CIOs would like to be champions of the next big data analysis project, shuttling their companies toward that next customer insight. They would like to be the brains behind a coherent cloud strategy, the cornerstone of a plan to create an agile and efficient infrastructure. Those accomplishments would be nice, but today's most urgent CIO project is mobile device management (MDM), a product category normally relegated to the rank-and-file IT department.
A comprehensive mobile strategy embraces consumer technologies, including a bring-your-own-device policy and access to applications under an app store model. Of course, CIOs, CSOs, and CEOs want that access to take place in a secure, private, and regulatory-compliant manner.
If you're not feeling it, you will. A recent Accenture study on the consumerization of IT labels the movement "unstoppable." Half of the 4,000 employees it surveyed across a variety of industries and organizations in 16 countries are using their own personal devices at work at least sometimes.
"The genie is out of the bottle, and CIOs have to quickly adapt and respond," says Accenture executive research fellow Jeanne G. Harris.
"Executives might as well wake up and deal with the mobile reality," says Michael Feibus, principal at TechKnowledge Strategies in Phoenix.
One executive who's dealing with this reality--and enjoying the competitive thrill of trying to stay a step or two ahead of competitors--is Phil Easter, director of mobile strategies at American Airlines. "The game has changed and the key now is not to squash creativity," he says.
Echoing several other experts I interviewed, Easter describes a three-tier development structure as the best way to introduce mobile applications. On the first tier sits the big databases and other data repositories underpinning financials, inventory control, and customer data. The second tier consists of a services layer that matches corporate policies. Those services include security, user access, privacy, and compliance controls. The third tier is the presentation layer, where user interfaces are developed mainly for mobile devices.
Easter demonstrated a prototype mobile application where an American Airlines frequent flyer is able to access his current flight data and AA customer service to make a flight change. This might sound like a common application, but Easter demonstrated it being done while the customer was en route, at 35,000 feet, and customer service was already aware of flight delays and had restructured the customer's itinerary even before the customer could call. Easter explained that the FAA had allowed the prototype app development and deployment.
While the tiered approach is familiar to most enterprise application developers, there are substantial changes from past approaches. Conventional enterprise applications have been developed as a single process, where data, services, and customer UI are all part of one application. Fracturing these elements requires a new approach to development: APIs, common services, and UI expertise become key. And as Easter noted, it's time to compress the old multi-year approach to app dev into three months.
"Mobile application development flips the old-style approach," says SAP America's VP of mobility, Vishy Gopalakrishnan. "Now you are in a kind of perpetual beta where you need to iterate quickly."