putting these into widespread
practice (Tidd, Bessant et al. 2005). Outcomes from
this process range from minor incremental
improvements to radical changes affecting our ways
of thinking about products, processes, organizations,
markets, time and space or even about who we are.
We see two challenges in supporting innovative
thinking. One is to come up with ideas. Another is to
see these ideas in the context of business strategy.
For these challenges we propose a heuristic
approach to promote idea generation. The approach
is inspired by scenario planning, which is well-
suited for thinking about organizational and business
strategies in highly uncertain environments
(Schoemaker 1991; Schoemaker 1995;
Mylonopoulos and Doukidis 2003). We propose our
framework as a heuristic approach for generating
innovative ideas for future mobile applications. The
framework should be of use in all phases of a
development project, e.g., the initiation,
development, and evaluation phases and targets
managerial responsibilities in development efforts.
The paper is structured as follows. Section 2
presents the heuristic approach. In Section 3 we
exemplify the use of the framework by applying it
first to describe the current use of ICT in a mobile
setting and then to suggest possible innovative future
uses of ICT in the same setting. The purpose for a
business of managing innovation is to gain a
strategic advantage (Tidd, Bessant et al. 2005). The
theory focuses on types of innovation and phases of
innovation and in particular it attracts attention to
innovative options. We find that the theory of
managing innovation gives an appropriate context
for understanding scenario planning and our
framework. This becomes the basis of our discussion
in Section 4. In Section 5 we conclude the paper.
In this section we present the framework suggested
to support innovative thinking in mobile application
development. First we introduce theory on scenario
planning serving as the theoretical foundation of the
framework. Second, the theory on managing
innovation will be presented briefly and taken up in
more detail in Section 5. Third, the elements of the
framework are presented.
2.1 Scenario Planning
Many report that software development within the
mobile business is highly dynamic and uncertain
(Mylonopoulos and Doukidis 2003; Krogstie,
Lyytinen et al. 2004; van de Kar and van der Duin
2004). Especially, application developers in the
mobile value chain (Varshney and Vetter 2002; van
de Kar and van der Duin 2004) are faced with
difficult conditions for developing tomorrows
innovative application. This is often attributed to:
lack of standardisation in software platforms,
unsuccessful business models, and an escalating
competitive environment. To act proactively and
effectively reduce the level of uncertainty in such an
environment is to think in terms of scenarios
(Hogarth and Makridakis 1981; Malaska 1985;
Schoemaker 1991; Schoemaker 1995; van de Kar
and van der Duin 2004). We use the term ‘scenario’
as “a script-like characterization of possible future
presented in considerable detail” (Schoemaker 1991,
pp. 550). Schoemaker (1991) suggests using
scenarios in situations where: uncertainty is high,
too many costly surprises have been experienced,
the industry has experienced significant change, etc.
(Schoemaker 1991, pp. 550). The development of
mobile applications thus seems well-suited for
scenario planning.
In scenario planning we do not blindly believe in
forecasting the future or charting the uncertainty
concerning mobile applications, but we apply
scenarios as means of explicating uncertainty
(Schoemaker 1991) and to provoke innovative
thinking. Scenario planning may be applied in all
phases of a development project, also referred to as a
multiple-scenario approach (Malaska 1985).
Scenario planning supports the establishing of a
foundation for decision-making (Schoemaker 1995)
as scenarios in our context serve as means for
charting key characteristics of the mobile application
and its use, e.g., end-users, use context, business
model, etc.
2.2 Innovation Management
Innovation management is about managing the
process of recognizing opportunities and needs for
new ideas and of implementing these ideas in
widespread practical use. Tidd and colleagues
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
distinguish between four broad categories – dubbed
the ‘4Ps’ – of innovation (Tidd, Bessant et al. 2005).
Product innovation – new ideas relate to the
products or services offered by an organization (e.g.
a mobile phone used as payment device). Process
innovation – changes in how products or services are
created or delivered (e.g. supporting and
coordinating homecare work via wireless PDA
systems). Position innovation – changes related to
positioning or re-positioning a product (e.g.
targeting personal computer operating systems to
mobile devices as in the case of Windows CE for
pocket PCs). Paradigm innovation – changes in the
mental models of the organization itself and of what
it does (e.g. video phones leading mobile phone
companies to change to being infotainment
The innovation process involves four major
activities (Tidd, Bessant et al. 2005): (1) Searching
scanning the internal and external environment for
threats and opportunities for change, (2) Selecting
(strategic decision on response – if any – to these
threats and opportunities), (3) Implementing
(translating and launching this response in the form
of an idea for something new in an internal or
external market), and (4) Learning (improving the
ways innovation processes are managed in the
In this paper we primarily address the searching
and selecting activities in the innovation process.
