Get serious with enterprise mobility

By Tony Storr


Is enterprise mobility key to your business strategy for the next two to three years? Do you want to deliver enterprise mobility in the most efficient way? If you answered “Yes” to either of these, you’ll want to read on.

This is a problem for the CIO, CEO, CMO and CDO, if you have one. The problem is mobile, specifically enterprise mobility and the apps used within the organization.

It was great at the start. Each business unit could innovate and engage with local design agencies to quickly and cheaply develop their apps. Some used the mobile app capability from their enterprise system suppliers, and some marketing units used the capability from their software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Some even had their own developers build apps, and a few used the services of central IT.

Though this felt empowering to some business, several issues have built up, including the following:

  • Varying standards
  • Lack of reuse
  • System fragmentation
  • Provider volatility
  • High maintenance cost
  • Security implications
  • Inconsistent user experience and brand

However, the real business problem is that mobile back-end services, APIs and integration are the key regulators of the pace of change for digital transformation and speed-to-market. Fragmentation makes integration difficult, confuses the user experience and ultimately prevents business agility. To make matters worse, the total cost of ownership of this diversification is much higher than it needs to be.

This scenario seems to resonate with just about every client I speak with, in any industry and geography. Everyone seems to be in the same state of app fragmentation, with the problem worsened through multiple internal and external parties engaged for design, development, support and maintenance. Large organizations may have compounded problems with international operations driving further fragmentation.

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An inversion of the problems of two-speed or bimodal IT also occurs. This concept assumes mobile development is agile and fast, while back-end enterprise systems that provide underlying data and services are painstakingly slow. In fact, a highly fragmented mobile app environment making changes to the 100+ apps that all consume a back-end service in similar yet different ways can be more complex and costly than implementing any back-end changes.

Consolidate, streamline and industrialize for enterprise mobility

Leading organizations are now seeking to consolidate, streamline and industrialize their mobile app capacities but don’t wish to constrict the innovation within each business unit. This is more than just selecting a single supplier or internal team to take over app services or setting up an app factory to churn out apps in a consistent manner.

Ultimately, consolidation needs to happen in the three following dimensions:

  1. Across portfolios of apps
  2. Across mobile app services (design, develop, maintain, support and monitor)
  3. Holistically and continuously (rather than an app-by-app approach)

An effective service has several key characteristics, including the following:

  • Continuous operation
  • Expanding sets of assets and accelerators
  • Immediate and increasing productivity, cost and speed improvements building to an optimal level of over two to three years
  • End-to-end mobile DevOps from planning to in-life monitoring (i.e., not just Dev and Ops)
  • Cross-app design thinking, architecture, assets and accelerators
  • Evergreen approaches to tooling and techniques
  • Integration of support, maintenance, enhancement and development services

What about all those apps you’ve already created? It’s not advisable to consider refactoring and consolidating all existing apps. It’s far more productive to start such a service with the next generation of employee apps and expand enterprise mobility from there.

For an organization used to commissioning and procuring on an app-by-app basis, against rate cards and with separate maintenance contracts, this feels like a foreign world. However, the benefits when done right are compelling enough to effect a change in your enterprise mobility approach.

Written By

Tony Storr

IBM Mobile at Scale Leader

Tony is the architect and leader of IBM's Mobile at Scale offering that evolves app services to the next generation of maturity. Now in his 27th year at IBM, he hasdeep experience in building and directing high-performance IT organisations that enable clients to successfully exploit…

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