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Contextualising Enterprise Mobility

In an attempt to demystify and lay down some basic structure to what can be a very broad topic, I plan to put together a series of blogs to offer a starting point for organisations to ponder the subject of enterprise mobility, and to encourage discussion. Rather than it being a prescriptive approach to forming mobile strategies, it aims to contextualise an organisation’s mobile requirements and categorise them into bite size chunks that can be met with pragmatism involving appropriate stakeholders and governance once deployed. It is also unlikely for organisations to have only one mobile requirement throughout their existence. Therefore, categorising a mobile requirement amongst apps that are similar in purpose will open up opportunities to leverage common technology, people and processes to meet these requirements, thus saving pennies in the long term.

As a note: Although the concepts mentioned in this article aim to be generic, there will be variances for each industry and it is for you to either relate to these points directly or identify adaptations for your industry. Your feedback is most welcome.

Demand and supply of mobile apps

It is fair to say that people in organisations bring their expectations of using mobile apps for personal use into the workplace. In a world where one can download an app for just about any purpose from managing daily reminders to checking weather reports, why can’t I apply for leave or submit timesheets from my smartphone?

Consequently, this creates an expectation (the Demand) from employees to have the ability to participate with their organisation directly from their smartphone. Equally, smartphones have made everyone software designers. People are now using their experiences of mobile apps for personal use to think up creative ways of making business processes more efficient. The result is that organisations are now designing apps around a specific business unit’s processes and publishing these to their employees (the Supply). Examples of these can include apps for sales reps to access customer data, or for service engineers to access service notifications etc. This phenomenon has galvanised the notion of Enterprise Mobility, which today has become an increasingly important topic for organisations around the world.

In many cases, organisations have a conveyor belt of mobile requirements coming in and backlogs to tend to. Catering to these in the enterprise world is far different to doing so in the consumer world where one can knock up an app and publish it to an AppStore.  Here the mobile application is just the tip of the iceberg. Besides having to building an app with an acceptable user experience, an organisation must also to pay particular attention the infrastructure that underpins the app. This includes properties such as security, authentication, backend systems, data costs, protection of personal information, legal, device types, device security etc.

Life After build

The cost of developing an enterprise mobile app does not end with the release of an app. There are support and maintenance considerations too. From a support perspective, organisations should provide support structures, normally via the internal helpdesk, to end-users to report bugs, or get technical assistance etc. This is of particular importance for business critical apps such as field sales or field service scenarios where a sales rep or service engineer may have difficulty accessing current customer information whilst out in the field. From a maintenance perspective, it is highly unlikely that the first release of a custom developed mobile app will maintain a single form throughout its shelf life. End users will make recommendations for improvements, new features will be added, technical improvements will be made etc., and an organisation must be able to react to this.

So what’s the point?

The point is that, to deal with the challenges that I’ve mentioned, organisations need to establish an strategy for enterprise mobility that is takes into account technology, people and processes implicated with each business requirement (or technical requirement for that matter). Achieving a mature strategy for mobility will involve trial and error, nevertheless one needs to start somewhere and to help you get started, I have listed topics that I feel need to be considered when developing a strategy (with more to come).

Categories of mobile apps.

Centralised Vs. Non Centralised strategies.

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