The Enterprise Untethered: Part One

By  Alejandro Danylyszyn and Harley Young — August 06, 2008

In the first installment of this two-part series, Deloitte Consulting analysts Alejandro Danylyszyn and Harley Young propose four steps enterprises can take to manage the chaos of wireless device proliferation and make mobility a part of their I.T. strategy. Part Two will detail the five critical factors for successfully mobilizing your workforce.

Break Free
Unleash Users and Realize the Value Hidden in Your Enterprise Mobility Portfolio

Many organizations have made significant investments in enterprise applications, but have not pushed real-time information closer to the point of customer contact. Consequently, PCs remain the dominant channel for access to enterprise applications, constraining (and often disappointing) mobile professionals and limiting the value organizations can extract from their investments.

Sweeping changes in the mobile computing landscape have further muddied the issue. As professionals clamor for remote access to information, most organizations capitulated by providing mobile access to e-mail and calendar data though handheld devices. Although such access to personal information has been a boon to users, these short-term victories have distracted organizations from concentrating on long-range plans that more effectively integrate the mobile channel into the broader context of enterprise I.T. strategy. Now, many organizations find themselves with a tangle of applications, handheld mobile devices that don't play well together, and no clear idea of how to introduce order to the chaos.

Getting Back on Track
Two trends make it important to address these problems:

Software as a Service (SaaS). As businesses increasingly look to SaaS as a way to reduce operating expenses, eliminate data center space, and simplify their I.T. infrastructure, they'll find that many SasS vendors include flexible platforms that already support mobile devices--if customers are ready to adopt them.

Talent Management. One of the most talked about trends accompanying baby boomer retirements is the looming talent crisis. According to research by Deloitte Consulting,1 McKinsey,2 and others, the retirement of boomers is occurring simultaneously with the increasing specialization and knowledge density of critical business activities. At the same time, a new generation of workers who grew up with SMS, instant messaging, and online collaboration has begun to enter the workforce with the expectation of having these same tools available. When your business competes for top talent with firms in exciting locales around the world, do you really want to tell top performers they have to sit at a desk to complete their weekly time and expense report?

Heading Down the Road
So, how can organizations reduce the proliferation of complexity and prepare for the future by making mobility part of a coherent I.T. strategy? We believe effective mobile strategies will follow this four-step program.
Step 1: Commit to Mobility
Deciding to do something and making a public commitment to the idea is a crucial and significant step. Announcing that mobility will be part of an organization's enterprise I.T. strategy should catalyze new ideas and signal support for upcoming projects that incorporate mobile technology.

Advocates of simplification may balk at the idea of adding yet another platform to what is already certain to be a complex and heterogeneous I.T. environment. In practice, many organizations already support a number of mobile devices -- even if only tacitly. Rather than increasing complexity, sanctioning mobility can actually produce the opposite effect. Committing to enterprise mobility can legitimizes the idea and can introduce the same process rigor that accompanies selection of other foundational components such as enterprise database software. Consequently, mobile strategy should end up advancing I.T. cost reduction initiatives by providing clear boundaries for what the enterprise does and does not support.

