Walk before you run with mobile innovation

December 15, 20174 Minute Read

Mobile innovation has disrupted entire business models in the consumer world. Now, IT teams are recognizing its potential in the corporate space—and by recognizing, we really mean mobile came, it saw, and it’s conquering. The problem for companies is building and executing long-term mobile strategies while dealing with short-term challenges. IT teams can often find themselves stuck in firefighting mode, dealing with the everyday maintenance and administrative issues required to keep an IT department functioning.

Almost seven in ten (69 percent) of the 1,400 respondents interviewed in Cisco’s 2015 Enterprise Mobility Survey believe mobile will have a greater effect throughout the next 10 years than the web had during the last 20. Even more of them (78 percent) consider mobility a strong strategic incentive for their organization’s success. The numbers are there—but laying strong mobile groundwork in your organization can get tricky, at first.

To firefight, or to innovate?

Legacy hardware has to be maintained, change management processes followed, software licences kept compliant, and budgets met. As Benoit Laclau, a partner in EY’s IT advisory practice, points out in the company’s DNA of the CIO report, “It’s very difficult to talk about value creation when the PCs in the call centre aren’t working, or the chief executive’s printer fails.”

Switching modes to concentrate on mobile innovation rather than firefighting involves first mastering the operational challenges facing the IT department and then engaging the rest of the business, according to EY’s report. Only then can the CIO understand where to add value within the organization and leverage mobility as a tool where it makes sense.

Focus on automation

Mastering the operational challenges in an IT department starts with the automation of time-consuming tasks. In many cases, scripting commands on an improvised basis creates automation silos. The goal is to move beyond this to the point where IT and business processes can be automated in an orchestrated way. IT departments can identify the most time-consuming tasks and use IT workflow automation tools to coordinate and execute them. Scripting tasks—think change management and system provisioning—into these systems can reduce time-waster tasks that introduce human error.

If you do it right, IT automation can lay the groundwork for a more service-based culture. IT service management platforms can string together automated tasks into longer processes that form the basis for user-facing services. One example might be supplying key IT services for new users, or decommissioning IT resources for employees leaving the company.

One possible outcome of a highly automated, service-based system is the creation of a self-service portal—enabling authorized users to provision their own services. An immature, manually-focused IT team would have to set up new email accounts, equip storage, and install applications for users on command. A mature, service-driven IT organization will enable users to do these things themselves, freeing up the IT team to focus on more strategic objectives (like introducing mobile applications).

An agile path to mobile development

IT departments embracing mobility as a platform for their business users will find the software development and deployment requirements of mobile different from those of desktop applications. Mobile users are used to constant application updates with new features to match their device’s capabilities. Enterprise mobile applications must constantly evolve to remain relevant to their users. This makes agile development a key characteristic in mobile projects.

In agile development, IT teams meet frequently with end-users to find out how their needs are evolving and to test their latest software builds. Release cycles are frequent, and development teams consistently listen to and act upon user feedback. Automation can also enhance agile development scenarios. To speed up release cycles while maintaining software quality, much of the grunt work associated with software development—including the staging of development, testing for software bugs, and deployment to production—can be automated. Heads up, design and development team: This allows you to focus on those important end-user conversations.

Bring in DevOps for mobile innovation

The need for mobility has led to the rise of DevOps as an operating model for development teams. Successful DevOps teams use cloud infrastructure—private or otherwise—to automate the workflow underpinning agile software development. When you can control infrastructure with code, guess what? It’s way easier to spin up a virtual development machine, automate the provisioning of a test server and the execution of those tests, and then finally deploy that software to a production server.

Making time for mobile innovation in the enterprise involves slicing away time-consuming tasks so your team can concentrate on the real challenge in mobile development: adding value. Once mundane tasks are cleared from the to-do list, IT teams can find business processes that can be transformed with mobile technology and use them to bring real competitive advantage to the company.

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