There has been a trend over the last decade or so for IT to take more control of the reigns and dictate what is available to their customers (e.g., employees), but with the explosion of mobility, this trend is facing an uphill battle. According to a recent survey by app central, “68% of respondents indicated that their organization had made one or more custom mobile apps available to them.” This number alone shows the prevalence of mobility in today’s enterprise, but the more interesting, as frankly more frightening to IT, is that according to 67% of respondents, the budget funding those mobile apps was coming from Business units, marketing or executive leadership. Now in the time of restrictive IT budgets this may seem like a godsend, but what it is showing is that the business is moving forward with or without IT and when IT does not control the budget for the app development you can be sure they aren’t controlling the roadmap for that app development.
As I’ve said many times, the onslaught of mobility is consumer driven and the business has closer ties to the consumer than IT. With the myriad of processes around support, security and deployment that have been implemented over the years to control application development, IT has grown further and further removed from the true end customer (employees). This de-linking of the developer from the consumer has caused apps to become more and more industrial in nature with focus on function well over form. If you are in a large IT organization, this is nothing new, your business partners are always clamoring for more functionality and ease of use, however, they were, in times past, really at the whim and will of the IT org because of the complexity of the applications. Now that we’ve moved into this era of task oriented mobile apps, many of those front-end complexities are vanishing and the business it taking its turn getting revenge. Much like the beginning of the web business units are finding outside organizations that can quickly and easily create simple apps that connect into the larger IT infrastructure. This is why it is so important for IT teams to have a plan as to how to handle this new level of demand. It’s a base change in the way organizations do business and the trick is to not put up barriers, but to have IT become a facilitator who can guide these groups in developing apps in the proper fashion.
When setting up a strategy to handle this new, too many, way of doing things, I offer up 5 basics steps:
- Setup a core team – This is not going to be a single project that can be setup with a basic development team. You have to understand that many different groups are going to be developing mobile apps for many different applications. If you look at your enterprise as a whole, you can bet that a large portion of your apps will have some sort of mobile component within the next 2-3 years. Because of this you need to create an overall steering committee made up of members from different areas of IT and business that can guide the development teams throughout the dev and deployment process.
- Build the infrastructure – You need to have a centralized core infrastructure that can handle the deployment and security of the apps being deployed in your enterprise. Whether your build this yourself or take and off the shelf MDM or MAM, you need to be sure that you have something that all developers can plug into and a back-end that can expand as your mobile apps expand.
- Create the standards – Standards are key as you will have different teams in different locations developing for different needs. Having a core set of standards for development, support, UI and security will allow you to keep control over what’s being developed and how.
- Integrate support and security – Support and security are integral to any mobility program. Representatives from these organizations must be part of the core team, and must be involved in development of the standards, as well as overseeing of all app deployments.
- Start small and grow – Don’t try to boil the ocean. This goes with the deployment of your first apps in the mobile space as well as every team’s app deployment. Start with a few core apps that work closely with your steering committee. Find a small set of tasks within those enterprise apps that make the most sense for users (here’s where your business counterparts are key) and develop those in the mobile space. You can always expand the functionality of the mobile app later.
With all of the key elements in place and a core set of apps deployed and accepted by the employees, it’s time to let those businesses work with their teams (internal or external) to create. This should be an open community that plays on the cutting edge and with the right participation, standards and infrastructure, you will surely be successful.