Evolving Your Mobile Strategy

Maribel Lopez

Mobility provides the foundation for a company’s digital transformation efforts. Yet the mobile strategies of the past won’t be enough to drive innovation moving forward. Early mobile efforts focused on device procurement and management strategies. More recently, many companies have shifted their focus to application delivery and security strategies, but most of these applications simply replicate what we have today.

Instead of recreating PC apps, companies need to build new workflows that take advantage of mobile device features such as sensors, input mechanisms such as pens, and rich messaging communications. The difference between a mobile and a PC app should be nonexistent within five years. This means a company’s mobile strategy should focus on building apps that run seamlessly across multiple device platforms.

These apps should provide contextual workflows that deliver employees and customers the right information, at the right time, on their device of choice. Rather than create micro-apps, new mobile-enabled applications should deliver entire workflows. These new mobile apps may need to connect to data that resides within multiple applications inside the company and at third-party sites outside of the company (such as weather and traffic). By combining data from multiple apps into a usable mobile-friendly interface, consumers and employees will be able to fully complete a transaction on the go.

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Finally, the next generation of applications will use analytics and machine learning to adjust the information delivered based on context. Eventually, these applications should predict the required information that enables a user to take the next best action. Effectively, business leaders should be working with IT to build business processes that are contextual, learning, and predictive.

What’s important in a mobile strategy over the next few years?

Given the rapidly changing business landscape, a company must evolve its mobile strategy. First, IT must add mobility as a feature requirement for every technology purchase. If a company is purchasing new software, mobile access should be a key part of the RFP process. For existing systems of record and engagement, the vendor’s application should look and act like a native mobile app with similar navigation.

It should also use native device features such as GPS and image capture. To do this, the vendor should provide mobile versions of key features such as workflow approvals, information look-ups, and self-service tasks. IT should also expect the vendor to provide tools, such as software developer kits (SDKs), that allow IT to build new custom applications. This is why enterprise software vendors such as Apple and SAP and SAP are working closely to create richer mobile experiences with the SAP HANA Cloud Platform SDK for iOS.

New mobile-enabled applications should be adaptable and flexible. This means a mobile strategy should define how applications and services will respond based on various conditions. Adaptable means the application will surface different information based on context such as device type (including phone, watch, and tablet), context of the business of process, and time of day. For example, if a manager needs to approve a materials purchase by 5 p.m., the app should surface a timely alert and directly connect the user to the outstanding approval. In an another instance, the same application could automatically request additional authentication if the user is logging into their application from an unsecured wireless network or switch to hands-free voice mode if the user wants to access records while driving.

What should you do now?

To create apps that deliver competitive advantage, line-of-business executives need to work with IT to define what information within today’s application is most useful, what information is missing, and how the data presentation should change as the user moves between a desktop, smartphone, and wearable device.

The market is changing quickly. Business leaders need applications and business processes that can change without long development cycles. As part of the new mobile strategy, IT should construct applications as a composable set of services that can be assembled in various ways. For example, a mobile commerce application has multiple modules within the shopping cart, such as customer information, order items, shipping, and tax calculation. If the system is modular, the company can easily change various parts of the application without long development cycles.

Additionally, the business can mix and match application functions it has built internally with items that can be purchased from a Platform as a Service (PaaS). For example, if the company has a modular commerce app and decides to sell its goods internationally, it could replace its domestic tax calculator service with an international calculator from a PaaS provider.

Companies that embrace mobility for digital transformation will experience new opportunities that include improved efficiencies, one-to-one relationships, and real-time business intelligence. All of the basic technology tools a company needs to mobile-enable its business are available today. To build a successful mobile strategy, business leaders need to define what data and actions are most important and work with IT to construct new mobile and cloud-aware applications based on those workflows.

Learn about SAP’s mobility strategy with the Apple and SAP partnership.

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Maribel Lopez

About Maribel Lopez

Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm. She's also the co-founder of the Mobile Research Council, a community of business and technical leaders in Fortune 1000 companies focused on driving innovation and business value with mobile, IoT, and analytics. Maribel is the author of the Wiley book "Right-Time Experiences" and a contributor to Forbes. Her clients range from start-ups to global firms, including 5 of the Fortune 20. Prior to founding Lopez Research, Maribel gained her expertise by working at Motorola, International Data Corp., Shiva Corporation and Forrester Research. Follow her on Twitter @MaribelLopez and on Forbes.