Analogies over the years (and centuries) talk about building your house on a strong foundation. In mobility, we’re not talking about driving up a ‘mobile home’, and camping for a few days. We’re talking about putting the right foundation in place to build a house that will last - a “sustainable, responsive and flexible” mobile enterprise strategy.  In the whitepaper ‘A Guide to Successfully Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications’, written for SAP by Chris Marsh of Yankee Group, outlines recommended principles that help enterprises lay the right foundation for any application mobilization program. The principles listed here are Chris’, and the comments are mine. For Chris’ thoughts on each topic, I encourage you to read the full whitepaper here.

1. Lay a mobile foundation.

Start with mobile in mind. I like the way a colleague talks about this. At a recent conference our Sybase Unwired Platform product marketing expert, Carolyn Fitton, asked “What do you get if you mobilize a broken process?”  The answer is “a broken mobile process.” The truth of the matter is that mobility won’t fix broken processes – to be successful you need to start by rethinking the actual business process being mobilized.

2. Think agnostic.

The devices that are popular today may or may not be here tomorrow – things are constantly changing. If you look back over the year 2011, you’ll note that it’s been an incredible eventful year in mobility. With the loss of WebOS and Symbian, the rise of iPad, the quick uptake of Android, and the acquisition of Motorola by Google – we’re in for an interesting 2012. For this very reason, a long-term mobile apps strategy will require apps to be agnostic in many aspects. In the whitepaper Chris Marsh specifies that they need to be agnostic “of the different OSs supported, of the platform on which apps are developed and of the back-end systems they utilize.”

3. Focus on the UX.

In mobility, the user is king. You’ll see that the concept of user experience is a common thread throughout the entire whitepaper. Companies need to keep this is mind from day 1 - invest in UX so apps are easy to use and meet the standards that people are used to in their personal lives. You don’t have to make your app look like Angry Birds, but you do need to make it easy to use and navigate.

4. Build in security from the start.

When we talk about security, we are our own worst enemies. After all we’re only humans and we’re working with easy to lose devices (trust me I’ve lost a few). Unfortunately, we leave devices in airplanes or taxis (or both), and they can easily be stolen. Chris suggests you “carefully consider the degree and type of security required and make sure there are contingencies in place to handle a security breach if it occurs.”

5. Think about where social adds the most value.

Just as mobility is changing the enterprise, so is social networking. Chris discusses how social is increasingly used to “bind platforms together into a sticky proposition”. Consider how social features will add the best value to your mobile applications.

With a foundation that takes these 5 aspects into consideration, you’ll be in a good place to start. Please remember that you can listen to the webinar on November 1st from 1-2pm eastern. Chris Marsh and SAP’s senior VP of Mobility, Dan Mahowald, will also take live questions.

We've learned from consumer use of smart devices that unless the app is easy to download, install, and get up and running, people won’t use them. Our expectations for simplicity are really quite astounding. If an app on my phone takes more than 5 seconds to load I get frustrated. If I have to tediously enter several fields of configuration data I might just give up (or at least call IT and have them talk me through it). If you take a look at the amount of information that is often needed to connect your mobile apps into your back end system, you’ll quickly realize that it is imperative to automate several things to make the experience with your apps a great experience. Just remember: you can build the most fantastic app, but unless you take care of a few critical things first, it may be all for naught.

In this blog, I’ll expand on my last three blogs about enterprise apps with a focus on what you need to think about once the app is released. The value that you expect to gain from deploying your mobile apps will only be realized if the right application management process is in place.  I think that distributing, securing and maintaining your applications are just as important as building the app in the first place.

In the whitepaper ‘A Guide to Successfully Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications” written for SAP by Chris Marsh of Yankee Group, Chris breaks this topic down into three core areas of importance: Mobile Application Distribution, Mobile Application Security and Mobile Application Maintenance.

Mobile Application Distribution

When getting your apps out to your users, the most important aspect is getting it to the right device at the right time. Pretty basic, right? It is certainly basic, but it’s a critical step that may not be easy – especially as your application usage scales into the thousands or even tens of thousands of users using a host of applications. Marsh tells us that it is important to clearly define policies to guide the distribution of apps - after all you don’t want a contractor accessing an analytic app built for the CIO.  You can get very specific when defining policies and you can manage them with the right software, distributing apps based on employees’ roles, devices (even OS version), location and more. This is where the issue of configuration becomes important to minimize the burden on your users. Your strategy for app distribution is important, so consider rolling out an internal “App Store” to distribute apps directly to your users, as well as a tool to manage this for you.

