Don’t build for mobile: 6 steps down a better path

Few industries have grown up at the blistering pace as mobile. That pace drives a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). And anytime there is FUD, you can rest assured opportunists lurk at every corner.

Witness the explosion of acronyms for mobile that were born in the last few years funded largely by VC’s, CMO’s and validated by less than magical, magic quadrants. They include BYOD, COPE, CoIT, MDM, MAM, MCAPs, MEAPs, MAPM plus terms like Containers and Wrappers. Let’s explore these fragmented if not painful product sets and their deployment theories, then discuss six steps that may guide you on a more extensible path.

A little history

People have devices at work that are either owned by the company (COPE) or by the employee (BYOD). So many of these consumer devices made their way into companies that most felt that IT groups were being consumerized, so a new term was CoIT which stands for the consumerization of IT.

Naturally, IT felt the pressure to “allow” employees to use their devices for something without giving up control. That something was to replace Blackberry handsets and thus extending email, calendar, and contact access onto these new, untested devices with a new control agent called MDM – Mobile device management. Others argued the security issue was not about device control. Instead, the focus should be on information management and control, so MIM, mobile information management, was born.

But of course, sales forces were upset because they no longer had access to their CRM and a few other utility apps. At the time, consumer app developers were leading the charge with a write once, use anywhere scheme called MCAP (mobile consumer application platform. As enterprises started to visit the problem of building and deploying apps, a derivative was born; MEAP – mobile enterprise application development platform, hailed as better meeting the requirements of business unplugged. MEAPs themselves come in two basic flavors: full stack and short stack solutions.

After living with the duality of MCAPs and MEAPs for 18 months or so, MADPs (mobile application development platforms) were born addressing all types of apps including B2E, B2C, and B2B. And as you may have guessed, that meant a new management platform was needed – MAPM the mobile application platform manager was born.

Of course, outside the instilled hype created by some marketing quadrants, few, if any of these companies make a profit as earned revenue is barely able to sustain new development and marketing. And so consolidation began – in three ways. First, many of these engineering experiments masquerading as companies went belly up. Second, some companies were acquired to enlarge the portfolio of more endowed companies, while others raised more capital to expand their portfolio. All this led to the birth of what we now call EMM or enterprise mobility management. The names may change, but the results do not – everybody is busy – crazy hectic busy, but nobody is making any money.

Now mind you, while all of this was going on, we have standards like HTML5 and some scripting languages and native development tools. Adding to the complexity we’re asked to build Web apps, Native apps and Hybrid apps. And of course, the OS vendors / handset manufacturers keep adding API’s that break lots of stuff. Even tried and true network access companies are not immune to revise and extend their product suites given the birth of on demand VPN’s (virtual personal network) and Access Identity Management (AIM)

Is it a wonder that some firms predict that the demand to build for mobile will outpace available talent?

How to stay ahead of the curve

I could go on, but you get the picture. As a CIO, or LOB (line of business) head, here are some recommendations to help you navigate the ever changing and immature landscape we call mobile.

1. Don’t build specifically for mobile. Instead define/refine/build your end user computing (EUC) strategy. Think of mobile is a key component of your end user computing (EUC) strategy. Too many companies make the mistake of partitioning mobile onto its an independent path. According to a Sepharim Group Mobile-IQ survey for the first half of 2015, 48 percent of Fortune 5000 companies lack a mobile strategy. I predict that far fewer have integrated mobile into a more holistic EUC strategy. As wearbles and IoT rise to have more impact on the enterprise, your forethought to broaden your view of EUC will pay dividends.

2. Define your desired business outcomes. The competitive environment we face is fierce. And in the face of budget demands to fight rising cyber attacks funding requests for innovation are under more scrutiny than ever. Your plans to reframe and innovate your EUC are more likely to get funded if they tie to succinct objectives that drive business impact.

3. Incorporate a mobile-first philosophy. Mobile-first isn’t about devices. Mobile first is about architecting your information resources, policy, identity and access management to be agile and extensible. While we’re on the topic of the enterprise agility, we need to start thinking more about governance and compliance agility. We can’t have one without the other.

4. Stage your mobile and EUC initiatives into three groups:

a. Near-term: low-risk initiatives that may not be sexy but positively impact a large employee audience.

b. Stage bets: higher risk initiatives that raise the impact of high revenue producers

c. Digitally disruptive ideas that completely resign how you do business.

5. Decide if you should build or buy. My recommendation is that IT should not offer a service that is more expensive internally than in the open market on a risk-adjusted basis.

6. Worry most about the user experience, worry less about controlling devices or their ownership.

Finally, if you decide to get married to a mobile acronym, be prepared to get divorced faster than a shot gun wedding. We’ll talk more about mobile platform trends and directions in a future post. In the meantime, let me know what you think on Twitter. I’m @bobegan. Copy @DellPowerMore, and we’ll continue the conversation.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

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