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Mobile Strategy: 10 Crucial Best Practices




Building a Mobile Strategy and incorporating Cloud solutions are topics that are driving a long overdue paradigm shift in the way CIO’s and their IT leadership build and execute strategic plans and investments.

When it comes to mobile, many organizations are caught between the reactive impact of consumer mobile realities on their organization and critical needs to build long-term strategic enterprise class solutions. We outline 10 best practices.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Worry less about range gadget “types” and more about data fluidity, functional agility and the user experience.
  • Designing for mobile first can help make your enterprise more secure overall.
  • Plan access, authentication and application session server capacities for 100x more than they are now.
  • Separate presentation layers and content designs within your mobile initiatives from the back-office architectural design and certification.
  • By mid-2014, many enterprises will look to unwind early mobile efforts that become strategic misfits.


Core CIO / IT Executive Strategic Issues:

  • How will enterprises harness the explosion in mobile technologies and business capabilities to drive new levels of innovation?

Key Planning Issue:

  • What best practices will enable enterprises to migrate from consumer mobile tactics to enterprise grade strategy and how will they evolve?



We believe that by 2014 more than 70% of typical Fortune 1000 companies will have failed to put a comprehensive mobile strategy in place – leading to much overspending and ever-increasing data security risks. As we’ve highlighted before, mobile is changing all the rules about how employees get their work done, how consumers find, buy, and consume your products. Many CIO’s are becoming more keenly aware that enterprise mobility is giving users (not IT) the power to redefine both “the office” and “the work” simultaneously. If a CIO isn’t building a long-term strategy with mobile in mind, then big problems loom on the horizon.

The problem for many CIO’s and their executive IT staff, is at least twofold:

1) The mobile ecosystem remains in a state of flux, immaturity and competitive emotions.

2) As many enterprises succumb to the employee pressures due in no small part to the speed of the consumer mobile evolution, we’re beginning to bear witness to the impact of escalating costs and risks impact on the enterprise. These risks include, asset, intellectual property, reputation, and employee and customer retention.

A tertiary issue we believe is also in play: How will enterprises unwind early mobile efforts that become strategic misfits for IT and the business?

The current state of mobile – inside and external to the enterprise – is creating a CIO mandate to not only figure out how to harness the power of mobile throughout their organizations, but also to manage the new complexities that come because of mobile. We believe it is critical for CIO’s and their executive IT staff to consider the following strategic best practices.

1. Mobile isn’t just the new desktop

Mobile mandates the need to give support and secure a heterogeneous structure throughout all layers of the OSI model. Worry less about “gadgets” and more about “data fluidity”, functional agility and the user experience. Consider that these items are a long overdue paradigm shift irrespective of mobile in the way CIO’s and their IT organizations should think.

Advice: If you already have a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), layer in Mobile Oriented Services (MOS) as a platform with an eye towards retiring MDM point solutions. If not, start building one.

2. Thinking beyond the app

CIO’s should to lead their organizations through an exercise to answer three questions:

  1. What can we do better because of an investment in mobility?
  2. What can we do that is new that will drive incremental revenue and profit?
  3. How can we make our employees more productive?

Thinking about building an app is strategic, but building and deploying an app is tactics, not strategy. In fact the moment your finally deploy an app, chances are it’ll feel old and you’ll already be thinking about the next iteration. Building an app is one of many outcomes that evolve from a mobile strategy. It is important to give a flexible solution that will allow for personal work preferences, increase productivity for employees and offer the right tool for the job.
Advice: The best return on mobile occurs when organizations think forward and out, not backwards and inwards. CIO’s best serve the interests of the business by establishing architecture that meets the long-term vision of the organization.

3. Design for “Mobile First”.

Designing for mobile first can help make your enterprise more secure. The concept of mobile first is about building more agility into the deployment and use of solutions, their support, and how their data remain secure outside the sterility of  “traditional” IT models. Building for mobility promotes a greater focus on protecting data in motion and at rest, irrespective of server, the endpoint device(s) type or location or the networks that in use. Mobile first is also about enabling the right solutions, to the right people, at the right time and place to a device screen that is right for the user. As an enterprise moves beyond endpoint device command and control tools, like MDM, in support of extending organizational functionality, both IT and the LOB’s are compelled to visit the overall structural intent and framework of their existing security. The structural and framework review often leads an enterprise to discover existing latent security defects. Organizations also begin the necessary process of migrating from a one size fits all security paradigm to a more prudent and rational security framework. E.g. how you secure marketing slide-ware is quite different from how you secure patient or company financial documents and databases.
Advice: Review your enterprise Info-Sec with a mobile first eye. Don’t let the uncertainties of security hurt you, or prevent you from getting started.

