Magazine Article | March 27, 2012

The Dos And Don'ts Of Mobile Strategy

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Cindy Dubin, Field Technologies magazine

Conquering mobility means balancing business objectives with end user priorities.

While 89% of business leaders say they have a mobile strategy in place, according to Forrester Research, they are still in the early stages of development, and many lack the expertise necessary to execute those strategies. It can be perplexing to navigate the current mobile landscape of smartphones and tablets while also trying to understand the diversity and pace of change in mobile operating systems and the increasing availability and variation in applications. That’s why it’s important you take care in planning your mobile strategy, balancing corporate goals with field tech requirements.

“Mobility in the enterprise is no longer a convenience, but a necessity for driving business efficiencies and creating a competitive advantage,” says Gina Gallo, president and CEO of Stratix Corp.

Mobility Team Members Matter
Assembling a project team at the outset can keep the mobility strategy on track and transparent. At the helm should be a project manager who can identify metrics and measure the results. Also on the team should be an experienced systems integrator with field mobility knowledge. “The team and integrator should work jointly to tailor the mobile solution to the business’ specific needs, prioritize business requirements, and explore how current processes can be improved,” says Brent Felker, VP, field mobility practice, DecisionPoint Systems, Inc.

Also essential to the team are the end users who can provide insight and feedback and advocate the project among employees to garner project acceptance. “Familiarizing yourself with the data needs of field service workers goes a long way when making a mobile device decision,” says Roger Cresswell, director of industry marketing, field service at Intermec.

The user interface and adoption of the solution presents the biggest challenges to any mobile deployment. Anything that jeopardizes end user acceptance directly affects ROI. Therefore, companies need to provide the user with the right mobile tool for the job. “If the users perceive the device to be more trouble than it’s worth, then that is not a good ROI,” says Suhas Uliyar, chief solution architect for mobile computing, Motorola Solutions.

Can Your Mobile Device Adapt?
While rugged mobile devices have been successfully leveraged in the enterprise for more than two decades, some business processes do not require a rugged device. There are also ancillary requirements to consider, such as GPS tracking and route optimization, mobile payment processing, integrated scanners, mobile printing, long battery life, and image capture. No matter the feature, the device should be able to adapt to changes. After all, businesses change rapidly, and mobile deployments must keep pace. To keep pace, have an application management strategy that allows organizations to deploy incremental changes.

Organizations should consider operating systems that can accommodate hardware or software as new features and functions are introduced. “The days of deploying an application with support for only one operating system environment seem to be behind us,” says Uliyar. “But developing an application with support for multiple operating systems can dramatically increase the cost of development. For many enterprises, the best-in-class approach is to consider a standards-based open framework that builds an application once and can run anywhere without writing code to each framework.”

Enterprise applications also need to be agile. A successful mobile strategy involves provisioning enterprise applications for use on mobile devices. Thus, more field service organizations are opening up their enterprise systems for access from the field. “If a technician needs to view a technical bulletin on the repair of a piece of equipment, it needs to be in a format conducive to the mobile computer,” says Cresswell.

BYOD = Security Concerns
Employees are increasingly connecting their personal mobile devices to corporate networks. Thus, bring your own device (BYOD) is a current trend, but one that comes with security concerns.

The widespread adoption of smartphones has prompted hackers to try to exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems to get access to data stored on mobile devices. A recent Citrix survey indicated that 62% of businesses surveyed have no controls in place to manage mobile devices, and 45% of IT managers are unaware of all the devices being used, raising questions about security and privacy. “The BYOD concept is driving many companies to evaluate their mobile strategies,” says Cresswell. “While it may be an appealing low-cost solution, the long-term impact on field workforce productivity and associated support costs could be disastrous.”

Don’t Discount Outside Support
Identifying the IT department’s core competency and leveraging an end-to-end mobile solution partner is a good support hybrid model, says Gallo. Companies may want to own the data, but still rely on a partner’s expertise for industry best practices, mobile software development, and mobile technology support. For companies that do not have the resources to hire a partner to support complex mobile deployments, they can look to the cloud and use a mobility as a service (MaaS) model, which Gallo says allows companies to deliver mobile software, hardware, and support services through a subscription while managing the entire infrastructure of the mobile workforce.

Consider TCO Over Low Price
Cost is no longer a barrier to invest in mobility. The availability of high-powered, feature-rich devices and applications are a fraction of their former costs, allowing companies of any size to leverage mobility. But sometimes low cost can equate to low functionality.

“Too often, companies look at the up-front cost of a mobile device and select a low-cost or free device that is not up to the task,” says Felker. “And sometimes a lowcost option, particularly consumer devices, can reach end of life before the project is even fully deployed.”

Businesses must consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) over the life cycle of the device and the ROI for the business case. Just because a mobile strategy is sufficiently important and its benefits obvious, don’t assume that the mobile solution will support the business needs for the long haul. Focus on business objectives for only the next three to five years, and design a mobile strategy that meets those needs.