Mobility and the consumerization of IT are arguably the most disruptive technologies to hit the enterprise.
The tsunami of app-driven personal devices has left IT departments scrambling to address security and compliance while supporting a workforce that wants business access anywhere at any time.
Efforts such as BYOD, CYOD (Choose Your Own Device), and DYOA (Develop Your Own App) attempt to strike a balance between meeting the rapidly changing needs of the business and retaining some control over sensitive data; but that's not enough.
To harness the competitive advantage of enterprise mobility, organizations need to integrate mobile into the roots of their business. That requires a smart strategy.
Developing A Mobile Strategy
Decision-makers are beginning to understand this. An IBM study (registration required) suggests that more than 90% of global organizations are looking to either sustain or increase their investment in mobile over the coming years.
Again and again however, companies allow the tail to wag the dog by focusing on the wrong piece of the puzzle.
"It shouldn’t be about the type of technology at all," said Sarah Weller, London managing director of Mubaloo, a enterprise mobile app development firm.
"It's about businesses implementing improvements and changes to operations and processes by using whatever technology makes the most sense for the user."
"It's important to focus on what the problems are, or what can be improved, and then work backwards to find the relevant solution, be it wearables, native apps, or location-based technologies," she said.
"If we're talking about giving stakeholders the tools they need, more often than not, mobile is involved. Even then, companies should be considering the overall strategy and the process, rather than the specific technology."
Where To Start
To develop a mobile strategy that drives competitive advantage, business leaders must first address some home truths about their organizations' processes and operational models.
Before planning for the future, it is necessary to evaluate the present. A thorough assessment will allow a business to understand which processes and operational models need to be created, terminated, or changed.
From there, it is possible to develop a roadmap that balances the required cultural and process changes against business objectives.
"It's about working out where the opportunities are for improvement or what the challenges are that need some development, prioritizing these and building a roadmap for delivery," Weller said.
"It is moving from a reactive way of working to a more strategic approach that looks at mobile technologies as an investment platform."
"The key for businesses is to abstract themselves from the front-end technologies, which tend to change very fast, and to focus on the integration and APIs," said Weller.
"If organizations focus on their back-end infrastructure and processes, then even as technologies evolve it won't matter because they've opened up their back-end infrastructure in a way that they can adapt much faster."
For those still fixated on the technology aspects of the mobile-first business strategy, it's worth remembering that the vendors themselves are now addressing many of the challenges.
The likes of SAP, Oracle and Microsoft are positioning themselves as mobile integrators, while a host of other companies offer tools and solutions that aim to reduce the pain of integration.
Join Sarah Weller at Interop London this June. She will be discussing how, by linking mobile strategy with business objectives and thinking about existing workflows, processes and channels for engagement with key stakeholders, some companies are delivering improvements to operations. Find out more about Interop London here.Sean McGrath is a freelance IT writer, researcher, and journalist. He has written for PC Pro, the BBC, and TechWeekEurope, and has produced content for a range of private organizations. Although he holds a first class degree in investigative journalism, his dreams of being a ... View Full Bio