Understanding the Importance of a True Mobile Strategy
Enterprise Mobility can be hugely beneficial to today's businesses, as long as it is implemented in the right ways. In order to achieve that, a holistic strategy should be in place to ensure the presence of mobile technology is consistent, and that it is causing positive disruption to workflows. That is what we explored when recently speaking to Marty Resnick, who is the Mobile Strategist for a leading multinational corporation in the US.
Resnick, who has been working specifically with mobility for around seven years, also has a good combination of experience with infrastructure and systems from a web point of view, to complement his more recent work with applications and architecture in the enterprise.
His foray into mobility was initiated by inventory tracking in the field with industrial devices at a previous company, and was unsurprisingly accelerated by the release of the iPhone, as the drivers for making mobility work within an enterprise intensified.
Currently, he leads the mobile application development capability within his organisation, developing apps in a shared service model to help parts of the wider business with no resources to do so themselves. This has involved building a team and choosing the tools to put together necessary standards and guidelines for building apps that many businesses are lacking.
However, Resnick added, "My main role within the businesses is as a mobile evangelist. It's important for me to be constantly talking to the other parts of the business and their IT leaders, to understand what types of mobile solutions are needed, and how I can help add value with the introduction of mobility. This includes looking at implementation across manufacturing, field services, sales, recruitment, and many other systems which can benefit from mobilisation."
This has also begun to incorporate the exploration of wearable devices and, of course, IoT. Emerging technologies of this nature are becoming higher priorities as more and more innovative use cases emerge within enterprise environments. However, this is causing mobility to transcend the traditional shared services model, and as a result there is a greater need to stay in communication with end users as well as IT departments.
"The question of, 'are we talking to the right people,' is coming up more often now, and we need to improve our understanding of how mobility can be most impactful by keeping up communication with the people it will affect most directly - the users," said Resnick.
This shift in priorities is nothing new though; the role of Mobile Strategist has been perpetually evolving as mobile technologies have become more pervasive and more powerful in recent years. Among the notable trends which have caused this is the growing acceptance of mobility in the workplace, proving that there is more to it than just hype. The need for mobile technology has been culturally embraced as a true enabler of improvements for businesses, and those involved at all levels have realised it can not be ignored.
"Now that mobility is a reality, rather than the latest fad, we're seeing other natural developments in how to leverage the technology gaining more momentum. Initially, the drivers for us were coming from devices primarily, but our vision has adapted to look past the limitations of a device-focused approach," said Resnick. "The focus for us now is on mobile apps and the data they harness, but IT departments also need to evolve to enable employees to fully realise the benefits of this shift."
As a result, mobility has become one of five key IT initiatives within the organisation over the last few years, and Resnick is tasked with leading that on an enterprise-wide scale, helping the company as a whole maximise the value of its mobile solutions. The business initiative which is the major focus of this currently is a new enterprise app store, designed for more secure deployment of mobile apps and higher levels of adoption.
"This was a huge win for us, as it's the first mobile project we've ran through this new structure of IT initiatives, enterprise-wide. All business CTOs were aligned on the decision to go ahead with this strategy, which is not just focused on controlling devices, but focused on app adoption and enablement," Resnick explained.
The app store has been launched recently, but has existed as an idea for almost two years now, and took about eight months to develop as a project, from approval all the way through to going live.
Another significant focus alongside this has been on architecture for secure integration, meaning that regardless of who has developed a particular app and with what technology, secure access to back-end systems is consistent.
"We have many organisations within our business doing different things with mobility," said Resnick. "This sometimes involves working with vendors, sometimes remains internal and sometimes includes 'off-the-shelf' apps, so we must ensure that the necessary tools are in place to enable our employees to access the resources they need."
To maintain this definition, a 'centre of excellence' type team has been put in place, to identify the right tools for integration and govern the broader app strategy for the business IT department.
In terms of some of the challenges which arise when working with mobility in such a large-scale, strategic way, one of the most prominent obstacles to overcome is gaining alignment across the organisation regarding the value of mobility and how it should be implemented.
Of course, all businesses will be faced with a great deal of technical difficulties as well, and mobility is synonymous with a very steep learning curve.
"From a development perspective, the need for testing, to ensure the right user interface and experience are in place, is crucial to the success of mobile deployments. This also means having the means to test mobile apps across different devices and operating systems is more important than ever. This isn't always obvious, and can cost businesses time and money if it's overlooked," Resnick shared.
"Additionally, the importance of an efficient deployment mechanism to optimise the adoption of mobile apps should not be underestimated either, and this was a differentiator for our enterprise app store. When the right methods for this aren't in place, updates, delivery and categorisation of mobile apps becomes very poor. As a result, adoption will suffer, and so will the ROI."
For mobility professionals facing any challenges, Resnick advises that one of the most helpful steps to take is to talk to others that have experienced the same things and build relationships with peers, to share best practices. Speaking to others about their projects and the lessons they've learned can offer a constructive and valuable way of achieving goals with mobile technology.
It is also critical to approach mobility strategically from the very beginning, ensuring the right people with the right attitudes towards technology are in place, participating in the wider projects and promoting the concept throughout the wider business.
"Once people are bought in, look for quick wins to get apps and use cases in place for employees, as soon as possible," Resnick added. "Once you start getting apps out into the organisation, it will familiarise employees with mobility, and this will accelerate interest and adoption. Of course there's the possibility of failure with some deployments, but the most important thing is that this failure can be used as a lesson for the future. If you don't take chances, you'll never succeed."
Looking to the future, there is a lot of excitement surrounding mobility at the moment, and Resnick anticipates more opportunities for businesses to take advantage of the technology available to them.
"As we mentioned before, IoT, wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality are likely to become much more common in the enterprise over the next few years, and that will only increase the power of data and analytics to drive business performance," said Resnick. "All these new technologies signify mobility as a key part of a more ubiquitous computing environment, no longer just limited to devices, but interaction with apps and data anywhere and everywhere."