Mobile ecosystems have seen a large paradigm shift in last two years, with smart-phones and mobile devices getting smarter. A smart-phone of 2010 is as powerful as a personal computer in 2001, and this is driving a significant amount of consumer activity to mobile devices from traditional devices like personal computers. 2009 was the year of consumer mobility explosion.
2010 will witness similar activity on the enterprise space with large number of enterprises recognizing the value of mobility within the enterprise, and mobility will move from just emails to internal applications, corporate intranets etc. In addition, a number of rugged devices that are currently used for Field Logistics and Field Service activities can easily be replaced by smart-mobile devices, which are always connected. 2010 will be the year of beginning of mobility revolution within the enterprise.
A number of enterprise CIOs that we spoke to, however, are on the sidelines, in a ‘wait and watch’ mode. On the one hand, there are a number of benefits of going mobile. On the other hand, not a single week passes by without the announcement of a technology offering that is disruptive. Most IT executives have been consistent in their responses with regards to the challenges on enterprise mobility.
• Mobile Device Strategy – For a long time, most enterprises’ IT departments supported only one device family as enterprise users mostly used BlackBerry. With a large number of new devices in general, and with a large number of user-procured devices in specific, IT is faced with a choice of opening up the doors of the enterprise to multiple devices. This has the advantage of spreading the benefits of mobile systems to a larger number of users, however, this comes with an added cost of managing multiple devices.
• Mobile Integration Approach -Until now, mobile integration consisted only of e-mail integration. To augment the value of mobility investments, CIOs have started looking at extending their enterprise applications to mobile. Multiple approaches are available for integration, ranging from apps provided by Enterprise app vendors and independent application vendors to Mobile Enterprise Integration Platforms (MEAP) which integrate across multiple applications and multiple devices.
• Mobile Device Management – Without a coherent mobile device management policy, processes and systems, a mid to large size enterprise will soon see mobile devices getting out of sync and out getting out of compliance. Most IT executives that we have worked with considered this as a top priority topic to be addressed.
• Mobile Security – The biggest resistance that an enterprise CIO has about extending the enterprise system into mobile is that the data is now outside the firm’s secure domain, and vulnerable to security breaches and lost device and data.
If you are planning to move from the ‘wait-and-watch’ mode and start building mobility into your enterprise, here are a few things that we suggest:
• Identify a long-term and coherent mobility strategy – Start off with short term/tactical engagements only after drafting a long term strategic plan for your enterprise mobility. Short-term focussed mobility implementations will not derive value without a coherent long term mobility strategy. For eg. We have seen a number of enterprises building independent/stand-alone mobile apps, only to identify later that a middleware framework based strategy would suit them much better in longer term.
• Build a Business Case – Mobile enablement based on ROI – The first and foremost requirement to ensure a scalable and long-term enterprise mobile strategy is that it is based on a well-defined business case. An organization has to understand the key benefits in using the mobile devices, and prioritize the areas of use according to the specific need. This will also identify the audience for the devices and the application roadmap. Implementing an approval workflow on mobile may not be expensive, but will save a lot of valuable executive time and effort.
• Architecture Decision and Vendor Evaluation – A number of vendors provide solutions in areas like Mobile Device Management, Mobile Security and Mobility Integration. A careful evaluation has to be performed to ensure that the right vendors have been selected, and the solutions fit within the overall mobility strategy. For eg. If the overall strategy dictates a multi-device environment, mobile middleware based integration approach will be better suited than using the integration provided by an ERP vendor. This is a large topic in itself – we will be discussing on each of the topics within these (Mobile Integration, Device Management & Security) in some of the subsequent posts.
• Implement in small pieces, delivering distinct incremental value – Unlike other enterprise software, mobile applications require constant upgrades, due to the ever changing nature of devices and ecosystem. Implementation of small pieces of functionality delivering incremental benefits makes much more sense that one ‘big-bang’ implementation like in other enterprise software. We typically advise each iteration cycle to be not more than 3-4 months, to deliver a complete functionality. Anything longer, and you run the risk of implementing an obsolete technology!
Overall, plan carefully and long-term, but implement in small steps – That sounds simple right? Well, the devil is in the details, and enterprise mobility is certainly an area with a large number of those.
Please share your thoughts and experiences in enterprise mobility implementations.