Mobile technology introduces new opportunities and challenges. CIOs must walk a fine line between enterprise requirements and the needs and desires of users.
Mobile technology has changed the enterprise in ways that no one could have envisioned only a few years ago. It has introduced point-to-point and real-time data connectivity, and it increasingly serves as a platform for connected systems and the Internet of things (IoT).
However, at the intersection of opportunity and challenge lies a pertinent and critical question: How should a business design mobile systems for maximum gains for both the enterprise and those using these tools, including consumers and employees? In an era of BYOD and consumerization, the challenges are greater than ever.
Here are five ways to maximize and optimize mobility for maximum benefits:
Tear down the walls and barriers.
Business and IT leaders understand the need for quick and easy access to data, information and knowledge. However, "Too often, there are obstacles that prevent people from accessing the data they need to do their job or accomplish a task," says Satya Ramaswamy, vice president and global head of the Digital Enterprise Unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
Among the problems: strict limitations on devices and data or the lack of an app store to download essential apps. Regardless of the specific reason, the result is often frustrated customers and employees who turn to rogue applications and shadow IT to accomplish tasks.
Ramaswamy says that it's vital to understand users' needs. CIOs must work with other business leaders to ensure that people get the desired data, he adds.
Think agile and focus on usability and design.
Kludgy interfaces, clunky tools and ill-conceived apps are a turn off that can hinder adoption and productivity. "It's critical to understand what you are trying to accomplish and what the end user needs to do," says Nisha Sharma, managing director at Accenture Mobility. She points out that the best systems and apps reduce complex processes into simple and sometimes invisible actions that require minimal or no input from the user. A person simply taps a button or speaks a command, and the task takes place.
A key to success, she says, is to "build an extremely agile framework and constantly update your apps and functionality. You have to constantly think about how you can take advantage of new features and capabilities—and maximize results through mobile technology."
Put the technology in mobile devices to work.
In an era of extreme information overload, it's critical to deliver the right data and content at the right time and in the right way. TCS' Ramaswamy says that context, simplicity and personalization are everything.
For instance, an enterprise can boost results by using geolocation technology to identify when a person is receptive to a message or promotion. Or, it can turn to speech recognition in a smartphone to reduce or eliminate more complex typing and tapping strings. In the end, it's all about simplifying tasks and "creating a very dynamic but consistent experience," he explains.
Build responsive and secure systems.
If employees and customers cannot access key systems—or they are painfully slow or unreliable—they will likely be underused or ignored. Consequently, organizations must build mobile platforms and apps that are scalable and flexible. But it's also essential to take into account possible bandwidth constraints and ensure that users can access tools and data when they are offline.
"There must be a complete understanding of where data resides, how it's exchanged, and what type of security and privacy protections are required," explains Arvind Sarin, founder and CEO of Copper Mobile, an app development and consulting firm that has worked with eBay, Coca Cola, Holiday Inn Express, Verizon Wireless and other major companies.
Be creative and deliver a wow factor.
Only about 10 percent of organizations engage in what TCS' Ramaswamy describes as "digital reimagination." This means weaving together various digital tools and technologies—big data, analytics, cloud computing, social media and the IoT— to unleash advanced, if not transformative, capabilities. This approach also engages consumers and workers, particularly younger and technology-savvy users.
In some cases, the right combination of technology can create wormholes through once complex and time-consuming tasks and processes. "It is important to view mobile as a fundamentally different tool that delivers a different use case and a different experience," Ramaswamy points out.
Samuel Greengard, a contributing writer for CIO Insight, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.