Investing in technology is just like investing in any other business activity—you have to be guided by clear business goals. Typical business goals are to increase profitability or market share. Achieving these goals means looking carefully at both the short-term and long-term aspects of your decision. For example, an investment in a technology such as enterprise mobility has the potential for improving the efficiencies of many business processes. It's also an example of a technology that requires both long- and short-term goal strategies. Consider the following before constructing your enterprise mobility plan.
Look beyond short-term ROI
The value that mobility brings to an enterprise is well known. It's difficult to imagine how an enterprise can not benefit from real-time or near real-time access to information. The question is not whether enterprise mobility is desired, but when, where, and how it should be rolled out. A typical ROI analysis for a specific mobile IT rollout is not advisable because it is best seen as an evolutionary process, gradually extending mobility from a specific segment of employees across the enterprise. You need to change the viewpoint from looking at ROI on a rollout-to-rollout basis. Instead, you should ensure investments in mobile IT fulfill the desired objective of contributing to evolving the IT infrastructure to higher levels of enterprise mobility.
A well-crafted and well-implemented mobile strategy can guarantee that you get the maximum return out of your investment in mobile IT over the long term. Using a mobile strategy, an enterprise can expect regular and significant benefits in terms of productivity, response time, and accuracy of operation. Besides encompassing these benefits, an enterprise mobile strategy should ensure that:
- The fast-changing technology landscape doesn't result in investments becoming redundant.
- The existing application infrastructure can be leveraged to provide mobile solutions.
- Implementation of mobility doesn't affect the performance and functionality of existing critical enterprise applications.
- Development of custom applications specifically suited to the organization is easier.
- A competitive advantage is sustained.
Enterprise mobility may also create an environment where the employees and other stakeholders recognize the significance of real-time operations in the organization.
Designing an enterprise mobility strategy
Fundamental to developing a mobile strategy is performing a mapping exercise between the organization's business goals and IT requirements. The IT requirements then need to be aligned to the existing infrastructure to identify areas that need to be mobile. From an IT infrastructure point of view, mobility should be seen as enabling another access channel, not something that is independent and distinct from the existing IT infrastructure. Enterprise mobile applications ride on the same IT infrastructure that serves other enterprise applications.
Gauging the mobile readiness of the IT infrastructure is absolutely essential. Besides evaluating elements such as messaging capabilities, remote access options, connectivity, security, and level of integration, this process should also involve examining the current state of proliferation of mobile devices (personal devices) in the enterprise and usage by employees. Being aware of the so-called "underground mobile enterprise" in your company is essential to rolling out a comprehensive mobile enterprise strategy. Existing mobile users can provide a lot of valuable input regarding the usability and effectiveness of mobile devices. In fact, it's not a bad idea to involve the existing mobile users in the initial stages of mobile service trials and rollouts.
The mobile IT strategy needs to guide overall IT infrastructure development in such a way that enterprise services can be easily extended to the mobile channel. Mobile middleware needs to be implemented to allow access to enterprise-wide services independent of the device. Mobile middleware also provides effective mechanisms for device management and access control. Once the infrastructure is in place, enterprise-wide access to messaging and other services is not a difficult proposition.
Resist the stand-alone temptation
Often, there is a temptation to roll out stand-alone mobile applications because of the lower cost compared to rolling out a general mobile middleware-based infrastructure. The problem with this infrastructure is that it cannot be used for introducing new mobile services. Also, stand-alone mobile applications typically have a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) in the long term because of support costs. An enterprise mobility strategy should support standardized and customizable mobile solutions—not mobile applications based on specific devices, such as mobile phones or palm devices.
Measuring success at each stage is the most important element of a mobile enterprise strategy rollout. Critical to doing so is carefully identifying the parameters that are relevant to the enterprise. Accurate ROI modeling requires multiple parameters as inputs, so part of the enterprise mobility strategy should identify the right metrics of success. A related factor is to identify the right frequency of collection of these metrics. Also, ROI modeling will be ineffective unless it is combined with an equally effective TCO analysis. As an organization's mobile technology use matures, the goal should be increasing ROI and reducing TCO by continuously increasing the level of integration.
Grow, evolve, and optimize
A controlled rollout strategy is often most effective when launching any new service. Clear, specific, and enforceable standards and processes for new users need to be in place before rolling out services across the enterprise. Effective IT support is crucial to the overall success of any mobile IT initiative. Appropriate management solutions and IT support structures (including training) need to be put in place before extending the solution to more users. This may also require revising and extending IT support policies and services. The same holds true for the IT security policies.
Tuning and optimizing the process is part of a feedback control loop, where mobile solutions are optimized on an ongoing basis based on the measured results. Your mobile strategy should include prioritizing enterprise applications that need to be mobile-enabled. Once a particular solution has been successfully deployed, newer applications can be rolled out.
I'll conclude by providing a broad set of guidelines for creating a successful mobile enterprise strategy:
- Formulation of a mobile IT strategy has to be preceded by a clear top-management commitment to enterprise mobility.
- All stakeholders, primary or secondary, need to be identified and their inputs taken in devising the strategy.
- ROI and TCO should be seen from a longer-term perspective. Investments in mobile IT should be such that the infrastructure created for an application can be readily leveraged for other applications.
- Assessing, in detail, the readiness of current IT infrastructure for rolling out mobile applications is absolutely critical.
- Prioritization of a mobile applications rollout should be driven both by business need and the need to gradually evolve the IT infrastructure to higher levels of enterprise mobility.
- The need for measuring success accurately at each level of a mobile IT rollout should not be overemphasized.
- Controlled and limited rollouts are initially recommended. Existing mobile users (using personal devices) are very often the best candidates for such a rollout.