Now, Let’s Talk Mobility!

The IDC report, similar to Reuters, talks about the slowing growth rate of smartphone and tablet sales.  This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) has confirmed what the sales figures had hinted earlier.  If you did not notice, two things are confirmed by what have been the highlights of MWC – 1) the pace of innovation in mobility (smartphones and tablets) has dropped off the cliff; 2) the industry is shifting its focus onto wearables and embedded, which, in my personal opinion, should not fall under the mobility umbrella.  This is good news!  Why? Because now we can jump off the hype bandwagon and start looking at the mobile platforms and form factors (smartphone and tablets) more realistically and focus on addressing the gaping hole that currently exists --- mobility in the enterprise.

The advent of smartphones and tablets gave rise to, what’s termed as, consumerization of the enterprise.  For those who have not heard the term, it implies the introduction of consumer devices and technologies in the enterprise settings.  The challenge to integrate and support these consumer devices into the enterprise is forcing a rethink of information security, privacy, controls and enterprise application development.

The challenge has been enabling or extending business applications onto the mobile platforms. The balancing act to keep the corporate information secure but also improve worker productivity by providing them access to the same information on their device of choice without having to lock it down with mobile management software and security requirements has been an uphill battle, to say the least.  How and what to secure on the user’s device is more a question of policies than technology.  Excellent solutions exist to secure and manage devices and all of them provide very similar capabilities.  You’ll not go wrong in picking any combination and deploying it within your enterprise.  Alternatively, a review and revision of information security policies and encryption may be needed.

Once the decision is taken on how to allow consumer devices into the enterprise, the larger and more complex decision arises on what to deploy on these shiny new gadgets!  User experience is now paramount!  The most repeated question within the IT departments these days appears to be – how to provide an engaging and ‘consumer like’ experience to our users?  While the CIOs and their development teams struggle to answer the question, likes of Apple and Samsung keep raising the bar and the user, both internal and external, keep demanding more capabilities and better user experience.  Combination of the two – new devices and new user experiences – has created a tough situation for any enterprise.

Most often than not, as soon as devices are accepted within the enterprise many groups will start creating apps for these devices.  The issue with this freewheeling approach is that majority of these apps will be point solutions, will duplicate functions or, worse, be half-baked solutions resulting in user frustration instead of delight.  For example, multiple ‘view pay stub’ apps that are custom coded for each country instead of a single app that is context aware; or ‘dial into meeting’ app that is different from ‘view your meetings’, to give a few examples.

To overcome these challenges and create a holistic strategy some planning is required before the developers start writing code.  Shared and common code libraries, standardized app framework and reuse of code are a must in order to optimize the overall efforts.  When it comes to enabling business functions there are two strategies you can choose from or, from these two, create the one that suits your needs.  The first is a vertical approach where you would look at each Line of Business (LOB) capabilities and identify which functions within each LOB should be deployed on mobile devices. The second is more of a horizontal approach, where you would look at a Business Transaction end-to-end and identify how mobile devices can be introduced in the workflow of that transaction. You can also combine the two approaches and come up with a hybrid strategy that identifies the business transaction contained within a single LOB.

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Opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent that of my employer, Intel Corporation