If you are responsible for creating an enterprise mobility strategy in your organisation, you may find this decision framework helpful in creating a strategy for success. There are early adopters who have walked this path, there are others who are in the midst of a roll-out and many who are at the drawing board, chalking out a plan. Enterprise mobility is a journey, not a destination and our experience of working with various organisations at different stages of this journey, have prompted us to create a set of guidelines to create an effective strategy.

The guidelines are formulated as questions, which on answering would give you a clear understanding and help you set the ground rules for your enterprise mobility agenda.

1. Do you need to support BYOD?

There are various factors that help you decide if you need to support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Factors that favor a BYOD approach are

  • All your users have smartphones
  • All your users have mobile operating systems that your mobile application supports i.e. Android, Blackberry, iOS or Windows Mobile
  • The mobile applications you intend to deploy have no interfaces with external hardware like thermal printers or card readers.
  • The mobile application does not use advanced mobile functionality like gyroscopes or a high resolution camera to achieve important functionality.
  • The mobile application user experience is independent of form factor.

2. Should the app be native, HTML or hybrid?

This topic has been debated and discussed in many articles on the web and seems to have no definitive answer. There were times when native was preferred, which was later replaced by fanatic support for HTML and then came in the hybrid age. Each approach has its pros and cons and the current verdict is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” and is dependent on business needs, app requirements, developer skills, development timelines among other factors.

Factors that favor a native app are:

  • Speed and performance are of utmost importance to the app
  • The app includes device specific features
  • The app relies on offline data to function in areas where the network is poor
  • You have a mobile enterprise application / development framework to support multiple platforms

3. What is your plan for the Big Data that results from mobile apps?

You have launched your mobile application and to your expectation, the users are thrilled and using the app on a regular basis. Based on this success, you have now taken many such new initiatives to mobilize processes at your enterprise. Before you realize, the data that results from these apps are now creating a problem, a Big Problem. You are running out of bandwidth for your business operations, your available storage is depleting by the minute and your data retention storage is insufficient to manage this flood of text, image, audio and video data.

You need to plan for the following:

  • Bandwidth. Data usage when exchanging information between the mobile app and your back-end applications can surprise you.
  • Storage capacity. Some enterprise are now generating 40GB data daily from a collection of 25 mobile apps in their enterprise.
  • Data retention. You need to define clear data retention policies to avoid data duplication and compliance to governing laws.
  • Compression. Compression of rich media to save resources without comprising quality is an absolute necessity.
  • Analysis. You have gigabytes of data pouring in every day. How are you going to analyse this data to provide useful metrics.

 4. What are your security requirements?

Data security is key to any enterprise. With mobility, you are permitting enterprise data to move outside the fences of your organization. There are various layers at which this data needs to be secured.

  • Device. Does your app require that data stored on the device be encrypted? Do you want to prevent sharing of confidential data? Do you need an MDM (Mobile Device Management) or a MAM (Mobile Application Management) tool to ensure that you have control over the data and device? Do you need silos to differentiate between personal and enterprise data?
  • Transmission. When information is exchanged between the device and the back-end server, do you need to transmit over an encrypted layer like SSL? Do you face a Man-In-The-Middle threat?
  • Storage. Is your information secure at the back-end, which may be on the cloud?
  • Integration. Is your information transfer secure between the mobile back-end and legacy systems that have been integrated?
  • Authentication. How is your authentication mechanism going to work? Single Sign On or custom authentication?
  • Authorization. How will you decide the privileges and access to data and operations on the mobile application?

You could look at certifications like ISO or OWASP to ensure that you are following industry best practices to secure your application and data.

 5. What are your infrastructure requirements?

Have you planned for network and infrastructure requirements? How many users are expected to use the mobile application and at what frequency. Do your users have sufficient mobile internet to use the application or do you need to have in-built offline capabilities in the application? Answer the below questions to design your mobile application and network infrastructure.

  • What kind of mobile internet is available with your target users i.e. GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 4G?
  • Will your users have consistent mobile internet when travelling?
  • Do you need to consider alternate modes of communication like SMS, when your user is in poor / no network areas?
  • What kind of bandwidth would you require at the back-end? Do you anticipate large data volumes due to image / video submissions or would it be more textual?

6. Is the User Experience (U/X) well thought of?

Gone are the days when you could get away with bad UI / UX for your enterprise apps. Consumer apps have raised the benchmark of U/X for the end users. Most users would be using at least 5-10 mobile apps and would expect a similar user experience, if not better. The success of your mobile application largely depends on the U/X factor.

  • Would you design your app separately for mobile phones and tablets?
  • Would you focus on contextual data for relevance of information?
  • Would you keep the user input to a minimum?
  • Would you maintain the native experience of the host operating system?
  • Is your app attractive enough to entice usage?
  • Have you designed your app for mobile or are you just mirroring your web application?

7. What are your integration requirements?

How will data be exchanged between your legacy applications i.e. ERP, CRM, HRM and the mobile application. Do you need an orchestration layer that transforms this data between the mobile app and your legacy systems? Integration requirements need to be detailed using the below guidelines.

  • Is your mobile app integration, platform dependent?
  • Do you need to build service layers for your legacy systems?
  • Do you need workflows within your mobile back-end system?
  • What are the various modes of integration you need to support i.e. REST, Web Service, WCF, Database or FTP?
  • Do you need an orchestration layer to loosely couple your mobile app strategy from your legacy systems?

8. How do you plan to test your mobile application?

You have created an awesome mobile application. How will you test it against the variety of devices available in the market, if your application supports multiple devices and platforms? There are various levels of testing you need to perform before publishing your mobile application.

  • Device testing on how your app works on different form factors.
  • Platform testing to ensure consistency across different platforms.
  • Performance testing for a responsive experience.
  • Memory testing to ensure that your app does not have memory leaks.
  • Battery usage to ensure that your app does not kill the phone with high battery usage.
  • Load testing for high volumes of data both on the mobile and the server.

9. How are you going to publish your app?

Depending on the mobile operating system, you intend to support, you may want to take different routes to make your app available to your end users. If your target operating systems are iOS and Windows, you can publish your app on the respective stores are deploy an enterprise app store from which you publish mobile applications. Either way, you need to prepare yourself for this. If you plan to support Android, you could make your app available on the Google Play Store or just have a download to the mobile application hosted on your enterprise portal.

  • Will you publish on respective app stores for each mobile platform?
  • Will you setup an enterprise app store?
  • What kind of analytic do you require? No. of Downloads? Distribution of Operating Systems? Firmware Information?

Ensure that you have the relevant analytic tools to monitor app downloads and usage.

10. How will you support your users and maintain the application?

Support for mobile applications is very different from traditional application support. You cannot always physically walk up to the user to experience first hand the problems faced. There are a lot of problems that result from environment issues i.e. device, network etc.

  • What are your various levels of support i.e. Application usage, Application configuration and Application enhancement?
  • What are your service level agreements and response times?
  • Do you have help / training to assist the end users when using the application?
  • Do you have a knowledge repository for commonly faced issues? App install issues, memory issues etc?
  • Have you factored time for skilled dedicated resources for Application configuration and enhancements?
  • How will you manage a new platform or device that is gaining popularity in the market?

This article is a result of ongoing discussions with mobility experts, experienced CIO’s who have successfully rolled out mobile applications for their enterprise and division heads who have stumbled in their mobility roll-out plans. We use these valuable inputs to shape our enterprise mobility platform, mobiliteam™ over releases and thought it would be useful to share this information with those we have not spoken to yet. If I have missed out any important points that need to be factored, when planning for an Enterprise Mobility Strategy, feel free to add your comments.