Our aim is to suggest heuristics for generating ideas
for solutions targeted towards mobile applications,
their technologies, their markets, and their users.
2.3 The Framework and Its Elements
The underlying idea of the framework is a heuristic
and pragmatic approach to uncover essential aspects
of mobile use scenarios. To foster innovative
thinking among managers, developers, designers,
users and customers a shared language is needed
(Nonaka 1994). Thus, a scenario describing the
current mobile information system is necessary.
Apart from serving as a common point of departure,
this scenario may also serve as a basis for forming
innovative ideas for improving or radically changing
the current system or its use. Furthermore, the
scenario may be used as means for assessing the
consequences of a proposed innovation.
The heuristic framework may be applied
throughout the development cycle as a steering or
evaluation mechanism to highlight the innovative
prospects of the application being developed.
Innovation of a mobile application is not only
attached to a new technical solution, but may also be
linked to new ways of use or a new business model.
The framework reflects these diverse perspectives in
innovative thinking via a systemic view of the
mobile application being developed and a particular
focus on technical, social, and economical
The framework is two-dimensional: One
dimension is the unit of analysis and the other
dimension is a set of key issues. The unit of analysis
spans three levels, namely node, dyad, and group.
These units are chosen as we find them
representative of the three levels of social use of a
mobile application. For example, an application such
as mobile access to e-mail is located at the node
level, i.e., the social interaction is limited to the user
accessing her e-mail. As an example of a mobile
application at the dyad level we find SMS. SMS is
an asynchronous text messaging technology used as
a means of creating and maintaining social
interaction between two mobile phone users at a
time. Mobile applications at the group level are all
intended to support group work. Take for instance
mobile chatting – e.g., MSN Messenger: Mobile
chatting is intended for use between people (1-1 at
the dyad level, but also 1-m or m-m) serving as a
means of communication in a group.
The other dimension highlights seven key issues
(W5H2, see Table 1) that together provide a
systemic view of a mobile application under
consideration. The set of issues may be changed or
new issues of interest may be added if necessary.
However, we find that the issues suggested here
provide a set of creative viewpoints. To foster
discussion and reflection the seven key issues are
formulated as questions. The issues suggested for
examination are: What is the mobile application
providing? Why is there a need for this mobile
application? When is the mobile application intended
for use (temporal aspects)? Where is the mobile
application to be used (location aspects)? Who are
the intended users? How is the mobile application
technologically being realised? How much is
economically required for creating a successful
business case (business model aspects)?
The two dimensions in the framework forms the
framework in Table 1.
Table 1: Framework for support of innovative thinking.
What Why When Where Who How
We suggest a two-step approach for using the
framework in Table 1: (1) map the current mobile
application into the cells in the framework; and (2)
use the result to orchestrate a discussion of
innovative ideas for a future mobile application
targeted towards the same setting (taking the
changes induced by the outlined system into
In this section we exemplify the use of the
framework by mapping a mobile information system
from a Danish middle-sized transportation company
into the framework.
The company has specialized in arranging
refrigerated truck transport of, e.g., fish and fresh
fruit. The organization consists of a forwarding
agency and 10–12 cooperating haulage contractors
with approximately 25 trucks driving regularly for
the forwarding agency. Four forwarding agents are
responsible for coordinating and communicating
The typical roundtrip for a truck is that it leaves
Northern Denmark on Thursday mornings with a full
load of fresh iced fish for a fish market in Southern
Europe. Consignments are formal agreements
between the forwarding agency and a consignee
about the transport of goods. The consignments for
moving goods from north to south can be planned
and these transports are the core business for the
organization. Somewhere in Southern Europe new
consignments are found and goods are picked up to
be transported north in Europe. The trucks return to
Northern Denmark in time to start a new roundtrip
on Thursday morning.
