Mobile-First in the last few years became a buzzword that quickly made its way into the enterprise and is starting to challenge IT organizations. When you think about an organization like Flex who leverages technology to manage and optimize every aspect of its operations for over 200,000 employees spread across 30 countries, you can quickly expect that a sizable number of enterprise level applications are accumulated. Whether this is a single application that serves a specific function or a set of applications integrated to solve for a more complex set of processes. The organization is now responsible for supporting and maintaining hundreds of applications.
As Mobile First enters the enterprise conversation, the IT organization has to have a strategy to deal with the sudden shift in this technology trend. As an IT director at Flex, I have seen how the experience with consumer level apps has spilled over to the work environment. Employees want a better experience. Their expectations of how enterprise applications should work have evolved. In addition, generation Z who are accustomed to relying on apps are quickly making their way into the workforce. Therefore, having a mobile first strategy becomes critical to how you operate moving forward.
Enterprise applications for the most part were not meant for mobile. In fact, many systems are neither cross device nor cross browser compatible. This gap will continue to grow as applications get older. When I was asked to create a mobile platform strategy, the question wasn’t how do I mobilize every application, but rather identifying parts of the application that would benefit from being accessible from a mobile device. The challenge is to identify synergies between applications that don’t currently exist and mobilize them to enhance productivity. In my view an employee will not turn to his mobile device and conduct a process that has 20 plus transactions. However, they will turn to their device to look up a value on a report or set a process in motion and take an action with few taps of the screen.
Things to Consider
When you think mobile, you can’t limit your strategy to phones and tablets. Your strategy should also include wearable devices. With Apple selling more than 4 million watches as of July 30th 2015, you can bet one of your executives will ask you to deliver alerts or key metrics on his or her watch.
Your strategy can’t be the traditional 3-year plan. Changes in this space are happening fast and you’re approach should be flexible to accommodate the shift in trends. Mobile platforms are changing, the OS are changing and the devices are changing at a rapid speed. To make things more complex, Gartner has forecasted that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes. This means your mobile first strategy has to be robust in order to withstand the constant change in technology as you deliver and support apps for “X” number of operating systems and device types.
If you’re new in this space, your mobile architecture should start with security and metrics considerations first and move out to decisions on the types of development applications and process required to deliver apps.
What Success Looks Like
To me, our success in the mobile space rests on three key areas. First, I see opportunities in being able to consolidate, centralize and mobilize workflows and approval process, regardless of the underlying application. In many cases one user has to take several actions in multiple applications to complete a single transaction. Our success in this area will depend on how well we can serve our employees with a common user experience across all their devices to take action anytime, anywhere without having to move from one system to another.
Next is surfacing KPI’s and metrics and put them in the pockets and wrists of management or executives who depend on data to gauge the pulse of the business and make critical decisions on the go.
Last but not least, we see great opportunity and success with mobile in the supply chain. Both apps and devices in this space help with speed, efficiency and visibility of the operation. Creating apps that allow greater visibility on how your product moves through the supply chain is just the first layer, adding the ability to allow decision and communication to be made in real time within the app is where we think is the differentiator.