Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Enterprise Mobility – Not Just a Technical Challenge

Quit worrying about the technology, it's your people and processes that need to change

With the increasing focus and provision of tools to aid the move towards mobile-first enterprise applications it is easy to think that the challenge to mobilise the workforce is becoming easier. In actual fact the emergence of Mobile Application Platforms and increasing available development environments is starting to expose another hurdle with enabling the remote worker.

The challenge has moved from being one of a technical nature to a people and processes problem. Many large companies have IT teams that have grown in to large complex organisations built on a history of updated process, procedures and progressive hiring. They are ill-equipped to deal with the radical game-changing requirements demanded by the mobile-first generation of products.

Time to Market

Many industry observers are commentating on the challenges of go-to-market mobile solutions that are still taking 12+ months to reach their target clients. Mobile device manufactures are rolling out updated hardware faster than this. The software-based solutions need to be there almost immediately. Gone are the days where projects required a 3-month requirements and analysis stage. These days users outline their desires to a combined design and development team, a few quick sprints later a Proof of Concept (PoC) app is ready for review and test. The production release is simply this PoC app plus a little re-factoring and some thorough testing.

Disposable apps

Simple apps such as those providing basic form-based information capture can be developed and deployed in a matter of hours. It is becoming increasing popular to develop apps that are only useful for a matter of days. Just consider the efficiency benefits over a paper-based solution when using a tablet device to perform a one-time data capture operation that automatically populates a backend inventory system. There is simply no need for extensive requirements gathering, solution design and comprehensive testing. In many case there is no need for an IT team, users can drag-and-drop to create their own apps.

OpEx vs CapEx funding

The shift from large complex, multi-functional business support systems to smaller, targeted point solutions also challenges the traditional view of project funding. There is simply no time to introduce a lengthy ROI-based review to justify spending on a mobile solution. In many cases thus would literally take longer than the deployment phase. Mobile app development needs to be treated as a service to the business and allocated funding from the OpEx budget.
Small customer-facing, multi-skilled development teams

Many large IT organisations are structured with departments aligned with disciplines. This no longer works, business analysts don’t have time to spend weeks producing comprehensive requirements documentation. It is simpler, quicker and more efficient for end users to work directly with app designers and developers. Mobile-first development teams need to be multi-skilled and comfortable with exposure to the end clients. This is not a ‘normal’ experience for many IT specialists.

Testing, support and maintenance

Clearly it is paramount that mobile-first solutions work correctly and can be supported and maintained. This doesn't mean someone needs to closely follow the development team tracking their every move. It means ensuring a thorough and appropriate test regime. The exact level of testing will depend on the application, it’s importance, it’s longevity and the impact on business operations if something goes wrong (risk-based testing).

Structured coding, the use of standard libraries and common platforms all contribute to helping support future modifications. A well built software application with suitable documentation should be understood by all development teams. The standardisation of code for app development, particularly the use of HTML5, has further increased the community of developers able to adopt and modify code build elsewhere. This all removes the legacy opinion that software solutions need additional technical writers to document all aspects.
Adapting to the changing environment

Before embarking on the route towards Mobile-First solutions, businesses need to review if their current infrastructure, process and even people are correct aligned to meet the new challenges. As Darwin observed many years ago, the organisations that will survive this mobile revolution are the ones that can adapt to the change.