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When a Good Mobility Idea Becomes a Management Nightmare – Part 1

Businesses seeking a mobile solution have something in common: They typically begin with a single business objective, a single mobile device type, and one group of users. Given this, it is an easy decision to select (or build) a point solution.

Mobile point solutions have these characteristics:

  • They perform a specialized operation for a particular business role within an organization or work group. Some mobile CRM applications are a good example. Mobile CRM point solutions are often designed with functionality that supports a generic company’s field sales role and generic sales operations.
  • Mobile point solutions typically extend a particular application to mobile devices. In the case of CRM point solutions, for instance, they are typically mobile subsets of parent CRM applications that have their own proprietary database structures.
  • They come with their own proprietary tools for managing the application.

It is easy to manage a single point solution with a limited number of users, one device type, and its own set of management tools.

Building on Initial Success by Adding Point Solutions

In many cases, a new mobile application proves so popular with its users that soon others want to use it. Executives ask for a module they can use, but on a different device. Unfortunately the point solution does not support management’s preferred device, but the initial feedback and positive attention encourages the project team.

Not long after that, others in the organization are inspired to implement solutions of their own. They do their own due diligence and make their own decision about what mobile device they will adopt and what software they will implement. Of course this work group will want to adopt the latest mobile handset for their application — a handset that is different than the one used by the other group. Also, this work group’s software is from a different vendor, so it will have its own data structures. In short, it will be optimized for the needs of this new team.

Now that device and software management tasks have more than doubled, the IT department begins to feel the impact. Not only does IT have two mobile operating systems to support, they have two applications with two completely different sets of administrative tools. These applications will also have different security protocols and configurations. To further complicate matters, more users are pushing to be added to the systems.

With each new point solution, IT management tasks become much more complex. But that’s just the beginning. Business managers always find ways to streamline processes, and executives begin clamoring for mobile dashboards that provide visibility across the point solutions. At this point the limitations of point solutions become painfully apparent. These solutions are siloed, which means they are isolated from each other and from other operations in the enterprise. That makes it nearly impossible to streamline business processes across the point solutions or to create a single management dashboard covering multiple point solutions.

The success of each mobile project brings a higher level of complexity and a growing awareness of limitations in the point solution strategy. Enterprises whose mobility strategy is based on adding point solutions soon face major issues, including:

  • skyrocketing costs of having to maintain multiple mobility servers and application extensions, each administered with different tool sets;
  • lack of integration between mobile solutions increases siloed business workflows. This works against productivity
  • gains made possible by mobilizing individual business processes;greater difficulty enforcing corporate data security policies, because each point solution has its own security configuration tools;
  • total dependence on complex point solution roadmaps that describe supported devices, acceptable mobility use
  • cases, required feature sets, and security policies. Maintaining this kind of roadmap in the face of rapidly changing mobile technologies is in itself a major task, and;corporate policies that restrict supported mobile devices to those devices that run every point solution. This limits adoption of the newest mobile technologies and, as the number of point solutions increases, makes switching to new, more modern mobile handset technology difficult.

What If…

As point solution mobility strategies evolve in the enterprise, they become device and technology restrictive. They also grow enormous support infrastructures. What if it were possible to have one mobile application platform that does these things:

  • Supports all mobile device types
  • Connects all devices to all back-end corporate databases
  • Offers one console for device and security management

Such a platform would provide one set of tools for managing all applications, security, and devices. The mobility infrastructure would grow as the number of users and applications grew but without a geometric growth in system management overhead. And, it would be possible to build integrated mobile applications for better operational workflows across the enterprise. Such a platform exists. It is called a Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP) and it is a type of application middleware specifically designed for enterprise mobility.

How does a MADP change the way an enterprise can scale its mobility strategy? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series.

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