4. Build for Scale.

Being successful at building an enterprise grade mobile initiative means building for scale. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your access; authentication and application session server capacities are 10x more than they have been for traditional laptop access.
Advice: Build as if your app will be very successful. Make sure you understand what scale means to your organization.

5. IT must release some of its control domain.

It’s a good idea to separate the presentation layers and content designs within your mobile initiatives from their back-office architectural interface counterparts. By modularizing in this fashion, it allows IT, Info-sec and compliance groups to certify and support the technical integrity of the mobile solutions that integrate into the back office. And it allows Marketing, HR and other non-technical staff to configure the functionality within the modules to create valuable human user experiences – where their skill-sets excel.
Advice: IT must be part of the solution choice and certification but should get out of the presentation layer and feature design business.

6. Engage employees and customers in the feature roadmap.

Time and time again enterprise leaders tell me how they initially started down the road of building a very inspirational mobile roadmap only to find that what customers and employees wanted was far more practical. It may not be glamorous, but if employees feel lots of anxiety and waste time scheduling conference calls, meeting rooms and experience reimbursement, then start there. Be practical. Start small. Continue to iterate and evolve in line with your business goals. Advice: Find out what your customers and employees really want by asking them.

7. Build and use analytics.

As my grandfather once said – measure twice, cut once. You’ll never know how those sage words saved me time and money as a budding carpenter around the house. The same is true for mobile initiatives – especially at the application level. No matter how many how questions we ask employees or customers what functionality they want and how that manifests itself through a user experience, there is nothing like bolting on analytics and do the math. I can assure you that you will find features that go unused, spot user confusion and varying adoption rates that are likely role, geographic or device related (e.g. ultra book vs. tablet vs. smartphone, keyboard vs. non-keyboard).
Advice: Use analytics to measure adoption, use patterns and to discover what to do next.

8. Balance the needs of business and the desires of employees.

Consumers with gadgets in hand have created hysteria for IT and a gold rush for companies like Apple, Google and Samsung. And like it or not, your enterprise has subsidized this gold rush on several fronts. The pressure to satisfy the consumers’ emotional gratification throughout this era (e.g. “play happy”) has largely come at the cost of the “work happy” business goals of the company. Executives involved in mobile initiatives should include cross-functional influencers and budget holders. The team should get focus on how mobile is good for the business. Often breaking down the thinking into three buckets helps bring clarity. These buckets include:

  1. What are the business drivers? The majority (but not all) of business drivers will be external influences on your business – what do my customers want? What are my competitors doing? How are regional and global economics influencing shifts in my business about how my customers and my supply chain want to do business?
  2. What strategic responses? What do I need to do to successfully address the challenges and opportunities of the internal and external business drivers?
  3. Technology initiatives – What are the technologies and solutions that will most effectively help me execute against the strategic responses?

Advice: Establish an Executive Council Excellence with a charter that balances the needs of the business and the desires of the employees. Finance, HR and key LOB’s, IT and Marketing should all be involved.

9. Failure is success, but only if we learn from it.

Consider that most companies:

  • Overestimate the number of features a mobile application should have
  • Underestimate the infrastructure impact (e.g., 100x more traffic on your Salesforce, email or Web server)
  • Create a poor user experience.
  • Fail to build in analytics

Advice: Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from getting started. Fail fast and move forward faster.

10. Mobile means, build for change, not to last.

The one sure thing that CIO’s can count on about mobility is change. In terms of a human evolution analogy, we’re just at the point where we’ve discovered how to make a fire out of twigs and sticks.
Advice: Make a plan, build a playbook and keep your visors on.



Every organization moves at a different pace and individual CIO agendas are generally bound by budget, manpower and technology available resources. But before implementing a mobile strategy, would be well advised to understand the nature of mobility, create strategic planning scenarios for mobile and keep the channels of communication open; engage your workforce, listen to your customers and innovate to see what solutions are possible.


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