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For CIOs & Senior IT Executives

The Mobile Business Leader
Paul May, the Author

 Article (Web Page) #4 - September 2002


This is the fourth column (shall we say, web page) in a series of pages (by Paul May) aimed at helping CIOs strengthen their m-business positions with strategic insight and actionable guidelines.

The Mobile Business Leader -  Five Golden Tips for Mobile Business

In this column we offer five guidelines for CIOs who are developing m-business strategies. These are practical, and in some cases urgent, matters. Our advice comes from experience working with the pace-setters in mobile. Today, this thinking is out-of-the-box. Soon it will be commonplace. Implement these guidelines now, and you'll help to ensure you're around to see them become no-brainers.

1: Mask the fragility of wireless environments.
Business applications cannot be founded on fragile infrastructures. Yet wireless networks are currently flaky, partial and unpredictable. What can you do?

Implement an infrastructure layer that adds seamless assurance to your connectivity, across fixed and wireless networks, and for all devices. Unless you have a few person-years spare to develop this capability, you'll need to look at Intuwave's m-Network (http://www.intuwave.com). They've done the job for you. 

You can't afford to roll out applications that rely on constant wireless connectivity. For one thing, they won't work outside of coverage areas. For another, they may be slow and unwieldy if they rely on a thin-client architecture. However, there's not much credibility in offering a mobile solution that relies on explicit synchronization. Remove these issues with an intermediary applications layer that ensures service availability, manages caching and makes best use of the device's capabilities.

2: Keep pace with web services.
Web services are the latest manifestation of an ideal: a universal, simple, agnostic architecture for wrapping data and functions as services. Loved by technologists, web services are making an impact in legacy systems integration and are the pervasive technology in new software development. Web services must reach out beyond fixed networks. Your mobile applications need to be designed as consumers (and often producers) of web services. The exclusive thin-client or fat-client models of the past no longer apply. Mobile devices need to participate fully in the mainstream systems portfolio, not as fragile pocket web systems, nor as mobile-specific oddities. Look for development tools and methods that regard mobile users as rightful participants.

3: Question the logic of mobile email
We're all being sold email-on-the-move. It's apparently a no-brainer. But take a cool look at the value that email adds to your organization. Some of it is junk. Much of what is left over is unnecessary. In many cases, email is used to virtual-paper over the lack of proper business systems. It would be a great mistake to extend this folly to the mobile arena. You need to write business cases that dictate value-add for mobile business. There is rarely a convincing case for vanilla mobile email.

4: Exploit consumer pitches.
Now take a cool look at what's being hyped in the consumer market, and how it could be applied with profit in your business. If you're going to be a dog-in-the-manger over mobile email this Christmas, you might want to be bullish about picture-texting in the new year. Multimedia messaging (MMS) is being pushed heavily this season - but despite the efforts of tennis's first family, it's an expensive play for most consumers.

But as new handsets are introduced and early adopters yield to second-movers, picture-messaging will become a very affordable niche solution for enterprises. First-wave camera-phones will be cheap to acquire. And for business units that need to take quick shots and get them to colleagues, these devices will be a boon. The insurance loss-adjuster is often quoted here: but there's also the buyer with a possible new line of merchandise, the service engineer with a novel meltdown, the recruitment consultant with a hot candidate.

Remember: opportunism is a valid strategy. It's how companies survive harsh climates.

5: Think physical.
It's easy to get carried away by the promised delights of the evolving digital era. We need to pull ourselves short on some key, down-to-earth, close-to-home issues. As mentioned before in this series, when designing mobile services it is crucial to analyze and serve the usage situation of the user, rather than assume certain capabilities, preferences or behaviors in the user.

To take an even grittier example: what about security? Think about the security at your building. You may have read articles about cycling WiFi enthusiasts borrowing bandwidth from leaky installations, and they make great reading. Well, as a consultant, I visit many corporate buildings in the course of a week. I am often asked to check my laptop with Security. I have never once been asked about anything I might be carrying. Not my wireless PDA. Nor my pocket 20 Gigabyte hard disk, which just happens to be styled as an MP3 player. 

It's time to update your policy on exactly what you let walk in and out of your facilities. At the same time, consider initiating that survey of PDAs and smartphones owned by your personnel. You might find that there's a greater aggregated computing and communications infrastructure lodged amongst your staff and visitors than appears on your company's books.

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:
> Go to Paul May's First Article (April 2002) 
> Go to Paul May's Second Article (May 2002)
Go to Paul May's Third Article (July 2002)
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