by Matt Leathers

Three reasons why CIOs should play PokemonGo

Sep 15, 2016
Cloud ComputingMobileSecurity

PokemonGo became an international phenomenon this summer. Pikachu and friends offer lessons in Lean Startup principles, the reality of the cloud and the importance of security.

PokemonGo reached $500 million in revenue faster than any other game in history. At this point, we don’t know if the mobile landscape is forever altered or if PokemonGo will be the app equivalent of Milli Vanilli.

Most of my conversations with colleagues and clients have focused on whether or not it is socially acceptable for adults to play PokemonGo. Unlike a number of writers on the subject, I confess that I actually play the game. #TeamValor.

Here are my three reasons for recommending the game to my clients and colleagues:

1. PokemonGo isa  Minimum Viable Product in action

Many CIOs are familiar with the Lean Startup principle of the “minimum viable product” (MVP), but most can’t define it clearly and consistently. Simply put, a minimum viable product is the end result of a process built on the idea that perfect is the enemy of good and that you should shift — i.e., pivot — your plans if they aren’t moving you toward your goal.

In all likelihood, PokemonGo would have been a spectacular failure as a mobile banking product. When you need to pay for a business lunch, your payment method needs to work. A game that crashes periodically isn’t ideal, but it’s workable. The product experience, brand recognition and other factors gave Niantic a grace period to work through PokemonGo’s issues;  a company developing a product dealing with money wouldn’t have had that luxury.

How do you define a consistent vision of MVP for your teams? Start with discussing questions like these with your business line and product sponsors:

  • Do we have a clear set of priority demands from our customers?

Among other customer expectations, availability and reliability are often unspoken. Did you assume that demand would drop during school hours? I know an accountant who catches Pokemon from their desk. We’ll see if this habit sticks once tax season picks up again.

  • What are our potential security, brand risk and regulatory requirements?

Security, compliance and regulatory stakeholders are often cut out of the loop until the product is close to launch. PokemonGo patched a high-visibility security issue quickly, but the issue was clearly not a prelaunch priority.

  • How is success defined and measured, particularly in the early stages?

Measure goals in small increments, e.g., hourly or daily. Apply the same measures over time to see if the improvements actually worked.

2. PokemonGo reinforces the reality that the cloud is not a silver bullet

CIOs are frequently torn between developing new platforms while managing and operating legacy platforms. Gartner estimates that 70% or more of the typical enterprise IT budget goes toward infrastructure and operations.

In response, most consultants will create high-level strategies that recommend migrating to the cloud, where unicorns romp and play in fields of clover. In reality, the cloud is not an easy answer to questions of innovation, reliability or efficiency.

PokemonGo utilizes the Google Cloud Platform as its infrastructure and struggled to meet demand. How will you be different?

These are some of the challenges in executing cloud strategy that I have experienced with my clients:

  • Immature operations and supporting tools.

Cloud solutions make the business case for managing infrastructure and platforms internally more compelling. Without correcting root cause issues with inconsistent manual processes and tools, an organization may be recapturing the same problems that it originally outsourced.

  • Publicly declared goals stick forever.

At a healthcare client, another firm suggested to the CIO that the organization could cut costs by 30% by adopting infrastructure as a service (IaaS). That suggestion assumed that the infrastructure wasn’t virtualized at all. By the time we had a chance to communicate that the infrastructure had already been 97% virtualized, the savings number had become an inevitable fact in the mind of the CFO.

  • Benchmarks are applied haphazardly.

When I was working in the emerging telematics industry, we could not find a reasonable set of peer companies. Telecommunications and automotive companies were not a logical fit. Ensure that the peer companies included in the benchmarking activity are relevant. 

3. PokemonGo reinforces the importance of security

Security is often an afterthought in product development until something goes wrong. If your security function can fit inside of a broom closet while the rest of the organization occupies an entire floor, you have a looming security risk.

Team size is not the issue. Some enterprises have well staffed security teams that are ineffective. The challenge is integrating security practices and tools with strategic planning and ongoing operations.

Here are three self-assessment questions that I typically use with my clients:

  • How are security factors incorporated into product plans?

Establish security standards to use at the start of planning for the business and technology teams responsible for product strategy.

  • How are security policies, procedures and technologies implemented?

You can measure anything, including the likelihood that your security policies are forgotten after new-employee training.

  • How are evolving threats measured and quantified?

PokemonGo may not register on your security radar — until an employee’s phone is stolen by PokeBurglars. The scope and variety of emerging threats require integrated countermeasures.

Download the game and take a walk. If nothing else, you will get some fresh air and possibly catch a Snorlax. If anyone gives you a hard time, tell them that you’re doing market research.