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Moving Target

A look at mobile computing strategies.



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Success in mobile computing requires strategy. Like a certain, extremely popular gaming app, organizations can’t just sling resources, or irate fowl, at a target and hope for the best. It requires the right trajectory, timing and tools to reach the next level.

When faced with a new challenge, not unlike demolishing a swine-constructed stronghold, there’s frequently a period of trial and error to determine the best plan of attack. The mobile technology trend is no different. And as more enterprises enter the fray, some common approaches are emerging. These make up a continuum as organizations begin and mature in their mobile efforts. They can be described as:

Ad hoc: Piecemeal mobile initiatives that are predominantly employee-focused, reactive and simply dropped into an IT priority list with everything else. Customer-targeted mobile initiatives, if they exist, aren’t handled by internal IT teams, but outsourced by the business team to third-party developers.

Coordinated: Mobile includes employee and customer projects, and IT is more proactive and deliberative in this approach, providing more efficient processes. IT leads internal employee mobile efforts but merely supports customer-facing mobile projects, which are still owned by the business side.

Aligned: Mobile spans employees, customers and business partners, driven by a single strategic plan and a mobile center of excellence while a supplier ecosystem emerges. A consistent business case and funding plan are in place, but leadership and execution are disconnected.

Unified: A multifunctional team leads and evangelizes all mobile initiatives and coordinates budgeting. This team pushes “mobile-first” thinking across the enterprise.

Tim Rowe, a business architect for application development and systems management with the IBM i Development Lab, assesses organizations’ mobile strategies thusly: “From a high-level perspective, it’s either here or there. You do a little bit, you’re focused completely, or you have no clue. If you go across the IBM i community, you’ve got many examples of customers who fall into each of the categories.”

Aiming High

While adopting an advanced approach to mobile, GHY International, a Winnipeg, Manitoba-based customs brokerage firm, is still early in its implementation. “I would say, from a strategy perspective, we’re definitely at an aligned mode,” explains Nigel Fortlage, GHY’s vice president of IT and social business leader. “Saying that, there’s a difference between where the strategy is and what’s actually happening. That’s because really . . . we’re very much at the infancy of actually kicking off and moving down this path.”

One early mobile pilot project, driven by the GHY operations group and initiated in late December 2012, provided about 20 iPads to the management team and some key individuals. “It breaks down to providing an alternate way they can do business,” Fortlage says. In addition to email, calendar and contact functions, those involved in the pilot can also use Lotus* Domino*, Lotus Notes* and Lotus Traveler, which provides connectivity to those Lotus products as well as simple mobile device management capabilities. “So that was a no-brainer out the door,” he adds. Team members will also take advantage of iBooks for marketing materials, customer reporting and other information for use during face-to-face client meetings. Marketing videos related to trade compliance strategies were downloaded on the tablets for sharing with clients remotely regardless of Wi-Fi connection. Through Web browsers on the devices, employees can also ratchet up their social networks through LinkedIn or Google+, bringing them into a business context, Fortlage says.

For the technical team, the iPads offer many tools traditionally accessed on laptops, but in a smaller form factor. This can be particularly helpful connecting to systems during after-hour service patches and the like. “I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to live your day—on a small screen with a touch panel—but if you need to check something after hours, this is an easy way to be able to do it,” he adds.

Mike Westholder is managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition.

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