Step 2: Survey the Landscape
Existing investments can't -- and shouldn't -- be ignored. Starting with what's in place today should help move things ahead quickly and assuage the fears of those who have come to expect that new technology deployments are accompanied by "rip and replace" recommendations. A three-part landscape survey involving an audit, evaluation of risks and opportunities, and remediation should help.
  • Audit. During the audit phase, companies should create an inventory of the building blocks they own and identify the way current policies influence how packaged applications are purchased and customized and how company-specific software is developed. Being vigorous during the audit should help improve the value of existing investments in that it should confirm that all assets that benefit from the opportunity are included in the plan for enterprise mobility.
  • Evaluate Risks & Opportunities. With an assessment in hand, consider how existing system boundaries can be extended to push information closer to the point of customer contact. Rewriting all of your applications to support mobile access is not the right answer. In spite of the temptation to do so, it is important that smart phones not be viewed as merely a small PC. Instead, acknowledge that the usability model of a smart phone differs substantially from that of a traditional computer and focus system enhancements on addressing the unique requirements of the mobile platform.
    If the organization is considering, or already has in place, a service-oriented architecture (SOA) this extension could present a very good opportunity to leverage existing information assets by adding new mobile presentation services on top of integration or data-access-layer services.
  • Remediate. Engage mobile professionals early to determine how existing assets are employed and which features limit their use in the field. The risk of this approach is that it may enable a vocal minority to drive application development priorities. Nonetheless, vocal users can be valuable allies, and risks associated with misguided development priorities can be mitigated using a Nomination-Costing-Spending strategy that allows users to "buy"  features through peer-based negotiation.3
Step 3: Select and Mobilize a Pilot
The feature negotiation exercise should help identify candidates for the pilot. Since rewriting entire applications is not the intent of mobilization, it should not be the goal of a pilot. Instead, companies will do better to focus on the features identified earlier and determine how to deliver them by enhancing enterprise applications; if the existing enterprise architecture already exposes information or key processes as services, applications that currently leverage these assets could be good targets for a mobility pilot.

As the deployment plans are being drawn up, application designers will have to select a suitable mobile architecture for the pilot. Each architecture has characteristics that make it more or less suitable to particular circumstances, so continued user involvement is essential if the mobilization initiative is to satisfy the majority of user requirements. Once a list of candidate applications and platform selection criteria is finalized, teams of users should be selected to move forward with their pilot.

Step 4: Incorporate, Adopt, Extend, and Assess
At the conclusion of the pilot, all teams should come together to learn what worked well and what could have been done better. These lessons should be incorporated into future endeavors and used during the development of the enterprise mobile strategy. This pattern of Incorporate, Adopt, Extend, and Assess should be repeated in a virtuous circle, helping to extend the boundaries of enterprise systems and better meet the changing needs of an increasingly mobile workforce.
  • Incorporate. Lessons learned during each cycle should feed into a coherent mobile strategy that supports the firm's business strategy, incorporates mechanisms to protect and enhance intellectual property, provides a framework for guiding future initiatives, and enables benchmarking. The process of defining the enterprise mobile strategy should also incorporate the same rigor used to create other long-range plans. Without subjecting mobile strategy to the same scrutiny, mobilization initiatives risk being dismissed as "just another project." 
  • Adopt. New ideas, technologies, and processes should be adopted as they support the mobile strategy and the requirements of the business. The amalgam of people, processes, and technology created by mixing ideas from inside and outside the organization can help produce solutions that capitalize on existing assets, enhance the mobile ecosystem, and deliver value to users.
  • Extend. The ongoing effectiveness with mobilization depends on an organization's ability to continually extend earlier work. As solutions grow to offer benefits to different mobile populations, network effects can make them increasingly valuable tools for information sharing, collaboration, and reporting. Along with custom development, organizations should work to adapt vendor solutions to their own requirements. Extending existing enterprise applications and SOA-based solutions can help increase their value and avoid the trap where ambitious development projects that do not create a competitive advantage distract I.T. organizations from other initiatives.
  • Assess. As each mobilization project concludes, assessments shuold help improve subsequent initiatives. Examining recent work should also uncover recurring themes that can be used to evolve internal policies, procedures, and standards for system development and vendor selection.
1 Athey, Robin. It's 2008: Do You Know Where Your Talent Is? Deloitte Research, 2004.
2 Michaels, Ed, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod. The War for Talent. Harvard Business School Press, 2001.
3 Spolsky, Joel. Set Your Priorities. Joel on Software. October 12, 2005. Retrieved on September 5, 2007.

Alejandro Danylyszyn is a Principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP focusing on Technology Integration, and a subject matter specialist in enterprise/service-oriented architectures, and mobile/Web-based solutions.
Harley Young, a former manager in the Technology Integration service area of Deloitte Consulting LLP, has become a true mobile professional, working virtually while pursuing his passion for world travel.


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