A few months ago, I wrote a blog on “extending business processes to mobile devices” where I talked about certain objective criteria which would kick start the discussion among the team members responsible for developing a “mobile strategy” for their enterprise. Many studies are being done and white papers are being written that corroborate the Mobility trend in the market place with well researched statistics and numbers. Among them the interesting ones are namely., mobile device adoption rate among users, exponential growth of mobile devices and smart phones, transition from desktop to mobility based access to internet, intersection of mobile devices and social media, mobility based banking/e-commerce and how the retail industry is fundamentally being altered by smart phones (locating a store and price comparisons are most used features via mobile devices).
Over the course of 2011 working with multiple customers, I observed that SAP customers clearly recognize and acknowledge that “mobility” is a “game changer” but find it a bit challenging to determine when and how to get started. Another common theme, I observed is that almost all the customers had a strong preference to drive “external facing” transformation first before “internal facing” one. In other words, SAP customers’ immediate interests was in making the interactions with their customers, sales representatives, dealers and vendors more effective and efficient. In the subsequent phase they would like to leverage mobility to improve the productivity of their internal workforce (for e.g. leave request, workflow and travel & expense management). Due to this focus on external facing transformation, I noticed an extraordinary desire to get this right and ensure success in achieving their Mobility Transformation.
This means it is vital to take a top down approach of defining the “Strategy and Vision” for Mobility transformation first before making any software or technology decisions, determining which applications to develop and which audience segment to deploy. Mobility Transformation undertaking requires serious thoughts and considerations on the following four topics in the same order of priority. I want to highlight a few of the considerations here.
Over the last 12 months Mobility has moved from being on the periphery to center of key enterprise’s IT strategy outlook. This demands a strong due diligence to develop the strategy & vision for Mobility transformation. Mobility transformation cannot be viewed from a pure technology perspective and a holistic mobility strategy is required that supports the enterprise’s vision and delivers real business values. Enterprises need to understand the business strategy for the next 3 years and ensure their Mobility strategy aligns with that business strategy. This strategy must drive which mobility trends to embrace, which business processes need to be mobilized, software & technology platform decisions, developing mobile applications and procuring necessary professional services to bring this all together. The mobility strategy should drive the roadmap and subsequent investment decisions as well.
The Mobility Architecture has several components that need to work seamlessly in supporting a robust experience for the end users. The architecture must enable what SAP terms as 4 Cs namely, “Create, Connect, Consume & Control”.
- Create – Develop mobile applications once and the ability to deploy across multiple mobile device types
- Connect – Seamless connection to the transactional systems and rendering the information to end user’s devices
- Consume – Support the consumption of mobile applications by users with different device types
- Control – Support remote and “on the air” mobile device management capabilities (provision, deploy applications and de-commission of devices)
The architecture must also enable evolving mobile web application standards (e.g. HTML5) and include support for underlying infrastructure that balances performance requirements with the enterprise’s inherent security needs. Hence, a fully specified reference architecture should be defined first that explains how the mobility platform will fit into an enterprise’s existing landscape and also serve as a blueprint for the evolution of the architecture in the subsequent years. This must be the done prior to embarking on the design and development of mobile applications.
As with any major transformation effort, a time bound roadmap is needed in order to introduce the necessary changes in a structured and methodical way. The roadmap should show the priority and sequence of the initiatives needed to fulfill the vision in the short term (6 months), medium term (6 to 18 months) and long term (18-36 months). The roadmap should clearly define the evolution of mobility footprint within the enterprise in a phased manner depicting the interdependencies among the initiatives, show when the capabilities defined in the strategy will be realized and when the applications will be developed and rolled out to which user/market segments.
Finally to bring all the three elements mentioned above there has to be a clear execution plan supported by the necessary resources and a firm commitment/sponsorship from both business and IT executive leadership to turn the mobility vision into reality.
I would like to conclude this post with the good news that SAP is uniquely positioned to support our customers’ “Mobility Transformation” journey during the entire lifecycle. In other words, SAP can be a one stop partner to our customers that can serve “soup to nuts” offerings comprised of software Products, Solutions and Professional Services in the mobility space.