By D. Jake Sagehorn
Within four years is it possible the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO? Gartner research says not only is it possible, it’s on its way and the reason is mobility.
The world of mobility is fraught with acronyms like BYOD, 3G, 4G, LTE, MPLS, VoIP . . . and to the enterprise all this sounds like alphabet soup. Why should leaders care about this technology hodgepodge? The reason is because mobility has risen to be one of the top three business issues CIOs are addressing because IT departments are patching together disparate solutions to manage mobile apps, device provisioning, security, inventory, usage management, and help desk services.
Senior leaders are addressing an increasingly mobile workforce and improved business processes across all functional work areas with mobility solutions improving performance. Industry uses include: asset tracking, maintenance of vehicles, and improved targeted marketing campaigns for consumer goods. Mobile is also leveraging the intersection of carrier networks like those of AT&T or Verizon, mobility apps (software) and new mobility hardware platforms allowing for central control – regardless of device type, operating system, manufacturer or whether devices are inside the enterprise or out in the field.
Technology advances are being used to leap frog the competition and offer new ways of growing revenues, while offering lower costs with improved ROI and life cycle management. Mobility also challenges the IT status quo and organizations need to rapidly adjust.
Executing mobile well comes in four pieces: strategy, networks, software applications and devices. Mobility comprises all components of the technology ecosystem including servers, applications, security, data, wireline and wireless networks, devices and user support.
Mobility Begins with Strategy
Building mobility solutions starts with “the art of the possible.” What could be accomplished by starting with a “clean slate” and no legacy constraints? The strategy and planning process leverages goals and objectives to clearly determine how to serve and grow the customer base or support internal employees. This work creates an output equivalent to a coach’s playbook.
From the playbook, a mobile strategy becomes the way to connect a user to a company’s technology ecosystem – regardless of device, location or network access. Mobility is more than just being wireless . . . it is about the user, not the venue.
Have proprietary software programs and offsite workers? Employees who are “all mobile” need connectivity to business application software to do their jobs. Connectivity comes in many versions: WI-FI connectivity, LAN (local area networks) connectivity, VPN (virtual private network), MPLS and offsite cellular data connectivity are required for workers to access information. All these network examples used to be separate and unrelated to each other. By leveraging newer network technologies, the legacy unrelated networks can be integrated and act as a single “cloud” network to support the user.
In addition to integrating networks, there are new connectivity features such as presence (Busy – In meeting); “single number” for both cellular phones and office phones to interoperate, and single voice mailboxes. All these changes are a good reason to renegotiate an existing telecom contract with re-engineered services to ensure networks will be architected to make complexity simpler while achieving lower unit costs.
Mobile Software Applications
At the point of creating a mobile application, software development does not follow the same methodology as what’s being used for data center, server-based enterprise systems. There are several versions of Android, and not all of them are compatible, which causes headaches for developers and users alike. Add to that the ongoing battle between Android, Microsoft’s Window 8 / RT, Apple’s iOS and even Blackberry’s new product, the BB10. Choosing a mobile operating system is not a straightforward proposition.
Depending on the wireless provider and their technology, the operating system and the device platform, testing becomes a critical element of a successful launch. Application testing includes the pilot testing of the device & application across each carrier network because each carrier’s network acts differently with different apps.
The smaller mobile devices also require new user interfaces driven by the user experience. The phrase, “There’s an app for that,” is the new software development paradigm; it’s so simple in concept but very difficult to deploy across an enterprise. Is the application being accessed via the device’s web browser or should the application be resident on the device? Answering this question and many others requires a systemic business analysis and methodology to understand the user requirements to complete the task.
Smart phones and tablets are generating a whole host of new capabilities and new business security risks. In the U.S., the wireless service providers heavily influence the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) devices they allow to access their networks. Carriers often mandate which software applications come with the OEM device that will be activated on their wireless network. Given the popularity of smart phones and tablets now being sold to enterprises, more cost effective procurement is possible with the carriers and OEMs so the device is not subsidized nor is the customer “locked in” to the service provider as they “buy down” the subsidized hardware over a typical two-year contract. Samsung, RIM, HTC and many others offer devices with different operating systems for enterprise use. New negotiating options exist to put more control into the hands of the enterprise vs. being held “hostage” under a service providers’ contract.
Procuring new cellular devices, accessories, plans and features become more complex and confusing. Service providers frequently change rate plan names and features, so over time an enterprise cellular plan becomes very inefficient and expensive. On-going life cycle management, device & accessory inventory management, auditing and oversight are required or the initial optimization and the inherent savings quickly disappear.
Mobility integration is now a requirement for corporate executives in all functional roles. It is no longer the sole responsibility of the CIO to bring these new capabilities to the enterprise. The focus on growing top line revenue and improving cost measures via new technology / processes is a daily corporate task. Improving employee productivity/ROI continues to drive technology investment while supporting the broader deployment of global knowledge workers. Mobility integration issues are growing and offer an explosive opportunity for enterprises to rethink and reshape how they are doing business with their customers and employees. It is imperative to begin with a mobility strategy that includes managing the integration of these separate, mobility components.
D. Jake Sagehorn is Managing Director of Dallas-based Strategic Consulting & Analytics. Through business and technology consulting expertise, SCA focuses on mobility solutions and services combining strategy, software apps, devices and networks seamlessly for the end user.