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Mobility Is the New Interaction Model

How to Move Beyond “Random Acts of Mobility” to an “Everywhere Access” Strategy

by Paul Ashwood | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 4

October 1, 2014

If you still think about mobility as simply mobile devices or technology, you are missing an opportunity. Read this article to learn how you can turn your mobility strategy into a mobile integration model, and improve your testing, implementation, and user experience methodologies.


Mobility is no longer an afterthought — it is an integral part of business. This is the result of the rapid change in expectations from both end users and developers regarding enterprise applications, spurred by technological changes and evolving demographics. But mobility is not just about a mobile device, or even about technology. Mobility is about a new interaction model. If you continue to think of mobility as a device, technology, or operating system, you are missing the opportunity at hand.

As more millennials come into the workforce and become your employees and customers, enterprise IT use is shifting from desktops to mobile access. Furthermore, millennials aren’t transitioning from desktop to mobile — they’ve only known life with mobile technology and are very comfortable interacting with their peers through mobile phones and tablets, so they assume they will be able to use capabilities like location awareness, instant access to new apps, and responsive design with enterprise IT as well. Whether you’re talking about engaging your customers or your internal business users, you must develop an application strategy that addresses this new interaction model.

If you continue to think of mobility as a device, technology, or operating system, you are missing the opportunity at hand.

Moving Forward

If you do not have a strategy in place, don’t panic. Most organizations are not all that far along in their mobile journey. Typically there are “random acts of mobility” taking place throughout the organization, but not an all-encompassing strategy. The marketing organization may be developing native mobile applications on one platform, while the HR organization is trying to mobilize an employee portal with a different technology, but there is no overall strategy or mindset. Based on our experience in conducting assessments of organizations’ maturity in these areas, HP can recommend some clear steps that nearly any organization can take to embark on a path to the right strategy and mindset.

An effective first step is to hold a mobile business transformation workshop. This brings together all the right stakeholders from across the enterprise in a forum that facilities an open dialog around mobility, with no Microsoft PowerPoint slides. Instead, the focus is on interactive panels and discussions around the mobile-specific goals of the entire organization.

The list of stakeholders invited to this workshop depends on who holds the budget for mobility projects, but typically it might involve the CMO, CSO, and CIO. One of the most important issues to discuss early on at these workshops is security, and this is a key reason why chief IT executives need to be in the room. Many internal teams from marketing to HR have concerns about the security of a mobile business initiative (for more information, see the sidebar “Security Is Priority #1”).

Security Is Priority #1

A key component of any mobile strategy has to be security. A thorough strategy must address security at all layers — the device layer, the application layer, and the infrastructure and network layers — and all the integration points between them.

Typically, when HP is involved in the design and architecture phase of a mobility project, we perform a thorough threat analysis to understand the application’s goals and potential risks. Then we can take the appropriate steps to address those threats in the apps we develop. For example, code scans can ensure there are no vulnerabilities within an app’s code and penetration tests let us see if we can exploit the application. When we deploy an app, we also apply security policies and perform continuous threat monitoring to identify any risks that arise after deployment.

Execution Without CAPEX Pain

If the transformation workshop is effective, the result should be a fairly good idea of the organization’s mobile business strategy roadmap and how it aligns with the overall business strategy. From there, the conversation can turn to the technology that best supports that strategy and meets all the individual constituents’ goals. For some companies, it might be simply deploying some commercial native apps or developing some responsive front ends. But for others, it could mean investing in a complete mobility platform, such as SAP Mobile Platform, to develop custom applications.

For many companies, however, investing in the platform and the talent to quickly develop the mobile apps identified is a real hurdle. Those organizations should consider an “as-a-service” model that allows them to get up and running with their mobile strategy more quickly.

For example, HP’s service is provisioned using HP Helion cloud technology and structured as an operational expense (OPEX)-based model, so there is no significant capital expenditure (CAPEX) required up front. Organizations can roll out apps to as many users as they want and pay a per-user, per-month price to speed the return on investment (ROI). In fact, HP even offers a “tablet-as-a-service” model that allows customers to roll out the apps on HP mobile devices with minimal up-front cost.

The flexibility of a cloud-based as-a-service model allows organizations to pilot and quickly deploy an entirely new platform that speeds both the market competitiveness and the ROI calculation.

Being smaller and task-oriented, mobile apps lend themselves very naturally to shorter, more agile development life cycles.

Testing as a Service

Newly developed mobile apps need to be tested for functional quality, usability, performance, and security. In fact, testing for mobile applications can be more time-consuming and costly than testing for on-premise applications because of the number of combinations of devices, operating systems, browsers, and networks. Also, with business users demanding the same level of quality in enterprise apps that they enjoy in their consumer apps, testing must be extensive enough to ensure newly developed apps meet the new level of expectations.

IT organizations typically require more resources during the most critical phases of app development than what they have in house. During these busy periods, IT executives often fear they have two (very costly) choices:

  • Ramp up their staff
  • Cut corners while testing

But there is a third option. More organizations are relying on third-party sources like HP to provide testing services when they are most needed. HP can automate some of the testing, so test cases can be written and cycled across a range of real devices and real carrier networks. The overall project cost is contained by leveraging this unit-based, consumption-driven testing-as-a-service solution only when it’s most needed.

The overall life cycle of an application changes significantly in a mobile environment. During big ERP implementation projects, development projects can be a year or two, but in today’s mobile-first environment, apps are much smaller and more task-oriented, so they are designed, developed, and deployed more frequently. At the same time they must be tested thoroughly, and require more security to meet the elevated expectations of today’s users.

Applying the same development cycles and methodologies used in the on-premise environment is a recipe for failure. Being smaller and task-oriented, mobile apps lend themselves very naturally to shorter, more agile development life cycles. The organizations that recognize these issues and secure the right resources won’t just catch up to their peers in the market — they will become the mobile leaders of tomorrow.

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Paul Ashwood
Paul Ashwood

Mobile Enterprise Services, Marketing

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