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There is something happening on the mobile application development front that is changing the way companies are rolling out their mobility strategies. New technologies are dramatically lowering the time and costs needed to build mobile applications. I’m not just talking about simple apps that display static information or perform highly specialized, and limited, functions.

New hybrid app technologies are making it possible to use simple programming languages like HTML5 to produce mobile applications that are visually and functionally as rich as complex native applications. This is accelerating a trend that many companies have been wrestling with over the past year: a rapid growth in the number of mobile applications being used in day-to-day operations. Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because every mobile application brings with it management and support requirements as well as business process dependencies. The potential for application proliferation is forcing companies to think carefully about how they build out their mobile capabilities.

I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions. Mobile applications are typically designed to address some aspect of mobility strategy, which is all about using mobility to pursue business objectives. Mobile apps are also designed to fulfill tactical needs, which are all about doing mobility in the right way.

With regard to mobility strategy, every mobile application should be justified in the context of its contribution to business objectives. For instance, a business objective might be to increase the productivity of sales people, or to reduce the time it takes to fill an order, or to improve a workflow process, or to reduce the error rate in a business process. Before investing in a mobile application, the business objective should be understood, and the expected business benefit should be weighed against the life cycle cost of the app, which includes development and support.

Once a mobile app is accepted as contributing value to a business objective, the next step is deciding tactically the best way to implement the application. This means evaluating the business process dependencies of the application. For example, will the app need to receive data from another app or IT system to work effectively, and will the app capture data that is important to another business process being driven by another application? This helps determine what level of data sharing and integration your new mobile app will need to support. Another tactical consideration would be deciding on the best application technology for building the app. Does it need to be native app, or would a hybrid application provide better life-cycle cost benefit while meeting the functional specification? Another tactical consideration is user ergonomics. Who will be using he app, and on what kind of mobile devices? What functionality do they need in the app for it to be a valuable tool for them? Will the app run on different devices, and how should it look on those devices? Other tactical considerations include security considerations, for instance if any data associated with the app needs to be encrypted.

As the number of mobile applications supporting business operations grows, enterprises will need to have an application management process that does a good job of mapping business needs to mobility strategy and tactics. Enterprises will also need a mobility infrastructure that enables them to act on their strategic and tactical objectives.

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