New mobile technologies, strategies center on business apps

BOSTON — Mobile technologies have transformed the way companies do business, requiring IT to change the way they deliver business applications.

Businesses have taken mobile beyond just email and calendaring to do a paper replacement for simple applications such as expense report approval, for example. But mobility requires the enterprise to do more and fundamentally transform the business process, said Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst of Lopez Research LLC, based in San Francisco, who ran a day-long workshop at the E2 conference in Boston.

But mobilizing a workforce is not at the top of IT administrators’ minds.

IT administrators are often bogged down with everyday tasks and few have time to develop and implement a long-term mobile strategy. It becomes a struggle as mobile apps pervade the workplace — with or without IT’s approval — resulting in IT juggling a fine balance between meeting end-user demands and corporate policies that satisfy everyone.

One IT planner at a large financial services firm said his company is slow to deliver new technology, but his team is working with different partners to thoroughly examine end-user needs and develop a highly secure strategy. In the meantime, larger projects such as migrating systems from Windows XP to Windows 7 takes precedence, especially as Microsoft’s support for Windows XP stops next year.

However, operating system migrations do tie into mobile strategies.

“On the mobile front, it comes back to what the application is trying to do for the enterprise,” said one applications analyst at a large consumer packaged goods company who requested anonymity. “If it’s a feature-rich, device-centric application, then upgrades in the OS and changes in hardware are of great concern.”

That’s because companies may have to make some hefty investments to upgrade their hardware to support a new operating system’s requirements.

It’s about the apps

With the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace, it’s no longer about the connected device. Rather, it’s about the applications and the business model.

“Enterprises who haven’t implemented a strategy focused on mobile apps risk losing control of their mobile infrastructure,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst and founder of J. Gold Associates, a Northborough, Mass.-based mobile consulting firm.

If the enterprise does not gain control over mobile apps, it can lead to more security breaches, it can cost operations more, and can decrease end-user productivity.

As enterprises think about longer term transformations of their business to take advantage of data analytics and context management, as well as other new technologies, IT needs to work with other departments to determine end-user needs and delivery strategies that provide a return on business.

In fact, IT needs to think about working with other aspects of the business to deliver the best solutions for its end users. Gold calls this movement the “Democratization of IT.”

“The issue is that when you try to deploy something in the organization, IT no longer has dictatorial power of what that is going to be,” Gold said.

IT admins in the E2 conference workshop said they would like to see their IT departments think strategically and work closely with end users to understand the business needs.

“We are trying to get IT to be more proactive and engage them,” said Arthur T. Frontczak, manager of Technology Support Group Operations for the Christian Science Monitor, a news organization based in Boston.

Frontczak is in the process of rolling out mobile device management and corporate wireless in his organization.

Meanwhile, attendees listened with rapt attention during the workshop’s panel about mobile application development with questions surrounding the impact of how HTML 5 development is not the same for all mobile platforms and how to present the cost analysis to the executives.

“There is only one way you can sell a piece of software [to your executive],” said Regev Yativ, president and CEO of Magic Software Enterprises Americas, a mobile application tools developer based in Laguna Hills, Calif. “Mobile apps either serve the business or it’s a redundant toy.”

IT needs to show the cost savings to executives in order to get the right buy-in from the C-level team.

In some cases, employee-facing apps impact sales, revenue or customer service.

Overall, companies that focus on mobile app management will see a 25% to 35% lower mobile TCO than those only focused on traditional asset management, according to Gold.

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