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Unwire Your Enterprise and Unleash Business Growth

by Dr. Raj Nathan | SAPinsider

October 1, 2011

It is essential that today's businesses be able to make the best use of their corporate data — anytime, anywhere. Setting up an enterprise-wide mobile strategy for employees means the difference between leading the pack and lagging behind. In this article, you'll get tips and tricks for setting up a mobile strategy that will enable you to gain real-time access to critical business information, increase employee productivity, and improve customer interactions.
 

In today’s fickle economy, maximizing resources and being able to compete effectively in a global market are imperative. Making the best use of your corporate data — and being able to do so at any time and in any place — can mean the difference between leading and trailing the pack. That’s why mobility is currently such a hot topic — it enables that constant access.

A study from Aberdeen Group shows that 58% of companies are pressured by the workforce to leverage mobility’s productivity gains for a broad employee base.1 Meanwhile, the University of Texas at Austin found that, if an average Fortune 1000 business increased the usability of its data — that is, how concise and consistently the data is presented and how easily it can be manipulated — by 10%, it could increase annual revenues by US$2.01 billion.2

Companies that embrace these business realities by setting up an enterprise-wide mobile strategy for employees — from those in field service delivery and repair, to operations, marketing, sales, and customer service, to executive and middle management — gain real-time access to critical business information, increase employee productivity, and improve customer interactions.

A Mobile Strategy: Not Just a Recommendation, But an Inevitability

Even if you don’t have an enterprise-wide mobile strategy in place at your company, mobile activity is widely present among your employees — and not just for personal use. According to IDC, a significant portion of employees use their mobile devices for business.3 For instance:

  • 69% of information workers use smartphones for business use
  • 13% of information workers use tablets for business use

The reality is that mobile devices are already a part of your organization’s business processes; having a codified strategy enables you to effectively manage the use of mobile devices among your employees, while taking advantage of the opportunities they offer for enhancing business growth and gaining a competitive edge.

IBM recently surveyed more than 3,000 global CIOs and learned that 75% of them plan to emphasize mobility initiatives in the coming year.4 And according to a Kelton Research survey,5 nearly 38% of enterprises expect to support five or more mobile platforms or operating systems (see Figure 1), while 65% of respondents said they will deploy five or more mobile applications this year, with 21% deploying 20 applications or more (see Figure 2).

Given the rise in mobile usage and the pervasive presence of mobile devices within the enterprise, ad hoc tactics of implementing mobile solutions are not optimal. Instead, you need a comprehensive strategy that leverages the technology capabilities available today and matches them to the needs and capabilities of the enterprise.

Figure 1 38% of surveyed enterprises expect to support five or more mobile platforms or operating systems by the end of 2011
Figure 2 65% of surveyed enterprises expect to implement five or more mobile applications by the end of 2011

4 Steps to a Successful Mobile Strategy

The business growth that enterprise mobility can offer depends on the implementation of an effective mobile strategy. This strategy should consider, and even increase, security, integrity of business-critical functions, employee productivity, and the ability for mobile consumers to dynamically interact with the company. There are four steps you can take to ensure you are on the path to the success:

  1.  Form a core team.
  2.  Define security measures.
  3.  Select the right mobile platform.
  4.  Decide on the first set of mobile applications to develop and implement.

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

Step #1: Form a Core Team

To develop a mobile strategy that can meet global business demands, companies must first evaluate their core competencies, internal skill sets, and existing infrastructures. A core team of 5-10 individuals should make these assessments, beginning with the initial building blocks of the mobile strategy, which I will outline later. This team will determine the appropriate staff and budget resources that the project will require. The team should have expertise in the following areas:

  • Security and device management
  • Software development kits and middleware
  • Server optimization
  • Functional business processes and applications

Step #2: Define Security Measures

Protecting the mobile enterprise is paramount, because security breaches undermine a company’s ability to operate and damage customer confidence. There are four main areas of vulnerability in mobile implementations:

  • Unauthorized access to a device when it is lost or stolen
  • Unauthorized data access by an authorized user of a device
  • Risks arising from combining personal and work use in a single device
  • Protection of corporate data in the device

To guard the enterprise against mobility-related risks and vulnerabilities, the core team needs to establish security policies, such as requiring strong passwords and whole-device encryption, and evaluate mobile device management technologies to match the organization’s security needs — for example, using the Sybase Afaria solution to secure and manage mobile devices and applications.

