Mobility Strategy for Traditional Industries

Anjani Kumar, CIO, Safexpress Private Limited | Wednesday, 01 June 2016, 05:37 IST
In these times, our day starts with mobile device and if something one wouldn’t want to miss while going out, it would definitely be his or her primary phone!! The enterprise is not untouched and from small to big organizations, everywhere mobility is one of the major focus areas for sure.  Mobility is an important pillar of SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud) stack. SMAC is no more a buzzword but new reality almost in all forward looking organizations.

As such Mobile apps are being developed for all the apps in enterprise landscape but most common ones are definitely which is needed on the move - CRM, Email, HRMS, Reporting & Dashboards and other apps which are being driven by location and pictures. So far most successful mobile apps have been Email, CRM, delivery & pickups and that is due to direct correlation of application need on the move. While most companies have some or other form of Mobility strategy already drawn out, there are still large numbers of enterprises which are still in flirting stage of mobility apps or just doing it because others are doing it!

First dilemma in a Mobility strategy is about which Mobile app should be given a preference in terms of priority. One should not just look just at RoI (Return on Investment) like traditional projects but also the consideration should be made on how quickly people can be hooked to the app with minimum resistance. Reasons could be user convenience, productivity improvement, operational efficiency, cost saving or better visibility. Thanks to apps like Gmail, Facebook, whatsapp and other banking apps, employees won’t like any application which has inferior look & feel as well as performance than these apps. There are two ways to create mobile application – using mobile website or through native application. While initially browser based app picked up the momentum, over the time balance is tilting towards the native app.

During my consulting days I have been asked which OS is apt for our mobility app. There is no one universal answer to this. This will depend on what is the operating system used by target audience. If it is retail audience, Android should be first choice while iOS also commands respectable market share, Windows mobile is still in evolution stage. So, typically for internal apps, Android is cost effective while for external apps, one should consider both iOS as well as Android. From stability perspective both platforms are equally stable.

Lately there has been lot of Mobile development platforms evolution and it is very important to consider all the factors before choosing a platform. Best ones are where you could develop once and deploy on any platform.  Of course Android and apple have their own SDKs to develop apps. There are development platforms which can reduce the app development time to minimum due to easy drag & drop as well as intuitive web services frameworks, one should definitely be evaluating the same. Integration of mobility app with existing or even legacy application is pretty important in case of Enterprise scenario, so due consideration should be given to the same.

Security is important for any application but when it comes to Mobility apps, just being the new technology one has to put a strategy for security at multiple layers. One of the first things which needs attention is deciding on MDM (Mobile Device Management) tool. Typical features are locating the devices, remote installation and remote wiping off the devices. However containerization is another great feature as add on to make sure that app data is not compromised. For web services, level of encryption is important factor to consider. Also, since web services are accessing core apps as well as data sources, it should be doubly checked for vulnerability.

Application distribution mechanism has to be thought through before apps are launched. One has to decide whether APK file or executable can be kept at server or need to be pushed through MDM for internal employees. For external audience, Google play store and Apple app store are the primary source for people to download and install app. Google and Amazon have good mobile app analytics tools but lately more tools are coming for the same.  Hosting could be tricky for mobile app and it should be deployed in similar setup like web applications.  In many scenarios, public clouds are actually ready for mobile app deployment and biggest advantage it provides is scalability as one doesn’t know in the beginning the scale of Mobile user base.

It is important to create a Mobility Strategy and revisit it every 6 months as newer development platforms, security and integration layers are evolving pretty fast.