This article outlines the thought, partners, and technology required to successfully launch, update, or re-ignite an organization’s mobile initiatives.
In 2015, the number of mobile device users surpassed the number of desktop users in the workplace. IDC predicts that, by 2020, 105.4 million workers in the US will be mobile, which accounts for over 72% of the total workforce.
As mobility continues to grow, every organization should be engaged in mobility projects to support this type of workforce.
Mobility projects are those that improve the way organizations work using mobile technology.
Typically, these projects focus on how businesses interact with customers and access valuable data. Implementing mobility across a company can be challenging as leadership evaluates how to deliver the hardware, applications, and data to users in a secure way.
I’ve spent more than a decade of my career at Apple and am now a leading app developer at Ai2.com. We help organizations build a solid mobility backbone, which includes everything from application and data delivery to mobile device management.
Control is essential to successfully integrate mobility into an organization. By utilizing these 4 pillars for a strong mobility backbone, organizations can identify areas of improvement that provide the best user experience.
I’ve conducted many in-depth interviews in my career with IT support leaders, business leadership, and end-users. I’ve established four primary areas for businesses that will ensure the successful implementation of policies, procedures, and ultimately end-user adoption.
Pillar 1 - Leadership and Organizational Readiness
The first pillar of a successful mobility model centers around the executive and organizational acceptance of change.
The complete and total buy-in required from the C-level will ensure that the resources needed for success are available.
This change can only be accomplished if a comprehensive strategy for success is in place. This strategy should draw from a number of players that will be involved in the organization’s actual use of the hardware and software.
I recommend leveraging the following teams to deliver this strategy and to have a comprehensive look at the timeline for success:
- IT– Since IT is ultimately responsible for business drivers, policies, procedures, and end-user support, IT needs to be the author of the mobility strategy. The department should be completely aware of the needed resources and timelines for successful, long-term use of mobile hardware and software.
- Security and Infosec – Introducing mobility across channels represents an update to most organizations’ security policies. The teams responsible for how data is delivered must play a role in determining what security measures should be implemented for a mobile strategy.
- Hardware Manufacturers – Most hardware manufacturers offer a “readiness review” to determine the most important places to focus on when executing a mobility plan. Apple does a highly comprehensive review through its professional services division. The “review” is a great investment to get the attention of partners that will now be a long-term piece to the success of the organization.
- Internal and Third-Party Development Teams – Most development teams know how to make mobile hardware relevant to the organization. Still, simply buying and deploying hardware isn’t enough. The development teams need to give timelines on application-building, deployment, and use.
- End Users – By including the ultimate end users of the mobile hardware and software in the strategy, you ensure that the end users are ready to be guided through the process of change management. If the users are ready, they will ultimately impact the business in a positive way in the least amount of time.
While mobility is part of every organization, few businesses have created a top-down strategy that considers the entire company’s needs. These needs include the devices owned by the organizations and the devices considered employee or customer-owned.
When a mobility plan doesn’t encompass every part of the enterprise’s needs, the overall solutions become fragmented and each individual department’s needs are addressed as one-offs. This incomplete strategy is a costly and ineffective way to deal with redundant mobility needs.
Pillar 2- Infrastructure
Many organizations that use mobility management tools often only have the basic infrastructure.
These tools include email management, deploying an MDM agent for remote wipe, or using lightweight web-based apps that don’t solve critical pain points and receive a lukewarm response from employees.
These “toe dip” methods don’t instill confidence in users and also don’t solve problems. Often overlooked are the needed end-point enhancements and server upgrades.
This poor infrastructure damages the end user’s belief that the tools are ready to impact their daily work.
If the infrastructure isn’t in place prior to deployment, the result is often implementations seem spotty, with too many features that have little utility for end users.
Mobility management, deployment programs, and a solid network can provide a strong boost to mobile initiatives. They can mean the difference between a hugely successful implementation of mobile strategy versus a strategy that is extremely feature-rich on paper, but less useful in reality.