Mobile Application Security

When it comes to buying a house, people always say the most important 3 factors are location, location and location. When it comes to mobility, people often say the 3 more important factors are security, security and security. Security is absolutely critical, especially with mobile devices that live outside your corporate firewall and operate over public networks. In the whitepaper, Chris discusses the importance of a layered security approach that protects the device, the app and the data flowing in between. I recommend you read this section of the whitepaper for more detail (you can receive a copy when you register for the webinar on this topic).

Mobile Application Maintenance

Getting the app on the device is an important first step, but ongoing maintenance and administration will ensure that you keep operating smoothly. According to Marsh, this includes remotely updating the app and monitoring its usage, monitoring the app life cycle and ensuring that ongoing feature enhancements are made. Furthermore, if a mobile device is lost, or an employee leaves the company, or a consultant’s contract ends, you’ll probably want to remove business applications and data from those devices. If companies support a BYOD policy, they must be able to perform these tasks without touching the personal data on the device.

Overall, the heart of an effective application management strategy is in having a robust application management platform that takes care of application distribution and configuration, managing who gets which applications, and managing different methods of distribution. At SAP, we recommend looking for these key capabilities in an enterprise grade application management platform: compatibility with the widest selection of device types and mobile operating systems; remote provisioning and control; dynamic device interrogation, group policy management; and support for an App Store distribution model.

If you’re an IT person, you want maximum control, minimal user configuration headaches, and some self-service functionality for your users. Remember that your mobile strategy should be able to scale as you deploy more and more apps over time.

I hope you will join a webinar with Chris Marsh of Yankee Group to talk about the big picture approach to application development and application management. The webinar is being held on November 1st and registration is open now.

Looking back over the past decade or more in the mobile world is something I always love to do.  Mostly because it reminds me how far we’ve come. I was at the Mobility Bootcamp at CTIA recently, and I love the way Philippe Winthrop put it – “We are at the end of the beginning of mobility”. When it comes to mobile apps I think this is absolutely true. Mobile applications in businesses have been around for a long time.  Over the past ten years they have most frequently been for sales forces or mobile ‘frontline’ field workers. With the advent of mobility for everyone, the opportunities for the broader workforce to enjoy the benefits of mobility has grown significantly. So now its time to look at the next steps in getting started: which apps to deploy and the architectures to get it done. If you missed the first two parts in this series please catch up by reading Why are so many companies launching mobile applications? and So you want mobile apps… now what?

In the “A Guide to Successfully Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications” whitepaper written for SAP by Chris Marsh of Yankee Group, there is a great chart that looks at apps that enterprise already have deployed, and the apps that companies plan to deploy in the future. (See Exhibit 4 in the whitepaper, which uses data from Yankee Group’s 2011 US Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey, Q1-Q2, and 2011 European Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey, Q2)

There are a few interesting things to notice in this chart. First, is that historically mobility was about extending access to existing applications – notice how almost everyone has email and many have access to corporate databases and intranets. What we are starting to see in the future is that smart devices (and especially tablets) are really transforming how things are done. They aren’t necessarily just replacing laptops or paper-based processes – today mobility is bringing about brand new ways to do business. 

So now that we know we want to build mobile apps, it is important to figure out which apps to mobilize first.  Of course, it will be different for every company and will be determined by how you want mobility to contribute to your own strategic or tactical goals.

In the whitepaper, Chris Marsh outlines a framework to help prioritize the focus for companies when making investments in mobility solutions. The entire framework is included here for your consideration.

  • How will you measure success? A successful application will be one that provides measurable benefits. These will vary but could manifest in measurable productivity gains, staff engagement, new customer business or rationalized infrastructure. Applications that can tie back to measurable KPIs should be prioritized.
  • What integration, if any, needs to occur with back-end IT systems? In addition to sales force and field force automation applications, there is growing interest in business intelligence applications that give information workers access to real-time data and operational applications addressing, for example, stock, order and supply chain management. The latter typically require deeper integration into back-end IT systems that will be a key determinant of the platform being used and the type of applications being deployed on that platform.
  • How many users are being targeted? Clearly the scale of the implementation is a key factor determining how an application is deployed and the cost of deploying and supporting it. The degree to which this is an acceptable cost inevitably depends on the anticipated strategic benefits of the implementation.
  • Are the targeted business processes B2B, B2E, E2E or B2C? Identifying which processes have a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-employee (B2E), employee-to-employee (E2E) or business-to-consumer (B2C) orientation lays the foundation for more specific considerations on user roles and application types.
  • Is the process transactional, informational or collaborative? In tandem with identifying the target audience, it is important to establish the exact use case in the contact zone between these end-users. For example, a B2E mobile app might need to fulfill one or all of the following: relay information to employees, transact a particular process such as an expense form approval, or provide access to collaborative tools such as wikis and portals.
  • How mobile are the user roles identified for deployments? The right combination of device and application features and, crucially, the policy management governing the application solution will be strongly determined by the degree to which the worker being targeted is mobile. While applications can have transactional, informational and collaborative capabilities, the extent to which the end-user is mobile will determine his or her mix in the final solution.

Once you’ve thought through these questions, you probably can begin to narrow down some uses cases that may make a good starting point. With a first well-defined use case, the fun part really begins - and its time to decide what kind of app to build.  Of course, this new topic introduces yet another level of complexity since there are many mobile application types (nothings easy, is it?) Again, in the whitepaper, Chris Marsh outlines four main models of application development. Each one may or may not address every use case. All four models are briefly introduced here and are compared in detail in the whitepaper. 

  • Purely customized development and deployment: These downloadable apps are customized for specific business objectives, but they lack the agility and pace of standardized development and deployment.
  • Prebuilt and off-the-shelf: These downloadable apps provide quick deployment and task-oriented applications but lack the close and customized alignment with business processes.
  • Modifiable templates: As enterprises look to more closely align mobile apps with specific business processes, there has been a change in direction among vendors. Increasingly platforms are pursuing a middle-road solution attempting to offer downloadable apps with a combination of flexibility, customization and speed in design and deployment.
  • Web-based/HTML5: Rather than being downloaded onto the device or via an application store as a piece of software, Web-based apps are more akin to a Web site designed specifically for a mobile device.

It is important to note that one size doesn’t fit all. You should not attempt to choose one single model for all of your applications – in fact if you try this approach I can assure you that you will most certainly fail.  This is because every use case and every user has unique requirements for mobility. I encourage you to read the full whitepaper comparing the pros and cons of each model for your own needs.  I think Chris makes a great observation that is very important to consider. In the whitepaper he stated “The optimal solution for the CIO is to have a platform that provides as much of the flexibility to facilitate all of these ways of deploying applications as possible.” In other words, by relying on a platform you don’t need to choose – you can have the best of all worlds.

I’ve shared a lot of great detail from the whitepaper in this article, and I’ll continue to cover more this week and next.  If you haven’t signed up yet, please register now for this webinar with Chris Marsh on November 1st.  

In my first post in this series on mobile enterprise applications (Why are so many companies launching mobile applications?) I talked about the why companies are considering deploying mobile apps. Assuming you think you want to move ahead with some kind of mobile app, we can now talk about ‘what happens next’? And while you’re thinking about it, you probably want to register for the “Key Strategies for Enterprise Mobile Apps” webinar based on the whitepaper written for SAP by Chris Marsh, Senior Analyst for Yankee Group. Now let’s dive deeper into the content from this paper.

For many companies today, mobility can be approached in a haphazard manner. Many companies use mobile technologies that address a specific set of workers (such as field workers) or a specific business application (such as mobile CRM). At this point most people understand the benefits that mobility can bring to the organization (if not, read the whitepaper in detail). According to Chris Marsh, approaching mobility in a haphazard way with ‘opportunistic’ solutions can be limited in scope and not scalable and actually slow you down in the future. The following are some characteristics and limitations that Chris lists as opportunistic mobility:

  • Point solutions address one specific application or business need, and in many cases are a bandage approach to mobility—a solution is rapidly applied to enable one specific application need (e.g., wireless e-mail access).
  • These specific solutions don’t consider the broader mobility requirements within an organization.
  • Projects are initiated before policies are established, and administrative and management tools to enforce policy are limited or nonexistent.

So is this a bad thing? It can be in the long term, but it the short term maybe not. After all, these solutions can be used to show the benefits of mobility to executives. They can be used as a litmus test to reaffirm your beliefs that mobility is really worth investing in. I recently spoke at the EMF’s Mobility Bootcamp at CTIA and asked “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course is “one bite at a time.”  So if you’ve gone the path of ‘opportunistic mobility’ as Chris describes it, just consider it your first bite of that elephant. But don’t stop your journey after one or two bites. Think big while you start small. In fact, starting small can often reveal the policy and management issues that you are going to have to face when you tackle a bigger company-wide mobility strategy.

