Mobility in the enterprise

As more and more enterprises embrace mobile platforms and the applications that this revolution in computing is spawning, the route to success is littered with failure.  This is due to the fact that very few organisations adopt a clear methodology based on a simple, yet effective, 9 Step Process, according to Richard Lewis of Spargonet Consulting Plc.

Richard Lewis states: “Employees need rapid and easy access to information just to get their jobs done. As a result of this, more and more people are using their phones and tablets to work outside of the office and office hours in order to be as effective and efficient as possible. The challenge for CIOs is to find ways to create value while protecting against the potential chaos that can be unleashed from a badly executed mobile strategy.

“At the heart of this is the tension that arises between the consumer of mobile technology – the employees dramatically democratising technology in the workplace and thereby driving adoption – and the IT department, trapped in what I would term ‘IT Terror’; an irrational fear based on the fact that mobile very often falls outside the control of the IT department itself.

“In many organisations, mobile initiatives are popping up in various business units and departments. Typically, after some experimental applications are launched to both smartphones and tablets and the value of mobility is observed, the floodgates for mobility are opened. While there are high hopes for value creation, there is also the very real fear that the environment could descend into chaos,” he added.

According to Spargonet this 9 Step Process is a guide and a toolkit that if followed successfully – and none of the steps are missed – a business can understand and mobile ceases to cause terror in the hearts of the CIO.

Step one: Device selection

There is a lot of variety among consumer and enterprise mobile devices and the technology is changing rapidly. What does stay more or less constant is that businesses want to get value for money. So making a decision based on a good understanding of the current and future requirements is essential and needs to be done using a discovery, questionnaire, and/or workshop process based on one guiding principle: this is not a device ‘free for all’. Users can select their own device based on a selection provided by the business itself.

Step two: Shared productivity tools

Giving your employees the freedom to work when and where they need to is essential.  So the next step is to agree what productivity tools – emails, calendars, web access etc. – need to be installed and made available to all employees.

Step three: Mobile device management

So far so good. You have selected the devices and also made available a range of productivity tools for use on those devices.  But in step three, the issue of security automatically becomes a priority. Those devices need to be secure, need to be locked down in the event of a theft, need to ensure that they cannot be hacked.  Mobile Device Management – or MDM – now becomes the IT department’s concern given issues such as compliance, privacy and security.

Step four: Initial single apps

The user experience of the mobile device today far outstrips just simple productivity tools such as email.  Users have a huge number of apps on their phones and even within businesses a real transformation has begun as app developers are everywhere.

The challenge for the business is that with just simple productivity tools anticipated return on investment levels are just not there.  Step four therefore will see the rise of the app developer within the business and that enterprise had better be ready to rise to that challenge.

The trend: users being confronted with a business issue and developing their own app to solve that challenge.  Once again it falls outside the IT department as it has tended to be the line-of-business addressing challenges with app development.

Step five: Mobile development platform

A mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) serves as both a development environment and a management tool for mobile enterprise applications.  Many MEAP overlap with the management features of broader mobile device management platforms; however, in most cases, MDM is a distinctly separate product. No matter what platform your mobile devices run on they will be upgraded.  The business itself does not want to wait for each app in turn to be upgraded by the user community. It wants a solution that will see all apps upgraded and migrated to a new version of an operating system almost overnight. For the IT department the implementation of a MEAP is therefore a crucial step towards centralising a business’s mobile strategy back under IT’s control.

Step six: Mobile competency centre

The critical next step is to create a mobile competency centre; a centralised IT function that aims to provide the business and other IT functions with a single point of contact for all mobile related matters. Getting this right is a critical step on the journey and enables IT to channel the energies of the user community. The competency centre can manage the pipeline of ideas and help with the creation of business cases; develop prototype versions of apps; define standards for back-end integration; ensure standard governance and processes are followed; and provide on-going Level 3 support for mobile apps.

Step seven: Back-end connected apps

Employees and customers expect consistent, full-featured, native app experiences (even with hybrid apps) that provides a high level of business value. Generally utilizing the organisation’s data is key to providing that value, and that requires integration into the back-end applications.  Secure and robust backend integration of enterprise mobile apps via an Application Programming Interface (usually Web Services) is therefore critical for desired improvement in business productivity competitiveness and greatly enhanced return on investment.

Step eight: Agile delivery

Every organisation wants to build a delivery model for its mobile application development projects that will enable it to continuously and rapidly roll out high-quality solutions. This is particularly important in the mobile enterprise market, where businesses are under increased pressure to deploy applications and updates more quickly to satisfy customer demand. But while continuous delivery is for many a dream and hard to achieve, it has to remain a business objective. Customers, both internal and external, are used to being provided with almost constant updates to their personal consumer apps, and expect the same within the enterprise.

Step nine: B2B integration 

No business is an island. Supply chain management, extending business processes outside the boundary of enterprises, connecting enterprise applications with cloud services, integrating social and mobile apps with enterprise systems, are all desired outcomes of many organisations currently rolling out mobile strategies. While many wish to achieve this goal ultimately, it still remains elusive for most.

Lewis concluded: “Mobile has been a true disruptor, striking fear into the hearts of many IT departments concerned over the internal chaos it has the potential to unleash.  But before IT managers start running to the hills in panic over this and the perception that such a democratic force could sweep them from their jobs, just remember: the forces that are driving such change are more often than not at odds with the goals of the business as a whole. Issues such as security, compliance, version controls, productivity and return on investment have not gone. If anything the pressures are even greater and IT needs to regain control of the speeding train.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine