Mobile devices are exponentially finding their way into businesses. IT organization are making plans on how to manage and control this onslaught through MDM. It’s great that everyone’s now got a fantastic fancy new phone that they can bring to the workplace – but what, besides email, are they going to do with them once they get there? A single app won’t, most likely, be worth that much effort. An app or two may be a first step but it doesn’t even begin to leverage the advantages of a mobile workforce that has a constant connection to the cloud. Perhaps, you think it would be best to ease into the whole BYOD thing slowly; only start with a couple of mobile apps. I am all for testing the waters, but don’t confuse implementing your mobile app strategy as a controlled trickle with a lukewarm approach to app planning. You need a solid plan around what capabilities will be required to have a mobile-only workforce (and you will eventually have a mobile-only workforce). Before you get too far down the consumerization road you should define your mobile-ecosystem needs and requirements.
People use the term ecosystem as loosely as they do cloud – but what does it really mean? For the purpose of this article I am specifically examining the enterprise mobile app ecosystem and defining it as:
The apps that tie together data and tasks.
How many of you have actually sat down and laid out what your mobile-ecosystem capabilities will need to consist of? Are you thinking that it will just organically work itself out? Would you let that happen in the traditional desktop/server realm? Hardly! The added challenge with consumer devices is that it is all too easy for end users to go ‘rouge’ and download apps of their choosing. An organically-grown ecosystem will create major challenges down the road as the lack of planning will offer no cohesive guidance and vision to how your enterprise apps should work together.
In order to build the most productive mobile-ecosystem for your organization you must first be able to articulate:
1. The data your workforce interacts with regularly
This means any sort of document, contacts, quotes, emails, diagrams, photos, etc. that your organization is producing, editing, and distributing.
2. The actions end users take upon that data
What are the tasks, edits, additions, subtractions, etc. that your workforces takes against the above data?
These two items are the key building blocks to the design and plan of a mobile-ecosystem. They will give you a roadmap for implementation. As well, they give you a total picture of organizational workflow that can facilitate discussion and examination.
Once you have your list you can begin to identify apps that align your business needs and requirements with the capabilities of apps that are out there. There are some sites that can help you get started. GetApp is a great site to begin with for app reviews and comparison. Since the enterprise app space is still maturing make sure you spend a little extra time on research to identify all the options. You’ll also want to make sure you pick apps from solidly backed companies that will still be around in a year or two. Lastly, most apps have a free-trial period. If you have a more complete picture of what you mobile-ecosystem will need to look like you should coordinate free trials of the target app group to evaluate and understand their interaction and integration.
One final note on data; free – flowing data is key. As I have written about before, data that is in its own silo, no matter how useful the functions the app, will create limitations for any organization down the road. When evaluating an app – don’t get swooned by the sexy UI alone – make sure the data policies and capabilities allow the app to play nice. From a data perspective keep these questions in mind:
- Can data be uploaded?
- Can it be exported?
- Can it be shared across other apps?
- Can it be deleted?
Finding a mobile-ecosystem that meets all your capability requirements as well as that has data flexibility will give your organization the winning combination required to see some real productivity gains. The coming consumerization of IT affords businesses an opportunity to step back and evaluate what they work on and how they work. It creates the rare chance to restructure workflow and process as people make the switch from desktops to mobile. It allows organizations to start with a clean slate of opportunity that is unburdened by years of the desktop paradigm. Whether you do this in isolation or through a steering committee, now is your organization’s chance to build a best-of-class ecosystem. Don’t blow it.
Benjamin Robbins is one of the founders of AdminBridge – providing IT Administration from mobile devices. For more information visit http://adminbridge.com