When deciding how to mobilize their business, CIOs often find themselves at a crossroads: Should they implement a mobile extension to the CRM application used by field service or sales, or should they set up a mobility platform that will support multiple initiatives across the enterprise?
The path chosen often depends on the CIO's own perspective and the overall business objectives. For example, if mobility is viewed as a key part of the company's long-term vision, then it would make sense to consider a platform approach that aligns with the technology mission. However, a short-term project for a demanding business unit might require a targeted mobile solution to deliver fast results.
The truth is, it doesn't matter which way a CIO decides to go. Many organizations start with a tactical solution and build up to a platform. Others start with the platform as the foundation upon which they can build solutions for different workgroups. One thing is clear, though: Companies traveling along tactical road will soon find themselves at a roadblock unless their mobile strategy is supported by a platform mindset and view into the future.
Left to Our Own Devices
Until recently, it was common to deploy a one-off mobile solution without involvement from the technology department (e.g., a workgroup uses a wireless device that connects to a single back-end CRM system). This is no longer practical nor cost-effective for various reasons.
As the "arms race" of mobile devices rages on, increasingly powerful devices are crowding the market. The iPhone is an example of how a consumer device infiltrated the enterprise from the outside in. Moreover, it changed how technology views the potential of mobile applications in the organization.
In addition, competition is fierce as other devices based on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm, and Android platforms build functionality and woo developers, making it difficult for enterprises to standardize on a single device. Nevertheless, market standardization may actually be counterproductive because different workers require different features. The freedom to choose the right device for the job ensures high end-user adoption, satisfaction, and return on investment.
Not Your Dad's Mobile
Other factors causing CIOs to think strategically about mobility include faster networks and improved device memory, storage, and battery life -- all of which allow mobile applications to do much more. Instead of connecting one device to one system, mobility is multifaceted, involving complex interplay among devices, systems, business processes, and complementary technologies like wireless e-mail, instant messaging (IM), and location-based services (LBS). Today's mobile applications are more powerful than ever, providing a simplified way to connect and interact with people and information.
The Platform Principle
For leading organizations, mobility is more than just a project -- it's a technology revolution. What makes mobility truly compelling is its proven value. Since first-generation mobile applications, developments have resulted in measurable benefits such as cost savings and increased productivity. A recent study, "Mobilizing CRM Delivers Competitive Advantage to European Organizations," conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Research In Motion (RIM), found that more than half of the respondents previously lost sales or service opportunities because the information they needed was stuck back at the office.
Considering the business benefits, CIOs can't afford to take an ad-hoc approach to mobility. A strategy to mobilize the entire enterprise is the only way to achieve broad benefits and economy of scale. Unfortunately, technology teams often lack the resources necessary to build and manage mobility across the enterprise. JupiterResearch, which was acquired in 2008 by Forrester Research, reports that mobile developers spend 20 percent of their time on development and 80 percent on adapting applications for deployment across handsets and networks.
With a mobile platform, technology can deliver mobile applications to devices on a variety of networks and offer end-to-end management of data, transactions, users, and devices. Solutions powered by a platform offer the best of both worlds:
- letting mobility grow with business objectives and market demands; and
- providing a foundation for future innovation.
Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) recently found itself at a crossroads: One path involved a large reengineering project, the other leveraged new technologies to enhance existing business processes and systems. Choosing the latter, CCE gained a strategic mobility platform that modernized its legacy systems for a new age. To help achieve its goals of higher productivity, greater supply chain efficiencies, improved resource management, and better operational insight, CCE developed and deployed merchandising and timekeeping applications on employees' BlackBerry devices. In addition to realizing tangible benefits -- such as saving more than $1 million in toll-number charges -- CCE laid the groundwork for the future. By fully implementing mobility into its technology strategy, the company can continue to deploy mobility applications without reinventing the wheel every time.
In the end, when it comes to mobile solutions versus platforms, one can't survive without the other. Mobile solutions must be supported by a mobile platform in order to be sustainable and reliable for the longterm.
About the Author
Jim Hemmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president and chief executive officer of Antenna Software, which delivers real business mobility to the world's most demanding enterprises. The company was positioned in the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner's 2008 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms.
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