Mobile-First enterprise solutions are the growing trend for organisations looking to maximise return from existing resource. Many CIOs are carefully polishing their strategic plans to deliver efficiencies to their business by providing small targeted mobile solutions from an every growing library of apps.
But it isn't as simple as creating a new team from the existing IT division and redistributing job titles. Mobile solutions development is different and isn't for everyone. Here is a simple guide to the most important factors to consider when setting up your team.
Pick team members that have the ability and passion to thrive in a fast-moving, agile and customer-facing environment. There is no time for detailed documentation with many mobile projects, ambiguity is the norm, as is the ability to interpret often vague user stories and translate in to creative solutions. Developers need to work hand-in-hand with clients, there is no room for a large team of business and system analysts. In the new agile programming world there is often no project manager, development teams are self-managing. This is not a comfortable environment for an engineer steeped in the traditions of legacy IT support and development.
Mobile apps can often be identified, scoped, coded and delivered in a matter of days. Even complex apps can be deployed with only a couple of months of development. There is no time to accommodate a detailed ROI-style review of the cost benefits of funding such projects. The admin will strangle the team and prevent benefits from being delivered in a timely manner. The Mobile Solutions team needs to be funded as part of an OpEx budget. The team needs to be trusted by the business and have the flexibility to pick projects that deliver the most business benefits the quickest, without involving budget committees and threatening fast response times.
3. Focus on real customer needs
Mobile-first teams are developing solutions that target specific customer needs. They must focus on what clients want and need, not just what IT can offer. Old-style legacy systems often drive the processes and functions used in the business. Here is a chance to change things and provide solutions that much better match what the business needs. Mobile devices come with a plethora of new tools, coloured hi-res displays, cameras, GPS capture and touch screen manipulation. The best solutions will use these to enhance the user experience. Be wary of falling in to the trap of limiting functionality because the ‘backend cannot support it’, look for creative ways to deliver the user benefits beyond these legacy restrictions.
4. Multiple device support
Mobile devices are ubiquitous. There is an enormous range of devices available in the market, both commercial and consumer devices. They are also upgraded and replaced at an ever increasing rate. Be careful of standardising on any one device. This is especially true if taking advantage of cheaper consumer devices, though often more powerful and feature-rich, they can become obsolete in a very short time. There is no point deploying a complex mobile solution that only works on a specific high-end consumer device if the manufacturer plans to replace and withdraw support after only a short period. Consider safe-guarding solutions by using hybrid programming techniques and code that enables easier porting to different devices.
5. Cloud-based platforms
If this is your first foray in to developing a portfolio of mobile solutions then chances are details will be scarce with regard the likely take-up and use of potential apps in your organisation. Estimating the demand and subsequent load on IT infrastructure will be challenging and could derail initial rollouts. Avoid some of this uncertainty by looking to utilise cloud-based platforms that are easily re-configured to managing fluctuating loads. Many of these have been developed with a mobile-first strategy in mind, typically they incorporate up-to-date technologies and they continue the OpEx funding model already adopted by the development team (making it easier for the business to pay only for the service it uses).
Finally, there is a lot of hype around using mobile solutions for driving enterprise efficiencies. Don't be put off. Not least because a lot of what you are hearing is true!