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For CIOs & Senior IT Executives

The Mobile Business Leader
Paul May, the Author




This is the first page in a series of pages (by Paul May) aimed at helping CIOs strengthen their m-business positions with strategic insight and actionable guidelines.

Page #1 (April 2002)

Distinguishing and reconciling short- and long-term issues in m-business

Pressure from the business to mobilise sales forces and field forces... Staff buying their own PDAs and expecting the IT department to support them... Suppliers bombarding everyone with messages about mobile devices, wireless networks, footloose lifestylesÖ

It looks like mobile business is happening. And itís our job to make sure weíre the ones making m-business happen - to the benefit of our businesses.

As the first m-business applications begin to make an impact in enterprises around the world, CIOs need to control and plan the onward development of m-business. In this column we tackle the planning and execution timeline at a macro level, offering some guidelines for your successful m-business agenda.

Two year horizon: peripheral vision

This period in the growth of m-business will see a natural focus on short-term benefits, organisational learning and mobile competence. The current business climate rightly encourages CIOs to focus on clear ROI cases for mobile solutions. These cases are most easily located amongst existing mobile teams who currently have poor access to corporate systems. Such poorly-provisioned teams include those who must tote laptops and navigate complex systems in order to access relatively few items of data such as prices, due dates and addresses, as well as teams who have no data support in the field at all.

Technology teams will also be faced with discovering, assessing and prioritising the growing plethora of mobile devices, networks and software options, as well as responding to the advances of new and established product and service companies.

The primary agenda for the next two years is therefore dominated by three items:

  • effective mobilisation of existing mobile teams

  • stabilisation of device, network and software support

  • measurement of pioneer projects against ROI cases

But how will long-term developments feed back into short-term actions? How can we steal a march on the future to ensure that we donít restrict the businessís movements or create redevelopment tasks for IT? To answer these questions, we need to look at how m-business will develop over the next time period.

Three to seven year horizon: mainstream mobility

Put yourself in the shoes youíll be wearing in 2004.

As early m-business solutions begin to bed down and earn their keep, they become an accepted part of the working landscape. (See: Mobileís Role, Now and Then.) Users habituated to mobile connectivity now take it for granted, implying that IT organizations must plan and execute mobile capabilities within the context of the total systems environment. Like the desktop before it, mobile will become a vital part of the businessís armoury rather than an add-on.

Now (2002/3):

Then (2004/6):

m-business is incremental

m-business is integral

mobility provides inclusion

mobility provides propulsion

mobile solutions assist mobile workers

mobile solutions create mobile workers

Figure 1: Mobileís Role, Now and Then

At the same time, new mobile teams will begin to emerge within the enterprise, demanding new types of functionality and adding to the pressure on developers. Some of these new teams will be formerly deskbound teams who have realized that mobile technology allows them to get out of the office, store or plant and engage directly with customers and partners. The habits of executive travel will trickle down to other roles in the organization, with workers of all kinds spending more time in the marketplace. The implication is that work practices, and the support environment that go with them, will start to change rapidly. Resource management concerns will shift from allocating desk space to tracking the whereabouts of workers and their proximity to corporate resources and other workers. The systems plannerís perspective will shift to a default expectation of mobility on the part of her users.

In addition, new streams of business will begin to emerge in many established companies, taking advantage of mobilityís advantages to take new products and services to new markets. Teams with novel business models, rooted in mobile technology, will challenge ITís ability to respond in a timely and confident manner. Itís not so much that mobility is a nice additional capability to have; itís more that mobility is a natural quality of the evolved business environment.

Mobile technologyís spread throughout the organization will also mean that nominally deskbound workers will access many functions from mobile devices rather than from their desktop - for preference and ease of use. And with the majority of workers now part of the mobilized population, the enterprise will be performing on a near-real-time basis. The impact on corporate systems performance is potentially immense.

During this same period we will experience an inevitable evolution in mobile technologies, leading to a greater need for standards. Public standards governing operating systems, network services and data representation will help developers, as will acceptance of standards for security, location finding and data synchronization. Within the organization, IT departments will need to revise their layered architectures to ensure that mobile applications obey the same laws of separation and collaboration that govern other reusable components and services. In other words, point solutions built for early mobile teams may need to be rearchitected to ensure that they exploit - and yield - common data and processes that apply to other parts of their value chain.

CIOs who plan for these developments will create vital strategic time for responding to less predictable changes induced by mobile technology. For example, improved technologies for voice control may drive all systems development away from classic GUIs towards a split voice-input graphic-output convention. Such developments could usher a new wave of UI redevelopment that adds further strain to development schedules.

Guidelines for today

Short- and long-term forces impact the way we shape strategy, as do internal and external forces. (See: M-business Strategy Forcefield.)


Figure 2: M-business Strategy Forcefield


What should CIOs be doing right now to advance and control their emerging mobile strategy? Along with identifying and launching your pioneer m-business projects, we suggest the following activities:

  • track the development of standards

  • facilitate dialogue between mobile and desktop development teams

  • create a joint procurement and support strategy with your telecoms team (if telecoms is not part of IT)

  • monitor outcomes of pioneer projects against ROI cases

  • watch for symptoms of growing de facto mobilisation, such as absent teams or requests for mobile device support

  • require a mobile usage scenario for every new system proposal

  • nurture the internal architectural function

  • exercise your credulity and skepticism with equal measure

Welcome to the era of m-business! Youíre in the driving seat, and itís going to be a great journey.

© Verista 2002 - Reproduced here by MobileInfo.Com with permission

About Paul May and Verista
Paul May is a Principal Consultant with Verista (www.verista.com) and the author of Mobile Commerce: Opportunities, Applications and Technologies of Wireless Business (2001) and The Business of Ecommerce: from Corporate Strategy to Technology (2000), both published by Cambridge University Press.

Verista is an independent consultancy specialising in digital channel strategy and management, wireless technologies, mobile workforce enablement and mobile marketing. We work with channel partners, systems integrators, network operators and software vendors to bring the appropriate mix of capabilities to our clients.

Related Resources:
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