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Enterprise Mobile Applications: You Need a Strategy – Part 1

Posted by Craig Plysiuk on Sep 16, 2013 10:11:58 AM

Going Mobile

Are you contemplating building an Enterprise Level Mobile Application? I’m talking about an application requiring authentication, integrated to Enterprise Information systems, with a host of other business and non-functional requirements. Perhaps you have built many applications and believe you have a good handle on what it takes to create an Enterprise Level Mobile Application for your organization. But did you know that introducing it will have significant impact on how your current business and technology organizations function, requiring a Mobile Application Strategy?

Defining a Mobile Application Strategy

To be sure, it has been proven that without the proper planning of an overall Mobile Application Strategy, rushing out and developing mobile apps becomes complicated and expensive very quickly.

Defining a Mobile Application Strategy will lead to successfully engaging your users (customers, partners, employees) via the mobile applications you provide to them (Nine Reasons to Build Your First Mobile App). However, organizations will now need to evaluate their business and technology roles, responsibilities, and skill sets. A Mobile Application Strategy provides direction on business and technology based requirements: the capabilities, platforms, Development Model, and operational models that need to be developed.

Here are five key Organization and Business oriented questions that should be asked when developing a Mobile Application Strategy:

1. In your organization, who owns the mobile application, the user experience and/or the technologies required?

Mobile applications are branded products, requiring the ownership of a Mobile Application Roadmap that defines the business functions that will be supported. More importantly, the owner must be responsible for what functions will not be part of the application. A mobile application is not a re-purposing of the capabilities of your website. People have come to expect accomplishing tasks very quickly on their mobile devices. This expectation leads to what is being called the “atomization” of business processes, breaking processes down into just the tasks required to accomplish the need. The “atomization” of business processes happened with ATMs; customers used ATMs to rapidly accomplish simple tasks (check a balance) that forced a redesign of the banking middleware and access architecture. Introducing an Enterprise Level Mobile Application will press IT Architecture to rethink their current process interfaces. The complex business and technology landscape that a Mobile Application Strategy introduces has led some organizations to appoint Chief Mobility Officers to coordinate the business and technology of their mobile strategy.

2. What do your users need to do via a mobile application?

Business mobile applications should identify the tasks, the context, and the sequence of events in a workflow. This approach ensures delivery of focused functionality to help a user complete tasks simply and quickly. The mobile application user experience must Focus on the User’s Needs (Who Are We Building For). This isn’t FUN though and requires rigor and discipline. Developing Mobile Engagement Assessments to facilitate mobile business projects helps to align the business needs with application capabilities. A Mobile Engagement Assessment charts out the solution costs, process impacts, and trade-offs to deliver the user experience requested. Each application capability may introduce significant changes to current budgets, resourcing, and infrastructure needs. Developing Mobile Engagement Assessments ensures all impacts and ongoing investments are understood.

3. What operating systems and devices will you support?

The Mobile Application Roadmap needs to consider the operating systems and devices that will be supported, and whether the applications should be built Natively or in a Hybrid manner (Building Cross Platform Mobile Apps). There is no clear approach, but each carries its own pros and cons. Some organizations are using Hybrid technologies while others opt for Native.

The Mobile Engagement Assessment needs to present the development approach based on the business requirements: A Hybrid application may be chosen to support customer reach and enhancement agility versus native applications that can deliver high-end user experience requirements. Use the business requirements to make informed choices between Native and HTML5 or Hybrid applications.

4. What is the plan for feedback?

Mobile applications should have built-in analytics to monitor how they are being used. Analytics measure the execution and value of the application and should be part of a Mobile Application Strategy. Applications in different business and problem domains require different KPIs (key product indicators) to monitor. Before you dive into analytics, make sure you understand what you’re hoping to better understand.

The Social Feedback component of your application should also be addressed in the Mobile Application Strategy. Social Media is all about two-way communication and interaction. The Mobile Application Strategy should define the processes and roles around the use of Social Feedback by your organization. Be very cognizant that Social Feedback in an application store can be less than complimentary, so it is best to have a plan in place to address those scenarios before they happen.

5. Are you developing mobile applications internally, externally, both?

Building a mobile application introduces new management, resourcing and skill requirements. The need for speed to market will force the development of reliable and repeatable processes and methods. Mobile development requires a team large enough (approximately 10 technical people) to cover all the key areas (including, for example, design, UX, development, testing, project management, architecture, operations, system administration). Teams must support the complexity of mobile applications and also support new methods: Agile, User Centric Design, Iterative Development and Testing techniques, as well as DevOps models (What Is-DevOps?). New tools will be introduced and your existing tools for project management, analysis, design, development, ticketing and testing, as well as your test environments and source code repository management will need to be evaluated.

The Mobile Application Strategy should provide direction on the choice to build using an internal or external model. Both approaches introduce their own benefits and challenges.

In “Enterprise Mobile Applications: You Need a Strategy – Part 2,” I will present five key technology oriented questions that should be asked when developing a Mobile Strategy.

Topics: Design, Mobility

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