Mobile Solutions for Enterprise – Key Considerations

The mobile technology shift of the last decade has fundamentally altered our behavior.  Today, if we need to communicate urgently, we check our phone. If we’re checking our calendars or emails, we check our phone. If we are looking for answers, we check our phone!

The continued evolution of smartphones, tablets, IoT and connected smart devices has influenced our behavior in home life, shopping, commuting, and for many, while working.

The most obvious example of the evolution in working lives is the ‘always on’ connectivity to Email, chat and collaboration tools that has emerged through App ecosystems across the Enterprise organization.  This has changed the role of the office worker to extend their hours, but also has introduced a greater degree of flexibility and dynamism towards approaching work related activities, especially when dealing with communications and collaboration.

However, when relating to enterprise level utilization of connected devices and the corporate ecosystem, the story has only just begun. Companies are only just now beginning to realize the full potential of the equipping of staff with digital solutions that can be utilized when on the move.

Enterprise mobility solutions; if built, deployed and managed successfully, can have a profound impact on the ability of staff, especially remote and field based staff to collaborate and solve a variety of issues quickly.  Additionally, enterprise mobility solutions can enhance customer service and create the ability to respond with agility, contributing to improvements in productivity and efficiency between staff and across the business.

To be in a position to fully realize these benefits, a number of key considerations must be made, and the current technology stack and IT delivery capabilities of the business need to be assessed. It is no surprise that the more ‘core’ capabilities such as email and internal communication are more easily replicable across platforms, as these solutions are both already normalized across the business, and rely on less intricate data based interactions, and necessity for real-time insights across the organization.

To fully embrace and create empowerment through enterprise mobility solutions, and add real value across the business, the underlying technology stack of the business must be ready to provide real-time capabilities across devices for internal staff. Often times, the creation of such capabilities for customer facing solutions can be leveraged, and it is no surprise that B2C and customer facing companies regularly lead with customer facing Apps and solutions first, and later leverage their technology investments to add on custom employee facing solutions later.

Key Considerations for Enterprise Mobility Solutions

1. Hardware

Depending on current corporate policies and approaches, the mix of supplied devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) should be assessed. In most enterprise situations, providing dedicated phone devices to staff with governance guidelines is now widely practiced. The lines become less blurred when approaching Tablets and other connected devices, as these tend to be more situationally focused, though similar policies should be established and managed related to professional usage. Typically, there is also a preference towards iPhone over Android for enterprise business usage, due to the more stringent security standards that exist over apple devices, combined with (at least, in US and EU markets), a strong familiarity to Apple’s OS.  In a Global business with multiple operating centers, there is often the added complexity of different businesses aligning to different platforms (ex: Android is overwhelmingly popular (and also cheaper) in certain European markets, and is the defacto choice for many businesses for these reasons.

Important Hardware Questions:

  • Who is my current provider for employee mobile hardware?
    Often, this is handled by an extension of an existing telecoms support firm, and is handled at a national level in many companies, rather than globally administered.
  • To what degree do we have standardization across the workforce when it comes to hardware?
    This has implications on enterprise App design and has implications on deployment, troubleshooting, and other factors.
  • How do we manage hardware related issues (device failure, upgrades, cracked screens, etc)?
    As an organization scales their enterprise mobile solution, these needs will have to be assessed and managed. Frequently, hardware related issues resolution is wrapped into the Harrdware solution provider’s terms

2. Mobile Device Management (MDM) Approach

MDM Solutions enable corporations to manage app availability, functionality restrictions and other features. Software offerings such as MobileIron are used by businesses large and small to govern access to relevant Apps, and also for handling other admin tasks related to enterprise wide mobility. These same tools can be used to ensure customer facing apps are installed and updated on Employees’ devices, limiting the number of bugs and issues reported directly from field staff (as App updating can be mandated automatically, rather than being user administered). Additionally, these tools can be used to deliver and update internally used Apps directly, circumventing the public Android and iOS App Stores.

Important MDM Questions:

  • There are many important questions for selecting an MDM provider. A great article by Information Week covers a lot of the essentials, available here.

3. Support Infrastructure

Smart organizations have invested resources into developing their IT architecture to support certain key enterprise wide mobility necessities to be developed. These include:

  • Single Sign-On across the internal product suite for staff.
  • MDM (Mobile Device Management) policy and tools implemented.
  • API Ecosystem and Gateway platform to enable interaction with key business process from external applications.

Without the listed items above, the ability of an organization to develop internally built or custom enterprise mobile tools is limited. For those wishing to still pursue advanced enterprise mobility solutions, multiple options are still available, but limitations exist. Options that exist include:

  • Limit enterprise apps to commonly used 3rd party integrations (ex: Salesforce CRM App, Yammer, Outlook, SharePoint, OneNote, etc).
  • Utilize “App wrappers” over custom websites to facilitate functionality. This lacks the dynamism of utilizing dedicated Apps & API connectivity, though with smarter web features (AMP, Node, React & other technology advancements), the development gap is closing.

4.  App Development

For those who are in a solid position regarding their IT infrastructure, and wish to drive capability enhancement through approaching enterprise mobility development, much like feature scoping for external audiences, a feature exploration & scoping phase must take place. The biggest business value opportunities (whether reducing friction, unlocking new capabilities or combination of both) should then be prioritized for development. If staff are using a combination of Android and iOS devices, and it is prohibitively expensive to either develop for both platforms, or normalize the device usage to one platform, Apps coded in Xamarin (Microsoft’s App development language), can be successfully ported to both iOS and Android as a cost effective option.  Xamarin also enables rapid prototyping as it has strong asset libraries and a set of tools that make early prototyping relatively easy to implement.

5.  Rollout & Launch

For those who have Apps to share with the business, there are distinct advantages that mobile and tablet solutions have over other options. They’re extremely tactile, portable, and most employees are now savvy to using such technologies as the vast majority of the population uses SmartPhones in their day to day lives (This is especially pertinent for EU, NA & S.E Asia). In addition, the functionalities being rolled out are rarely a direct immediate replacement for existing other functionality (ex: Swapping existing P.O.S. for a Tablet solution). This reduces the criticality related to rollout compared to some other core systems.

The same tools that are used to manage enterprise feature availability (ex: MobileIron), can be used to roll out trial versions of Apps. Alternatively, dedicated testing tools such as HockeyApp can also be used for a wide pool of users. The key to rollout is ensuring that all kinks are worked out, and that the product will scale successfully across the organization, and that expectations, training and all other relevant factors are clear and managed.

6.  Impact & Results

Unleashing new tools through mobility channels can have a profound impact on the ability of employees to both enhance their service to customers, and also provide an opportunity for a platform with rapid incremental improvements delivered through native feedback mechanisms.  Many legacy systems such as P.O.S. systems, reservation booking systems for airlines, and similar, have remained with limited enhancements due to their criticality in the value chain.  By creating additional tools that can enhance capabilities, these can create both failsafe options, potentially ease burden, and simplify processes and interactions that have previously often been cumbersome and difficult to learn.

Employees who are empowered through enterprise mobile solutions typically are:

  • More knowledgeable and capable
  • Better facilitated to react to critical business situations (ex: Important messaging communication via SMS or push to handle immediate issues).
  • More comfortable embracing the technology advancements being made by the business

Although the barriers can seem high to executing a corporation wide Mobile Device Management policy, a systematic approach and commitment towards the end goals will yield great benefits, and empower a technology enabled workforce to add superlative value to the customer journey.

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