Have You Documented Your Organization’s Mobile Computing Strategy?

Introduction

The constant changes in the mobile computing ecosystem can lead to confusion for many organizations.  One of the best analogies I’ve heard is that it is like a teenager: things can be going along really well, but you know new challenges will arise – you just don’t know when.

One way that organizations can help find their path is to document your mobile computing strategy.  I say document because every organization has a strategy whether it’s written down or not.  You may say that you don’t need a strategy because we just buy from company X.  Well, that is your strategy.  You may also say that we are all over the map – then you’re strategy is each of the organization’s divisions selects their own solutions.  In any case, writing it down can help clarify a vision as to where you want to be in this space.  It can also lead to the realization that not everyone shares the same vision and help spark those discussions.

Technology Areas

One way to start is by dividing the mobile ecosystem into three major areas:

  • Handheld Devices – These can be broken down by OS (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, proprietary etc), OEM (Samsung, Nokia, etc.) or device class (smartphone, feature phone, ‘dumb’ phone).  Don’t forget about any ruggedized PDA devices that might be used in harsh environments such as field service, warehouses, or manufacturing plants.  You could also include notebooks, netbooks, ultra mobile personal computers (UMPCs) and the like, but focusing on handhelds will allow you to narrow the scope.
  • Wireless Networks – Not only cellular networks (wireless WANs or WWANs), but Wi-Fi (WLANs) and even personal area networks like Bluetooth (WPANs).
  • Mobile Applications – This could include mobilized web sites (thin client) as well as in-house or purchased apps that are loaded on the device (thick client).

Approach

For each area, document the following:

  • Current state – Knowing what you are doing now is a great start.  Do you know how many handhelds you have?  Are they corporate-liable or individual-liable?  What networks are being used?  What mobile apps are available (email/PIM, intranet browsing, LOB apps)?
  • Trends – Document what is happening in the industry.  Examples are the growth of smartphones, the pervasiveness of wireless networks, and the explosion of mobile application stores.
  • Business needs and requirements – It is critical to get clarity around the needs of the business.  Are they looking for new ways to market to their mobile consumers?  Are there specific needs for employees to have information at their fingertips?  It can be useful to create user segments that group users together who have similar requirements.
  • Future state – This is where the rubber meets the road.  Based on the information collected, which paths will you take?  Are you going to embrace individual-liable devices or avoid it like the plague?  Will you use thin client for consumer-facing but thick client for employees?
  • Roadmaps – This is about getting from where you are to where you want to be.  Identifying those incremental steps can go a long way to understanding how to make the strategy actionable.  For example, if you want fixed mobile convergence (FMC), you will need to first have a wireless LAN capable of handing voice traffic.

Some of these can be done concurrently and the sequence can vary.  For example, you can work on current state and trends in parallel or do trends before current state.  However, logic would dictate that you should do future state towards the end and then roadmaps.

Considerations

Some other suggestions to maximize success:

  • Get executive buy-in – This is important if you want the strategy to be utilized and to get cooperation from other organizations.  Provide a scoping document or a project charter to make sure that everyone is aligned with the effort.
  • Be inclusive – You’ll definitely need participation from various IT organizations, but also include representatives from other areas of the organization including human resources, legal, auditor’s office, and maybe even some ‘real’ customers.
  • … but not too inclusive -Too many cooks spoil the broth.  Having too many people working on the same document is hard to manage.  A patchwork of different writing styles may disrupt the flow of the document.  You can have a smaller group do the actual writing while a larger group reviews and provides input.
  • Build a strategy that can accommodate change -The dynamics of the mobile environment will guarantee change.  Be careful not to make decisions that will be difficult to reverse.     Set a cadence to revisit the strategy, such as every six months or annually.  Quarterly is probably too frequent – after all this is a strategy.

Epilogue

I agree that this is somewhat of a simplistic view.  However, making it too complicated will most likely lead to frustration and inaction.  Also, I wanted to keep it simple – after all, this is a blog.  Even if you don’t use what is listed here, my hope is that it will motivate you to take action and document your strategy to help guide you through the ever-changing world of mobile computing.

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