It’s important that the mobile landscape is understood by the responsible teams so they can create a stable network environment.
This success is usually accomplished by migrating away from old 802.11a/b/g bandwidths to faster 802.11n, so the network can support higher volumes of devices and improve reliability when many signals are received.
In addition, adding a caching server that saves critical data improves the functionality of mobile hardware in large enterprises. Caching servers place previously requested information in temporary storage on the LAN.
The stored servers both speed up access to often requested information and reduces demand on bandwidth that is needed for critical business functions.
Pillar 3 - Engaged Partners
Organizations, their systems, and their data don’t stay static. If they stay put for too long they shrink, minimize, and die.
Putting the proper support agreements in place ensures that as systems change, update, and improve the proper partners stand ready. Have a TAM (technical account manager) in place, no matter what the cost, to ensure immediate help when a break-fix is needed.
Typically, mobile devices are considered for consumers, so the service and support available is often customer-focused instead of organization-focused. This idea has changed in recent years with some manufacturers offering support plans for company-owned devices.
Providing end user support for consumer products is difficult for an organization’s help desk or IT department when it comes to mobile devices.
IT needs to enable devices quickly and seamlessly to ensure that the apps and data are protected against security leaks or device loss. There are many deployment programs offered by software companies that help organizations, like Apple’s Device Enrollment and Microsoft’s Deployment Program.
These deployment programs solve a majority of the streamlining needs that arise when pushing hardware and software to the end user of an organization.
These programs are critical for the successful management of hardware, software, and data.
Pillar 4 - Applications
Development of an enterprise application is one of the most critical pieces to long-term success with mobile devices. Enterprise applications are complex systems.
They require detailed planning and expertise for the right type of development. Most organizations consider a build or buy strategy with their enterprise application.
In my experience, buying an off-the-shelf product is far more effective. Off-the-shelf software solutions are ones that have been manufactured for the lowest common denominator and are available for purchase with the shortest ramp-up time.
Most well-built, custom solutions are released iteratively over time and focus on the highest-value features first but take a lot of time to create.
Meanwhile, existing solutions have been tested and re-tested with actual field use. Building custom software takes the organization’s attention away from its mission.
Additionally, the custom software can bog down the organization by building solutions that often fall short of existing off-the-shelf products; an existing solution allows the software provider to amortize the costs of development over several organizations. Custom solutions are costlier overall.
Successful out-of-the-box solutions tend to have communities of users. These communities include experts, forums, and ancillary companies that build supporting products for quick customization via API or other methods.
Most off-the-shelf products are the focus of the software developer, so a good existing solution is continually enhanced. The developer spends time thinking about the core use of the software and device and thus is constantly improving the stability and features.
Another question your business should consider for its mobile solutions is whether to create a native application or deploy a universal application.
Building native mobile apps offer much greater control over the end user’s experience. Most notably, apps that are built as native can support local data storage for times when the device is in an area of low bandwidth. Additionally, these apps can easily access data from multiple sources via APIs and consolidated databases.
These apps have higher end-user satisfaction, are targeted for specific platform experience, and take advantage of everything the hardware can offer.
Create a Mobile Strategy
It’s no longer a question of “if” mobility will transform the marketplace, it’s now a question of “how well" it will do it.
By creating a mobility strategy that involves the entire organization, the software and hardware partners can support change management.
An organization should always think about the long-term outcome of these changes. There is a much larger chance of successful integration of mobile practices if everyone understands the new method of work. Consult with a mobile app development company to help support your mobility efforts.
About the Author
Andrew Johnson is currently the VP of Business Development at Ai2. He is deploying mobile B2B eCommerce solutions to the worlds leading supply chain companies. Prior to working in this role, he spent 7 years with Apple working directly with Application developers and customers to create health mobile ecosystems for medium-sized organizations.