Building and establishing a mobile strategy in a developing economy presents unique challenges. Here's how to tackle them.
Consumers in emerging economies have skipped past stodgy old landlines and PCs straight to mobile phones. But that doesn't mean CIOs in those regions won't run into problems with building the mobile enterprise.
"To successfully implement a project compared to the U.S. or U.K. is absolutely different in terms of cultural challenges, maturity mindsets and vendor presence," said Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and principal analyst at Greyhound Research in New Delhi.
Greyhound Research recently interviewed nearly 100 CIOs in Asia/Pacific and Africa/Middle East. The resulting report, "Riding the enterprise mobility wave: How are CIOs dealing with it?" finds that companies are investing in mobile, but CIOs face vexing issues.
Here are ten things CIOs should remember when implementing mobile applications in emerging markets:
1. It's a mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile world.
Successful companies understand that mobile phones matter more than PCs or landlines in the developing world. Of the CIOs surveyed, more than 70 percent said they expect to increase their spending on existing applications to mobile phones, and more than 65 percent say they plan to expand -- or already are expanding -- mobile IT.
2. Mobile is messy.
Making applications mobile causes major headaches. Of the CIOs interviewed, 52 percent reported confusion about the best ways to make applications more mobile and securing them, and 32 percent said they face significant challenges making applications work across multiple operating systems and devices.
3. Leapfrogs can also be laggards.
Yes, emerging markets have leapfrogged developed countries in some ways, but they lag in others. BYOD is notably less common, for example, because tablets like the iPad have been slow to arrive in many emerging markets. Also, Gogia explained, labor markets are far more fluid than in most developed nations, creating extra challenges for securing data, networks and intellectual property. At the same time, BYOD is gaining a foothold in some emerging markets.
4. Get a bigger scale.
Scale presents challenges, especially in China and India. Some factories might employ half a million people. Bringing mobility to that kind of enterprise would present challenges in any environment.
5. Networks can be fickle.
Yes, everything's mobile. But mobile isn't everywhere. CIOs cannot expect the same consistency of quality and coverage for mobile networks in emerging markets as they see in established ones.
6. Partners aren't necessarily mature.
Mobile expertise is in high demand. But even traditional outsourcers need to develop expertise in emerging markets. Mobile specialists like Mobile Iron are still building their presences as well, Gogia said. CIOs need to do thorough due diligence before signing deals.
7. Start simple.
Regional CIOs say e-mail and CRM applications are the most common mobile applications, followed by payroll management and business intelligence applications. Cloud-based apps may prove difficult to secure.
8. Grit your teeth.
Whether you're working with local companies or acquiring them, be prepared for legacy applications that are difficult to bring onto mobile phones. "Legacy apps are a problem -- many are not mobile-friendly," said Gogia.
9. Give yourself time.
"Transitioning IT to a country like China is not something you can do over a couple of quarters, or maybe even a year or two," he said.
10. Play mind games.
Successful mobile enterprise projects in emerging markets require a different mindset than those in established markets. CIOs must not:
-- Presume that it's business as usual, even for established vendor relationships.
-- Expect cultural norms to be similar from one market to another.
-- Assume infrastructure will be mature.
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