FEATURE: The Mobile Technology Implementation Challenge

IT and business have different views of the value of enterprise mobile deployment. Faced with enormous complexity, the IT managers of today are looking for flexibility, simplicity, consolidation, standardization, control and lower TCO. Business managers are looking for ways to accelerate their business processes and include mobility as part of their overall corporate strategy. This divergence of perspective and priorities represents one of the greatest challenges for enterprise organizations seeking to roll out mobile solutions to their employees.

Unfortunately today, a majority of the mobility initiatives in enterprises are still implemented on a  "project-by-project" basis without having a centralized entity managing the project and balancing the views of IT and business. Irrespective of which group in an enterprise dominates the overall decision making for a mobility solution, this often results in enterprises owning an island of incompatible, disconnected technologies with no single point of ownership. The end solutions are often not able to adapt to the changing business needs resulting in expensive retooling at a later stage. It is not surprising that a majority of the initiatives don't even get past the pilot stage. Even the ones that do launch, the enterprise often underestimates the complexity of monitoring, measuring and supporting the solution resulting in poor user adoption.

The views of both IT and business managers are important to ensuring the successful implementation of a mobile solution. The issue for enterprise organizations is less about prioritizing one view versus another, but rather, it is about ensuring an implementation approach that aligns these interests from the start. Doing this begins with establishing a centralized, mobility-focused program management office.

The responsibility of the group is to provide the much needed balance and executive buy-in from cross-functional groups for all mobility initiatives within the company. The focus is to develop a mobility strategy and ensure best practices are in place to guide its future mobile solution deployments that involve stakeholders from throughout the enterprise. By creating such a mobility strategy and best practices, the enterprise is better able to anticipate future mobile initiatives while also gaining greater visibility to, and control over, its existing mobile estate. "Getting the house in order" so to speak and having a proactive approach to developing mobile solutions is a critically important part of achieving an enterprise's goals. It also enables future mobile initiatives to leverage common elements which will help to lessen the overall build costs associated with mobile initiatives as well as the cost to manage the various initiatives.

However, given the complexity of the mobile value chain and the typical decentralized nature of the mobile landscape, developing a mobile solution strategy is not trivial. Mobile solution strategies invariably fail when they are preoccupied with selecting a technology as opposed to viewing the mobile solution as a total system. That complete system involves employees (and their associated behaviors), the organization itself including its policies and processes, the technology that supports the organization including various platforms and applications.

When it comes to launching specific mobility initiatives, it is important for the organization as a whole to both understand and agree to the desired business outcomes expected to result from the initiative. These outcomes should be offered in clear, measurable terms and include the steps needed to achieve the desired outcomes. It is also critically important that the end users be involved throughout the process. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to ensure a proper understanding of who they are, where they are, what information they need, how they'll use the information and when they'll use it. To minimize disruption and effectively be able to overcome the initial resistance, it is vital that the users be involved from beginning to end and that they are adequately trained to use the solution once it's launched. Technology choices for a mobile solution should leverage existing infrastructure and legacy systems when possible to minimize the number of duplicate technologies in use. The goal should be to build a solution that is based on open standard technology choices, that works with multiple devices and networks, integrates with back-end systems and is flexible enough to address the changing business needs.

Mobility is the most recent big shift in the IT/telecom story, and enterprise organizations will inevitably see mobility become increasingly integrated as part of their business processes.  In order to minimize the missteps and drive the most immediate and positive impact to the organization as a whole, IT and business managers must work together both in the development of future-looking mobility strategies as well as the day-to-day implementations of mobility solution implementations. Without this cooperation, more mobile solution initiatives will fail than succeed.

Gareth Matthews is the VP of marketing and commercial activities for Sprint Enterprise Mobility.