Best Practices for a Mobile Enterprise

By Shamlan Siddiqi, VP of Architecture & Application Development, NTT DATA — February 24, 2014

Given the significance of mobility in the enterprise, it’s surprising that few organizations today have a true enterprise-wide mobile strategy. In fact, according to IDC Research, 40% of U.S. enterprises are either exploring a mobile strategy or looking to do so within the next 12-24 months, and just 18% of enterprises indicate that they are working on their first mobile application implementation.

Companies that are actively integrating mobile into their business are raising the bar for those without a mobile strategy to develop mobile capabilities or risk falling behind in the market. IT leaders understand they need to keep up with new mobile technologies to remain competitive, but many are stuck and need guidance to create a cohesive approach to an enterprise-wide mobile implementation.

When a company is modernizing legacy technology, the process of mobilizing a global workforce can become especially complicated. Before anyone takes on an enterprise-wide mobile deployment project, there are some best practices, cautions and first steps to keep in mind.

Think about the users first and work back: Building solutions around your company’s mobile users, creating a user-centered design that considers the diverse set of tasks, geographies and technical capabilities encountered by your mobile workforce is the first critical step toward any successful mobile implementation.

To start that discovery process, it’s important to understand how the user will be interacting with the system. Will it be a touch-based system? What device form factor is required (tablets, phones, etc.)? Will the device need to be in connected or disconnected mode and will Wi-Fi be a requirement? What kind of environment will the user be in (in the office or outside in the field)? Will you need a native app or mobile web app or a hybrid solution — what is the best solution if both are required?

Strong governance and multi-disciplinary teams: Governance is especially important in large-scale projects as expectations need to be set at the onset, and a leadership team that will support the initiative from start to finish needs to be in place. People sometimes forget that having the right architect, project manager, UX architect and delivery structure in place are all elements critical to a successful project.

This governance requirement transfers to the technical side as well —making sure mobile environments are up in the field where your clients operate their businesses, reliably running and consistent/compatible is critical to know ahead of deployment and to monitor over time. Finally, a strong Center of Excellence (COE) program is also important for teams to be able to reach back to get support, reviews, standards, guidance and best practices based on changing dynamics in the field. This structure serves as a backbone for modernization projects and acts as a compass for the team.

Technology selection:  Once you clearly understand user, business and governance requirements, then technology selection becomes vital to a project’s success, and that includes an all-important estimation of project scope. Typically, implementing what we call a “Phase 0” helps jump start large-scale mobile projects. In Phase 0, materials are created, such as initial mockups, wireframes or product prototypes.

The Phase 0 materials make the ultimate outcome tangible for users before enterprise wide investments are made, so everyone can understand the technology being used and determine if it’s the best choice to address the specific problems they are trying to solve in their respective groups or territories. It is also important for organizations to ensure that in today’s modernization ecosystem, the CIO agenda should not singularly focus on just mobile but also consider other disruptive technologies as part of the broader modernization effort if and where applicable.

Sound architecture:   The architecture of your mobile solution needs to align to the specific technology being used. It’s important when integrating updated systems that businesses plan for complex data. It’s also important to have a scalable integration architecture and design in place to handle the forthcoming interoperability challenges as more mobile apps proliferate through the enterprise through the adoption of trends such as Consumerization of IT and BYOD.

Implementing mobile in the enterprise can feel like a daunting task. By having these four pillars in place to build a mobile strategy on, you can save headaches during the process and ultimately deliver a successful project. 

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