Monday Jul 21, 2014

Enterprise Mobility - Follow the Data

Author: Craig Mikus, Sr. Director, Enterprise Mobile Solutions

I always enjoy talking to customers about their enterprise mobile strategy.  Unfortunately, all too often, our conversations are about their short term plans to build one or two mobile apps, as opposed to considering a more comprehensive enterprise mobile strategy around one platform to develop, integrate, secure, manage and deploy hundreds of mobile applications. But that’s OK, most companies have to crawl before they can walk, and then walk before they run.

To start our mobile conversations, I usually like to understand the problem being solved, or on the flip side, how mobile applications will help their company innovate and create real competitive differentiation.   Regardless of our discussion entry points, I always end up talking about their backend data, and not just in terms of integration or security.  Enterprise mobility is not just about a vendor’s technology to develop, integrate, and secure mobile applications.  It’s also about their business processes and accessing or generating critical data from a mobile device.  In many cases, if you “follow the data”, you can uncover the root cause of why a company is really building mobile apps, and it may surprise everyone,  especially those who tasked to develop the mobile applications.   

For example, I was speaking with a customer recently that wanted to understand our mobile development products.   I asked why they were building mobile apps and they responded that they wanted a new way to interact with their customers.   After several more questions, it turns out the company really didn’t know their customers.  You see, this company wholesales their products to a big retailer, who in turn sells their products to the ultimate consumer.  The only way this company knows their ultimate customer is when the buyer responds to a support issue or they register the product for its warranty.  As it turns out, this company only knew about 20% of their actual customers.  To make matters worse, their back end systems (i.e. support and warranty systems) were not integrated so they didn’t have one master customer record, which caused massive data quality issues, especially when they tried to analyze their data. 

To solve these data quality issues, the business was determined to build a mobile application to allow customers to easily register their products and simultaneously build a master customer record.  With a single customer master saved, the company could feed the data into other transactional systems.  This knowledge would then help the business proactively interact with their customers by leveraging the new mobile apps to drive promotions, product updates, product feedback, customer loyalty programs, etc.   

Once everyone understood the primary driver of the mobile app, the company execs re-established the objectives of the mobile project and recruited differentfolks from within the company to be involved in this mobile project.  In the end, the company was able to align this mobile project to an overall company goal and just as important, everyone understood and shared the goal.

My lesson learned and advice to others when outlining an enterprise mobile strategy “Follow the data”.  The data willtypically uncover  opportunities, identify potential problems and root causes, help answer questions around integration and security, and expose what will really drive valued enterprise mobile solutions.


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