By Maribel Lopez. Updated November 28, 2016.
Mobility has been a hot topic for some time, and it continues to be a key strategic initiative for both consumer and B2B-facing companies.
Lopez Research surveyed IT leaders on their top priorities in 2016, and over two-thirds of them listed mobile-enabling the business as one of the most important. Yet, only 48% of the firms interviewed have a formal mobile strategy in place. This disconnect between crafting a mobile strategy and deploying mobile applications can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a company’s mobile efforts.
A mobile strategy should define the architectural approach for connecting data from systems of record and engagement such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management system (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) to mobile applications. Without this, the apps development team is simply building a pretty user interface that can’t connect to transactional systems.
Outlined below are three phases of mobile strategy that we believe will help companies reach the next stage of mobile-enabling their business.
Phase 1: Extend existing apps to mobile
Today the majority of organizations, regardless of the presence of a formal mobile strategy, are extending a subset of existing applications to mobile devices. In many cases, these are micro apps that offer a subset of the features found within PC applications. Examples of micro apps include approvals, expense reporting and time tracking. During the initial stages of mobile enablement, many companies focus on delivering paper-replacement applications such as forms, price lists and brochures. In this phase, companies are supporting only a few apps, and the issues associated with foregoing a formal mobile strategy aren’t obvious.
Phase 2: Advance capabilities of existing apps
As firms move into the second phase, IT is advancing the capabilities of existing apps by adding new functionality found in mobile devices such as image capture, bar-code scanning and availability of location data. For example, retailers are improving the in-store customer service with mobile information access and recommendations engines. Industrial industries are minimizing downtime by adding sensor data such as temperature and vibration to new mobile apps for plant managers.
Across industries, organizations will be creating mobile solutions that use new data and device functions (eg camera, voice navigation, and location) to gain efficiencies and improve business with better information such as location data, voice-enablement, and image capture. It’s during phase two that companies realize they need a strategy to manage and secure mobile applications, scale mobile application development, and align with the business KPIs for digital transformation.
Phase 3: Focus on mobile to reinvent business models and processes
In the final phase of mobile-enablement, companies have already deployed foundation technologies such as enterprise mobile management, mobile application development platforms and agile dev-ops processes. At this point, IT will focus on leveraging mobility as part of a toolkit to reinvent internal processes and transform business models. For example, product manufacturers are shifting to digital service models that couple hardware with subscription services accessed via mobile devices.
Companies will offer contextual services by combining information such as location, device type, previous transactions, social media sentiment, and current process.
Create a Clear Mobile Strategy
A mobile strategy, while its own entity, is also a critical part of a company’s overall digital transformation plan. Mobile technology provides new contextual elements such as location, sensor data and image-capture information that can enhance business processes. It also introduces new design paradigms such as touch and voice navigation. These attributes, coupled with the portability mobile provides, are key enablers of transforming digital business processes.
A mobile strategy should be interlaced with other IT initiatives such as cloud computing, data processing and analytics strategies. As companies look to build new mobile applications, the cloud can provide many mobile services such as a development and testing environment, cloud-based mobile application middleware and development tools, as well as Analytics as a Service (AaaS) capabilities. Additionally, companies can look to cloud-resident SaaS (Software as a Service) applications to deliver mobile applications that operate seamlessly on the latest mobile devices.
Mobility can deliver both efficiencies and competitive differentiation if IT and the line of business managers come together to build a strategy.