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So you want mobile apps… now what?

In my first post in this series on mobile enterprise applications (Why are so many companies launching mobile applications?) I talked about the why companies are considering deploying mobile apps. Assuming you think you want to move ahead with some kind of mobile app, we can now talk about ‘what happens next’? And while you’re thinking about it, you probably want to register for the “Key Strategies for Enterprise Mobile Apps” webinar based on the whitepaper written for SAP by Chris Marsh, Senior Analyst for Yankee Group. Now let’s dive deeper into the content from this paper.

For many companies today, mobility can be approached in a haphazard manner. Many companies use mobile technologies that address a specific set of workers (such as field workers) or a specific business application (such as mobile CRM). At this point most people understand the benefits that mobility can bring to the organization (if not, read the whitepaper in detail). According to Chris Marsh, approaching mobility in a haphazard way with ‘opportunistic’ solutions can be limited in scope and not scalable and actually slow you down in the future. The following are some characteristics and limitations that Chris lists as opportunistic mobility:

  • Point solutions address one specific application or business need, and in many cases are a bandage approach to mobility—a solution is rapidly applied to enable one specific application need (e.g., wireless e-mail access).
  • These specific solutions don’t consider the broader mobility requirements within an organization.
  • Projects are initiated before policies are established, and administrative and management tools to enforce policy are limited or nonexistent.

So is this a bad thing? It can be in the long term, but it the short term maybe not. After all, these solutions can be used to show the benefits of mobility to executives. They can be used as a litmus test to reaffirm your beliefs that mobility is really worth investing in. I recently spoke at the EMF’s Mobility Bootcamp at CTIA and asked “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course is “one bite at a time.”  So if you’ve gone the path of ‘opportunistic mobility’ as Chris describes it, just consider it your first bite of that elephant. But don’t stop your journey after one or two bites. Think big while you start small. In fact, starting small can often reveal the policy and management issues that you are going to have to face when you tackle a bigger company-wide mobility strategy.

According to Chris, the first step to creating a more integrated approach is to understand how mobility is critical to your success. This mobility assessment must consider the full scope of employees, assets and business processes. From there, executive management, finance, IT, affected line-of-business leaders and end-users can establish policies.

I really like the list provided in the whitepaper that demonstrates when you’re doing it right. Yankee Group indicated that you are on the right track when your mobility initiatives take on the following characteristics:

  • The key focus is on specific business processes that will benefit most strongly from mobilization. This has to be the starting point if companies are to actualize the full potential of mobility for business transformation.
  • Individual mobile projects “plug in” to a common management and security infrastructure. Mobility is driven by policy rather than by ad hoc end-user pull.
  • Projects can be supported and management and security policies can be enforced. This is regardless of the type of network used (public or private, wired or wireless), the application accessed or the device used.
  • A broader set of technologies and mobile tools is considered a “mobility package” for end-users. This includes integration and coordination of voice, data and remote access services.
  • Common middleware, software and security architectures exist. These can be leveraged across different mobility services within an organization.

So there is certainly a lot to think about when you start ‘eating the elephant’. But don’t get overwhelmed! These guidelines are a very logical and tactical starting point when you think you are ready to move ahead. Once you feel like you have this checklist covered and you’re ready for the next bite, we’ll talk about how to choose which applications to deploy.

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