According to Chris, the first step to creating a more integrated approach is to understand how mobility is critical to your success. This mobility assessment must consider the full scope of employees, assets and business processes. From there, executive management, finance, IT, affected line-of-business leaders and end-users can establish policies.

I really like the list provided in the whitepaper that demonstrates when you’re doing it right. Yankee Group indicated that you are on the right track when your mobility initiatives take on the following characteristics:

  • The key focus is on specific business processes that will benefit most strongly from mobilization. This has to be the starting point if companies are to actualize the full potential of mobility for business transformation.
  • Individual mobile projects “plug in” to a common management and security infrastructure. Mobility is driven by policy rather than by ad hoc end-user pull.
  • Projects can be supported and management and security policies can be enforced. This is regardless of the type of network used (public or private, wired or wireless), the application accessed or the device used.
  • A broader set of technologies and mobile tools is considered a “mobility package” for end-users. This includes integration and coordination of voice, data and remote access services.
  • Common middleware, software and security architectures exist. These can be leveraged across different mobility services within an organization.

So there is certainly a lot to think about when you start ‘eating the elephant’. But don’t get overwhelmed! These guidelines are a very logical and tactical starting point when you think you are ready to move ahead. Once you feel like you have this checklist covered and you’re ready for the next bite, we’ll talk about how to choose which applications to deploy.

The next topic in the Mobile Sense series will dive into the topic of Mobile Applications.  This is a topic that I am very excited to talk about – specifically because SAP has been launching our own expanding series of enterprise mobile apps to solve many key business needs. If you are thinking about apps (and who isn’t!) then I encourage you to read on – and also register now for the “Key Strategies for Enterprise Mobile Apps” webinar being held November 1st. A whitepaper on this topic was written for SAP by Chris Marsh, Senior Analyst for Yankee Group. I think you’ll enjoy the content – it provides a great introduction into many important aspects around deploying enterprise mobile apps.

I’ve been working on the mobile space for 14 years and I’ve seen a lot of growth and change over that time. However the change in the past two years has been the most rapid. In the past mobility was for executives and field workers. In fact, at Sybase, we used to refer to our mobility team as the ‘frontline’ team. That’s because at the time, mobility was almost exclusively for frontline workers – those who spend the vast majority of their time outside of the office.

New technology has truly exploded in both the consumer and enterprise spaces – and it is changing the face of mobility. In several recent posts I’ve talked about why the BYOD model is becoming pervasive. People have been clamoring to bring technology that they are comfortable and familiar with in their personal lives to work. I think it really comes down to the fact that today’s devices provide a fantastic user experience - which has been driven by an ‘apps’ mentality.

The world is now truly mobile - and increasingly productive because of it. According to the Yankee whitepaper titled ‘Key Strategies for Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications’, there are “just over 160 million mobile workers in the U.S. (38 percent of the entire workforce), and nearly three-quarters of companies consider working from home or on the road as part of their wider organizational culture, and the vast majority of companies now believe these workers are as productive as those working in an office.”

So what this means is that mobility isn’t just for ‘frontline workers’ anymore – it’s also for knowledge workers of all types and it has “spread outward across different job roles and downward from executives to non-managerial staff.”

So what does this rapid adoption mean when it comes to apps? 

Chris Marsh highlighted a lot of great factors that are driving growth in mobile applications. He states, “Key factors include the evolution of higher-speed mobile networks, the explosion of smart mobile devices, users’ familiarity with apps and mobile app stores, and a decrease in the costs associated with developing, distributing and maintaining mobile applications.” All of these factors lead to one main conclusion – mobility is for the masses. And the masses want apps.

I’m excited to share some great content in my next few posts from this whitepaper. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to break down the fantastic content and provide commentary around the great insight provided by Chris. We’ll talk about choosing a focus for your mobile projects, building and deploying apps, how to support enterprise mobile applications and more. I look forward to walking through this great research and hope you will learn a lot from it too.

I hope you’ll follow along and be sure to register for the Webinar on November 1st.

Today I had the privelige of representing SAP at the Enterprise Mobility Bootcamp 2011 at CTIA. The event, run by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Forum, was packed to overflowing. Here are a few takeaways that I learned from the event.

