In various IBM presentations about mobile starting at the Impact conference at the end of April, we’ve been using a slide that looks like this:
I’m going to give a quick introduction to some of the terms on the slide and what we mean by them.
Client Mobile Initiatives
From IBM’s perspective, what is the client trying to do with mobile and why might they want to talk to IBM about it? In an earlier draft of this we used the phrase “client mobile entry points.” This wasn’t always clear to people, but it did convey the idea that a customer is starting from one very specific aspect of mobile and wants to have a discussion about that. The three areas on the slide intersect all parts of the mobile lifecycle.
Now let’s start in the upper right corner and move clockwise.
Build and Connect
It is often the development or IT staff that begins here.
Where do mobile apps come from? What is necessary to construct the part of the app that lives on the device, smartphone or tablet, and the part that lives on the server on the backend? What tools are available for the developer for the full application lifecycle? How about testing for all the mobile operating systems and devices? For the device, what framework will allow you to have exactly the right balance of native code and HTML5 to give you the functionality, performance, and portability you need? How will you handle having apps for at least Apple iOS and Android? On the server side, can you use Java to create the code to support whatever you mobile app is supposed to do?
Regarding connectivity, this includes from the device to the backend and then also among the backend systems, applications, and databases to which you need to communicate. Having a system that can talk primarily to only one kind of backend system might seem expedient today but will possibly not support everything you want to do with future mobile apps. Having a mobile server that sits in the corner and has only weak integration with your services, messaging systems, and enterprise services busses is not really being enterprise-ready.
Manage and Secure
It is often the operational IT staff or CIO’s office that begins here.
It can be very hard at times to separate all the capabilities needed for security, application management, and device management. I think it is a very smart career move to become highly proficient in all the elements of mobile security.
Almost everything you can use for security for the web, you can use for mobile. You need to manage security at the device level, at the individual app level, over the network, and within the enterprise infrastructure. Since mobile devices will increasingly be used for portions of sophisticated attacks from many directions and sources, you’ll need security intelligence based on analytics that can correlate, detect, and shutdown such attacks.
The area of data separation is getting a lot of attention these days through techniques like partitioning, containerization, and virtualization. We’ve seen many ways of doing this, especially for Android, and I’m waiting to see what Apple might do in this area.
It’s best to catch security problems before your app goes out the door.
At Impact I heard an estimate that there were close to 100 Mobile Device Management vendors out there. Choose carefully for the long term, especially if this is your most important and earliest mobile project.
Extend and Transform
This is place where the business side usually starts. Geolocation from the mobile device is frequently necessary for these apps to differentiate themselves from laptop alternatives.
Many customers are extending existing applications or channels to mobile. Have an online retail website? Create, or have someone else create, a dedicated and branded mobile app that allows catalog browsing and purchases.
If you are a bank, similarly create a mobile app but decide what functionality should be in there. I might apply for a mortgage from within my laptop’s browser but I won’t be doing it from my smartphone.
So extend means to take what you’ve got and add a mobile dimension. This is increasingly becoming table stakes, or required, for B2C enterprises. Many companies are focusing on doing this and many people are getting paid to help them do it.
For me, “transform” is the really interesting one of these two, however essential “extend” is. This means combining multiple services to create significant added value. Put another way,
a transformational mobile app is one that significantly improves the quality of your personal or business life, allowing you to do things you have never done before, and permitting you to be more effective and productive in an especially seamless way.
Transformational apps often pull in social and commerce aspects, backed by analytics. They may involve partnering between players in difference industries such as financial services, hospitality, retail, healthcare, government, and travel and transportation.