The forwarding agents find north-bound
consignments and plans which haulage contractors
should transport the found consignments. Finding
consignments is a complex task which is usually
performed as a search for consignments in the region
where a truck is empty or will be empty shortly. The
planning is an even more complex task and the
forwarding agents use several strategies and have
invented various paper-based artefacts to support
this. The forwarding agency competes for
consignments with other agencies, but there is a kind
of trust-based informal network between one of the
forwarding agents and around 10 forwarding agents
in other agencies. In this network it is possible,
relatively freely to discuss rumours and ask for help
to find consignments. This is referred to as the
friends’ network.
There is substantial coordination between the
forwarding agency and the truck drivers during each
roundtrip. When driving south the communication
concerns details of delivery of the south-bound
goods and the details of the consignments. It also
concerns the possible and later the committed
consignments for
the north-bound trip. When
driving north the communication concerns details of
delivery of goods and the consignments. The
coordination of which drivers shall transport which
consignments is usually performed directly between
the forwarding agent and the involved drivers.
The current use of ICT encompasses
communication through satellite and wired as well
as wireless, mobile phones. During a roundtrip the
drivers will also communicate extensively with the
forwarding agency on the phone. The more formal
part of the communication is by satellite messages as
most trucks have satellite communication equipment
for text messaging and GPS positioning. The current
technology does not include GPS-based navigation
as the terminals in the trucks are very simple. The
formal communication usually contains consignment
notes and loading lists. On a weekly basis around 30
trips are planned, 75–100 consignment notes are
filled in, 300–350 satellite messages are exchanged,
and the phone rings constantly. The coordination is
distributed by the nature of the field and is rather
complex for the involved forwarding agents.
Apart from the communication between the
forwarding agency and the drivers, the drivers en
route somewhere in Europe have ephemeral drivers’
networks where they communicate on many issues
to pass time and effectively maintain a social
network. This communication is on radio with a
limited distance, CB – Citizen Band Radio.
The current situation in the case is described by
answering the seven key issues in the framework,
see Figure 1. In describing the current situation we
have focused on the actors in the mobile information
system; emphasizing the different users and use
contexts taking place. Here we apply W5H2 as
means of analysis and synopsis generator of the
current situation.
For the current system, the following system
definition may be formulated: The system provides
communication between truck drivers and a
forwarding agency with the overall purpose of
managing a fleet of trucks and their routes when
transporting goods in Europe. The system mediates
consignments as formal contracts between
forwarding agencies, consignees, and drivers. The
system also mediates truck drivers’ social interaction
while driving. The system utilises several
technologies (phone, satellite messaging, wired
phone, wireless phone, CB) that are not integrated
and the total operational cost is medium.
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
Figure 1: Current situation ([T]: Trucker, [FA]: Forwarding Agency).
For exploring new opportunities and ideas we again
use W5H2 for structuring the brainstorm on future
uses of mobile ICT in the case.
Based on the current case description in Figure 1 we
develop a scenario for a future mobile information
system in Figure 2 - a future scenario characterised
by a high level of technology convergence and
integration; lowering the number of technologies
required for a truck driver to master while driving.
In addition, we suggest mature and well-known
technologies that are cheap to operate and relatively
low-cost to implement in a truck.
Notice, that we here apply W5H2 for idea
generation and exploration of future uses. The
outcome is a synthesis of an innovative future
scenario for the investigated case.
To summarise, the possible future scenario
presented through the framework in Figure 2, we
provide a system definition, encapsulating the
essentials of the scenario. Hence, the scenario in
Figure 2 may be summarised as: The system
provides integrated communication between truck
drivers and a forwarding agency with the overall
purpose of managing a fleet of trucks and their
routes when transporting goods in Europe. The
system mediates consignments as formal contracts
between forwarding agencies, consignees, and
drivers. The system also mediates truck drivers’
social interaction while driving. The system utilises
one main set of technologies (GSM/SMS-based
communication between PDAs) supplemented by
CB. The investment is medium and significantly less
than for the current system. Total operational costs
are low.
The future scenario in Figure 2 is just one
possible outcome of our brainstorm. W5H2 has
many interpretations and foci as the framework
resembles generic questions. Repeated brainstorms
may therefore result in several new and innovative
future scenarios.
The framework provides a search space made up of
uses and needs paired with possibilities. These
possibilities may lead to product, process, position,
or paradigm innovations for an organization.
