Defining a Mobile Application Strategy
In “Enterprise Mobile Applications: You Need a Strategy – Part 1,” I discussed the need for an overall Mobile Application Strategy when considering the development of an Enterprise Level Mobile Application for your organization and presented five key organization and business oriented questions to help define the strategy. In Part 2, I’d like to continue to provide some insight into the technology-based impacts a Mobile Application Strategy should address.
Here are five key technology oriented questions that should be asked when developing a Mobile Application Strategy.
1. What are the user experience skill sets of your development teams?
Building a mobile application requires a specific set of skills that are based in well-defined user experience principles: the interface looks “pretty” and works in a natural and responsive way. Experienced mobile application designers understand that real-time responses to finger taps matter. This isn’t a website; therefore, designers need to be knowledgeable and able to relate to the business team, and any limitations imposed by the supporting infrastructure. The best mobile applications employ User Centric Design, which is not typically the way websites have been developed in the past. User Centric Design has many benefits over the techniques previously employed (User Centered Design: What's In It for Your Client). Design must also consider the multitude of form factors required on The Multi-Device Web. User experience skills, once peripheral, are crucial for mobile development. Don’t underestimate the impact of getting the user experience wrong.
2. What are the management skill sets of your development teams?
Mobile applications are “products.” They will be enhanced in response to rapid business requirement requests and user feedback. The pace of application change can be as rapid as weekly for HTML5 based applications, and quarterly for native apps. A traditional waterfall development process will not be able to support the rate of change. Adopt an Agile method (Right-Sizing UX: Running with Scissors and Making it Work). The introduction of Agile Project Management, Agile Development, Continuous Integration, Automated Testing and DevOps (What is DevOps?) processes will all be required to successfully support the ever changing business requirements, devices and operating systems. With mobile apps, teams have to take a more strategic approach to the application lifecycle than ever before.
3. What are the technical skill sets of your development teams?
4. What is the complexity and level of integration required?
If real-time responses to finger taps matter, then the infrastructure supporting those requests must support the expectation. Creation of a Mobile Architecture Blueprint to manage mobile technology investments will ensure alignment of mobile initiatives with enterprise technology strategies. The Mobile Architecture Blueprint describes the technology issues that IT must resolve in order for mobile engagement apps to work. Authentication, Security, Service Levels, Performance and User Experience requirements will in most cases require re-defining or re-architecting of current middleware APIs to be more atomic and task-oriented. Organizations that have already invested in service-oriented architectures, web server farms, and virtual data centers are in good shape to support a Mobile Application Strategy.
5. What is your security approach?
Enterprise Level Mobile Application security is not just about the application located on the device; it is also about the network traffic going between the application and the enterprise server infrastructure, as well as the server components themselves. Personal devices should not be treated like any other machine in your organization; business and personal data may be on the same device. Requiring that business and personal data be separated is easier than actually meeting the requirement since there usually isn't an elegant way to address this need with the default tools. Tools for Mobile Device Management (MDM) should be part of the Mobile Architecture Blueprint with a focus on how a device's management capabilities can allow for greater control over the device and increase your Mobile Security approach. A well thought-out plan to address the security of Enterprise Level Mobile Applications should be part of the Mobile Architecture Blueprint.
A Mobile Application Strategy is critical to ensure you are well prepared for meeting the organizational impacts that Enterprise Level Mobile Applications will introduce. I have offered a few strategy artifacts that will assist with developing a Mobile Application Strategy:
- A Mobile Application Roadmap to define the required mobile application capabilities, and when they are expected to be in the marketplace.
- A Mobile Engagement Assessment to charts out the solution costs, process impacts, and trade-offs to deliver the mobile application capabilities requested, and to document the potential impacts to current budgets, resourcing, and infrastructure needs.
- A Mobile Architecture Blueprint to define the components needed to deliver the Mobile Application Roadmap defined capabilities.
The questions I have raised are obviously not a panacea for this problem. I hope I was able to make you think about your entire organization and the impact of introducing Enterprise Level Mobile Applications, and maybe even say “I didn’t think of that.”
The Strategy Artifacts are simply tools to understand the organizational impacts before a line of code is written. If necessary, engage our Application Development Service Contact and we’ll provide a specialist (maybe even me ;-) ) to help you further understand these Strategy Artifacts and the methods to produce them.