Avoid Getting “Stuck” on Mobility

Published on: October 22, 2012

In one sense, we’re all “stuck” on mobility since a large percentage of consumers use smart phones or tablets to enjoy apps and stay connected to what matters in our personal lives. That’s the positive, pervasive sense of being “stuck” on mobility.

The negative twist to being “stuck” on mobility happens in business when companies start sorting through all the factors involved in creating enterprise mobile apps. What at first glance seems pretty simple — the business equivalent of the handful of screens in a fun consumer app — runs up against the complexities of enterprise mobility. Teams try sifting through these complexities, and before you know it, they are stuck.

The challenges that get enterprises stuck are numerous, but here are a few of the key factors:

  • Development approaches. With bring your own device or BYOD a reality, enterprise teams know they must develop for multiple device platforms and are unsure how to approach that challenge. Should they hire specialists to custom-develop native apps? Should they stick strictly with mobile web app development? Is an app development platform worth the investment?
  • Back-end integration worries. Fun consumer apps look easy, because they are often standalone apps where the user interface carries the day, with little or no integration needed to databases. But in the enterprise, you need those back-end hooks to connect with their business systems. This further vexes many teams trying to get started.
  • Deployment concerns like security and analytics. Once you develop a mobile app, you need to provide security and authentication schemes to protect access and corporate data, and also analytics to judge the effectiveness of the app and how to improve it over time. At first, companies might not fully realize these concerns, but once they do, it causes consternation and delays as teams start searching for appropriate tools to handle security, analytics, or device management.

All of these challenges can be solved, but most enterprises starting out generally need help putting the challenges in perspective and in assessing and streamlining choices. While most IT departments often have considerable skills in deploying and managing traditional enterprise apps where they can control variables such as client hardware and app upgrade cycles, with enterprise mobility, the past norms don’t hold true. Enterprises have no little or no control over device trends and upgrade patterns. What’s more, the pace needed for app release cycles is double or triple what they are used to.

IT departments familiar with selecting and managing packaged enterprise apps, databases, or server hardware, usually have much less process skills when it comes to selecting, maintaining, and improving mobile apps. This lack of familiarity is why most enterprises are getting started with mobility would benefit from finding a strong partner to help sift through the choices and pinpoint a strategy. A partner can help a company quickly assess what capabilities they have in-house, and what their competitors or vertical industries are doing with app innovation.

While much of technology for mobility is new to enterprise IT departments, the core principles that IT leaders have used for decades to think about challenges still apply: people; processes, and technologies. But because the skill sets for mobility (the people aspect) differ, because the processes are different (like accelerated release cycles), and because the technologies are different, enterprise IT departments getting started on mobility often get stuck.

My bottom-line advice as former CIO is to recognize these challenges and streamline your choices to avoid getting stuck. If you lack experience with mobility, bring in a partner who can help you get started. A partner who will help you avoid wasting time assessing unfamiliar technology and identify the right enterprise mobility platform and management solutions.

Getting stuck on mobility is a common problem for enterprises that try to sort through everything on their own. Tap some expertise to help you assess capabilities and objectives, as well as to streamline your choices.

Do you believe the biggest hurdle is unfamiliarity with mobile technology or something more process-oriented, such as faster development cycles or establishing teams that can refine app ideas quickly?

Michael Shea is the founder and CEO of Mobility Effect.

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