The framework is generic and can be used in
conjunction with specific searches for charting the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
(SWOT) all of which add to the understanding of the
kind of innovation (product, process, position, or
paradigm) that is necessary for an organization to
stay or become a competitive.
In our scenario development we used the
framework to analyze the immediate process needs
for a forwarding agency. We did not focus on threats
but solely on opportunities for innovations in the
current process. We focused on immediate and
incremental improvements based on mature
technologies already in use or easily available to the
forwarding agency. We believe that the same
framework does scale up to form part of a more
extensive search process addressing for example the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats - all
relevant aspects in an innovation process.
The organization in our case study was a service
provider. As our focus was on incremental
innovations it comes as no surprise that our scenario
for the future contains process innovations only.
On the node level we suggest navigation and
route and consignment management for the trucker,
and for the forwarding agency we suggest fleet and
consignment management. These affordable
improvements aim for fleet utilization optimization,
improved quality of service, and better working
conditions for the driver. All in all these changes
should lead to productivity and quality
improvements and thereby to enhanced
competitiveness for the forwarding agency.
Figure 2: A future scenario.
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
On the dyad level we suggest a protocol for
consignment negotiation between a trucker and the
forwarding agency, and support for email
correspondence between forwarding agencies. These
improvements should enhance aligning local and
central information and assessments, provide a
central overview and thereby enhance the benefits of
cooperation among forwarding agencies in the
‘friends network’.
The group level deals in our case only with
truckers. Unless the forwarding agency is
significantly reorganized via more radical
innovations it will maintain one central coordinating
office engaged only in dyadic relations. For the
group of truckers we suggest support for
communication with truckers nearby as well as
communication in virtual groups. In order to
enhance local cooperation and cater for social needs
we suggest access to see whether there are
colleagues in the vicinity. Beyond providing social
benefits to the drivers such support will enhance
employee identification with the agency and
promote building communities of practice among
drivers. This in turn should lead to improvements
and greater uniformity in service and strengthen the
drivers’ abilities to cope with problems.
In our scenario development our main focus was
on searching for ideas, and we did not directly deal
with the implementation of these ideas. We believe
that implementation will be partially supported by
the framework as ideas are viewed in a context
where individual parts of a mobile application are
seen in combination with other parts by virtue of the
three levels of analysis. This way implementation
issues are supported via economies of scale or
economies of scope suggesting more economically
viable solutions with effective uses across nodes,
dyads, and groups.
We believe that the scenario developed for this
case offers strategic process advantages with
promises for increases in speed (due to faster
negotiations and improved coordination), lower
costs (due to better fleet utilization), increased
robustness in process (due to communities of
practice and easier access to support from colleagues
for solving acute problems), and improved quality of
service (greater punctuality and precision).
The framework with three levels of analysis was
helpful by allowing for a narrow focus on particular
issues without sacrificing an overview of the
problem setting as a whole. The W5H2 questions
were useful for eliciting ideas. In our scenario these
questions were far from exhausted. We settled for
only a few interpretations of e.g. “what?” at the node
level. There are many relevant aspects of every
question and working with the framework for a
while will likely elicit an abundance of ideas for the
selection activity in the innovation process. The
combined part-whole perspective offered by the
three units of analysis also provides some insights
on implementation issues for a given scenario and
thereby also some input to the decision on a
particular scenario.
In this paper we address the issue of mobile
application development. Development of mobile
applications is surrounded by much uncertainty and
especially lacking end-user adoption is a barrier for
obtaining success in the mobile application industry.
To proactively confront these challenges, we opt for
innovative thinking in the development process.
Specifically, we suggest a framework inspired by the
theory on scenario planning for use by decision-
makers in a development project. We argue that the
framework aids in describing current and future
scenarios of a mobile information system. For sake
of illustration the framework is applied on a case of
a middle-sized Danish road haulage firm where the
current situation and a possible future scenario are
proposed. To link the framework to theory on
innovation we discuss the different types of
innovation resulting from use of the framework and
the phases of innovation relevant in which the
framework may be used. We find the framework
useful for fostering innovative thinking in mobile
application development and in particular the
framework supports the searching, selecting, and
implementation phases of innovation. Next, the
applicability and potential of the framework is to be
tested in projects of mobile application development.
Use of the framework in different development
contexts will add credibility to the relevance of the
framework in general, but also serves as a basis for
exploring and evaluating the consequences resulting
from applying the framework in mobile application
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