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Going Mobile in 2012

Dream bigger than data at your fingertips. How can mobile technology help your company implement its business strategy?

In 2011, the top mobile apps deployed within enterprises were for email, field service, CRM sales and workflow. Will these apps be the most beneficial for your business? Only you and your team know that answer because every mobile journey is unique.

In less than two minutes, most CIOs can describe three or more (different) mobile scenarios that could help their business be more productive, reduce costs, improve customer relationships or be more efficient.

  • A bakery with national distribution wants to increase the number of deliveries each truck makes by receiving orders earlier in the day and pre-loading delivery trucks.
  • A cleaning company wants to bill clients earlier in the cycle by collecting employees' daily onsite reports rather than monthly aggregated reports.
  • A video production company needs to speed its responses to customers by streamlining the approval process for each review cycle, expense report, travel request and purchase order.
  • An auto parts distributor needs to share its inventory and ordering across all partner sites to ensure that suppliers and customers have the parts they need.
  • A retail company wants to improve its interaction with mobile-toting consumers by designing a mobile-friendly website.

Every company has a business relationship, need or process that can be improved with mobility. The most important question is where can mobility provide the biggest benefits in your business? The answer will depend on your user types and their mobile devices, existing business processes, current systems and platforms and known inefficiencies.

That's a big mix of variables. Six months from now you can shake those variables again and identify new mobilization projects that have sprung up based on the success of the initial deployments.

  • At the cleaning company, executive management wants to see business analysis reports on a daily basis.
  • The video production company wants the sales team to enter new work orders so that they can see a full view of the project pipeline and forecast potential revenue.
  • The retail company is now ready to mobilize its inventory for its suppliers.

The list goes on and on because mobility breeds mobility. Once one group is mobile, others will want to mobilize their business processes and mobile recommendations will be coming into IT fast and furious. That's the amazing thing about mobility: It unleashes creativity and inspires people to think about nontraditional and better ways to do their jobs. A large jewelry company, for example, wanted to safeguard the samples that sales people were using during sales calls. The company realized it could slash its insurance costs by putting images of its inventory on mobile devices rather than traveling with the expensive jewels to different customer sites. That's the power of mobility.

Build Once, Deploy to Many
To meet the requests for mobility that start coming in from across the company, CIOs will need to invest in a flexible, end-to-end mobility solution that adapts to current and future mobility plans.

A word of caution, though - while speed and efficiency are important, you will want to develop a mobile business model that can be replicated easily. Some early mobile adopters were quick to mobilize a small business unit or a specific application, but they could not repeat the process when other groups asked for something similar. Without that ability to build once and deploy across many scenarios, mobility suffers and becomes costly in both capital and operational expenses.

Enterprises that deploy open, extensible platforms can replicate a pilot program for one unit or group out to other departments, across multiple mobile devices and operating systems and business applications. With this model in place, companies can cherry pick apps that will give them quick, early successes. A pilot program of 20 field personnel, sales people or executive management is often a good place to start. These groups are already highly mobile and eager to work on their mobile devices.

They are good test cases for developing UIs across multiple device types and operating systems, as well as initial integration to back-end systems. They can also provide feedback on data syncs between onsite platforms and mobile devices. Another important area to test is app enablement and onboarding. The first experience that users have with the mobile app is the most important. When large sets of users download the apps, the configuration, security, access profiles and all the initial set-up routines should be uniformly easy and user friendly.

Think Big or Go Home
According to a September 2011 Yankee Group report, companies are focusing their investments in mobile solutions on improving responsiveness to customers (48 percent), providing mobile access to existing applications to improve worker productivity (41 percent) and transforming business processes to improve operational efficiencies (30 percent). These companies have started their mobile journeys and are leveraging mobile as a way to combat economic challenges and ride what we all hope will be a return to a more profitable, business-friendly year.

Looking at mobility from a single perspective, as in mobilizing one app or giving mobile devices to a lone group, kills its potential. An end-to-end mobility strategy that addresses the entire life cycle from app development to deployment to support and training is a necessity for being better prepared and more competitive in 2012.

Truths About Mobile Business Apps

  1. Building mobile business apps is harder than building consumer apps.
  2. Mobile business apps leverage the features of the enterprise app that are most relevant to the mobile user. Not every feature and capability will be transferred to the mobile app.
  3. Mobile business apps are updated three to five times more often than traditional enterprise apps.
  4. Business apps often need offline data storage. More data means data syncs have to happen when there's a strong connection. One or two bars will not be enough.
  5. Mobile application management support can reduce the app onboarding process from days to minutes.
  6. Mobile application development platforms that support build once/deploy to many can reduce the development time for Android, BlackBerry and iOS platforms from months to weeks.
  7. In looking at plans for 2012, every new app deployment should have a mobile component.
  8. App development and app management must be tightly coupled to ensure success.

More Stories By Loren Corbridge

Loren Corbridge, Senior Manager for Enterprise Mobility at Sybase, an SAP Company, has more than a decade of experience in product management and enterprise mobility strategy. She works with tier-one customers and partners to develop successful business models for their mobility solutions. Leveraging this and other industry experience, she helps lead go-to-market strategy and operational enablement for enterprise mobility products at Sybase.

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