1) “Mobility is no longer a privilege”. Philippe concluded his opening session with this statement and I couldnt agree more. In the past it used to be an issue to decide who gets a mobile devices – today that is not relevant because everybody has one.  Because if this, enterprise mobility is not about the devices anymore – it’s about the apps. 

2) “The IT-ization of the consumer”. Yes, this is a made up word, but the concept is absolutely true. We often talk about the  consumerization of IT . But there is a second side to this coin – with mobility, consumers have become more tech savvy and know enough to ask for what they want.  

3) The UI is incredibly important when building mobile apps. Enterprises have a vast amount of critical data within their walls, they jsut need to free it up in a way that users want. We still want access to ERP and business intelligence data – but we don’t want a clunky user interface. The importance of a great UI will become critical going forward. 

4) Fire, Aim, Ready is the wrong approach! Even though you want to move quickly you still need to start thinking strategically. In my session I asked ‘How do you eat an elephant’? The answer of course is ‘one bite at a time’. It’s important to have a strategy for growth up front. I recommend you think big but start small. Start with an app that will gain significant adoption and showcase the ROI of mobility.

5) “We are at the end of the beginning of understanding what enterprise mobility really means”. I think this just about sums it up.

The leaves are falling, the days have chilled and the fall season is now in full swing.  The other sign that fall is upon us was an event that happened last week - SAP World Tour. The North American series kicked off in Chicago and continues with stops in San Francisco, New York and Toronto in the coming weeks. 

I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago event and wanted to share a few mobility highlights. Overall the event was chock full of mobility content – including 5 mobility breakout sessions and several microforums. I personally enjoy microforums, I find these interactive discussions are an excellent opportunity to talk with you. In the past few weeks, as part of the SAP Mobile Sense series, I’ve talked a lot about Enterprise Mobility Management: Webcast Wednesday and Recommended Actions for Embracing BYOD. We again shared this conversation with a packed room in Chicago.

Gary Hamel, world renowned author and speaker, delivered a keynote session at the event, and one statement he made was very relevant to the topic. He said "the battle today is between individuals and institutions." This is absolutely relevant in this microforum discussion on the BYOD model. In fact, I always find it fascinating when I survey the crowd in these sessions – time and time again, when I ask how many companies support BYOD to some degree, the results are the same. And the individuals are winning this battle. The audience in Chicago was no exception with more than half of the participants in the room allowing BYOD to varying degrees. The great news is that SAP can now raise its hand too. SAP recently initiated its own BYOD policy in several countries (including the US). I can assure you that SAP employees are excited about the fact that our own IT department now allows personal devices at work.  Today we have 3300 corporate owned iPhones and 11,000 iPads at SAP - I can assure you with the perfect storm of the iPhone 4S having just been released coupled with this new policy - those numbers are about to skyrocket.

The second microforum I wanted to share was around Mobile Apps. This is a topic that we wlil start to spend more time on in the coming weeks. I have to admit this is the topic that I am most excited about. Mobility isn’t about email anymore, it isn’t about security, and it isn't even about the devices. Its about how we can transform business via applications. I think its important that we not let mobility become an overwhelming conversation - it doesn't need to be a massive undertaking to solve all of your company's mobile needs - in fact getting started with small projects is the best way to start.  In the mobile apps microforum, SAP's Vishy Golapakrishnan shared some interesting points about how software development paradigms have changed with mobliity. It is now truly an interative and fast paced process. I think the way to approach apps is best explained by another quote from Gary Hamel. He stated "the dinosaurs are gone, but the bacteria are still here." So don't treat mobility like a dinosaur - take it one step at a time and start with a successful simple application.

Wrapping up on World Tour, there were also a series of breakout sessions that provided a great opportunity dive deeper into SAP’s Mobility strategy. There were several great sessions including an overview of our strategy, a deep dive into our mobility platform, and overview of our new apps, and the services we can offer to help you quickly ramp up.  As the ‘Poster Child’ for lost mobile devices, I presented the Enterprise Mobility Management session. While almost everyone has lost a mobile device and one time or another (you have, right?), I seem cursed having lost 4 devices in the past two years. My experience has helped me relay that even those who truly understand the importance of mobile device security can unwillingly put corporate data at risk. Hopefully those in the audience gained a glimpse into the importance of having a comprehensive mobility management strategy in place. 

With that quick summary of SAP World Tour Chicago, I hope you can join us at upcoing dates in San Francisco (October 20), New York (October 25) or Toronto (November 10). I encourage you to register for SAP World Tour today. I'm sure you'll find it a great experience.