Step #3: Select the Right Mobile Platform

The core team must select a general-purpose mobile enterprise platform that can meet all of the enterprise’s essential business needs — and can scale to meet any needs that might arise in the future. The platform should:

  • Connect the company’s data stores, mobile services, applications, and business processes to a heterogeneous set of mobile devices.
  • Enable the team to create new applications independent of the application paradigm and architecture. This way, developers can be productive and build apps without worrying about the inner workings of multiple platforms.
  • Provide middleware services that connect applications to typical heterogeneous environments consisting of databases, web services, and software applications. Furthermore, the platform should be able to control and protect corporate data through device and server management and security.

The Sybase Unwired Platform is unique because it meets all of these requirements and, in doing so, provides the functionality developers need to write enterprise-class mobile applications in a secure and scalable manner.

Step #4: Decide on the First Set of Mobile Applications to Develop and Implement

Of course, choosing the right platform alone does not guarantee success — the applications that you develop and deploy on this platform are also crucial. Before building or buying any mobile applications, your core team must answer three critical questions:

  • Who is the target audience for this application? Whether the audience is consumers, task workers, knowledge workers, or executives, organizations must decide and prioritize who the applications need to reach. For example, an executive might need a mobile dashboard tool that will provide a clear view of the business information that’s so important to decision making. A field worker, on the other hand, might need an application that connects to the back-end system so he can see exactly what a certain customer wants or needs.
  • Where are the biggest rewards? Mobilize the applications that let you boost market share, engage customers more efficiently, or slash operating costs. For example, a consumer packaged goods company may give precedence to mobile retail execution applications, which ensure that their customers enjoy a uniform and pleasing brand experience through the right promotional material, banner, pricing, product placement on the shelf, and so forth — all via mobile. 
  • What staff and budget resources do you have in-house? The answer to this question has a significant bearing on which applications and associated architectures to tackle first. For example, if your talent base has web development skills, but not device platform management skills, then your company might start by building mobile applications on browser-based and container-based architectures. In addition, the core team will need to determine if the right server and back-end skills and functionality — such as access control APIs, mobile client databases for offline use, connection management, version control, data synchronization, ERP-database-business application integration software, logging and reporting, and data security software — are in place to support a mobile implementation.

Regardless of the answers to these questions, be sure to keep two considerations in mind when choosing which mobile applications to implement:

  • Strive for some quick successes upon venturing into mobile applications. Implementing a complex application that consumes tremendous resources and time may be unwise right off the bat. To help prove the value of your mobile strategy, aim for low-hanging fruit first.
  • Consider the value provided to various business stakeholders funding the development. Mobile application development, not unlike other types of development, involves resource commitment from multiple stakeholders. It is vital to ensure value is provided to all, so that all stakeholders score a tangible ROI.

The Time to Act Is Now

Mobility is the new business reality. Your con-sumers and employees are demanding interaction with you via mobile devices. And your competitors are implementing the mobile technologies needed to transform the business. If you choose to lead rather than lag behind, act now. And act strategically, not tactically.

For more information, visit www.sap.com/solutions/mobility.

Dr. Raj Nathan (raj.nathan@sybase.com) is a corporate officer at SAP and heads the Mobile Applications Group, which develops new, innovative mobile applications, extending the company’s leadership in enterprise mobility. He is also Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Sybase, responsible for setting the technology direction and all marketing initiatives for Sybase.

1 Aberdeen Group, “Enterprise Mobility Management 2011: Mobility Becomes Core IT” by Andrew Borg (March 2011). [back]

2 The University of Texas at Austin, “Measuring the Business Impacts of Effective Data” (2010). [back]

3 The IDC Information Worker Custom Survey, sponsored by Unisys (May 2011). [back]

4 IBM, “Insights from the 2011 IBM Global CIO Study“ (May 2011). [back]

5 Kelton Research (January 2011). [back]

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