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Top 10 Mobile Strategy Myths

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Mobile technology offers companies tremendous opportunities to transform their business. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about how to embrace mobile technologies to win in the market. Dirk Nicol, author of Mobile Strategy, walks you through the top 10 mobile myths.
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Mobile devices have become integrated into our daily lives and, as a result, enterprises see the tremendous opportunities for making their employees more productive, reaching new customers, and improving customer satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to improving the bottom line, generating new business models and transforming the way enterprises do business. However, mobile is different in many ways from typical IT efforts. Customers have higher expectations of speed and quality, and technologies are in constant flux. In the end, you need a comprehensive strategy that addresses market challenges and allows you to take advantage of the new opportunities around mobile.  Amidst all the excitement and constant change in the mobile industry, there are a number of commonly held mobile strategy misconceptions.  You can prevent strategic missteps by avoiding the following 10 mobile myths:

Myth: Native or web applications are  the only way to build a mobile app.
Fact: Hybrid apps can deliver the best of both native and web app capabilities.
As businesses approach their mobile app strategy, many times the assumption is that there are only two approaches—either web or native applications.  Mobile web applications have ubiquitous access because they can be rendered via any mobile browser, , yet mobile web apps lack some of the rich features of a native mobile app.  Native applications are built using the mobile device vendor’s SDKs and programming models.  To deliver a native application, the developer must use the unique programming model and language associated with the particular device operating environment.  This means that native applications are inherently non- portable across device platforms and can require unique and scarce skills.  However, with hybrid applications you have the best of both worlds.  Through open technologies, such as Apache Cordova, you can build your core logic in web technologies while leveraging native functionality of the device. Developers can mix re-usable HTML5 with native code in order to optimize for each platform’s best features.  So when you build your mobile strategy, consider the full spectrum of web, hybrid and native applications.

Myth: Quality expectations are the same for mobile and traditional applications.
Fact: Quality expectations are higher for mobile and require a different approach.
Enterprises see the tremendous value and opportunity around mobile.  However, the rapid change in technology and complexity of building mobile applications can make it a challenge for businesses to consistently build high quality mobile applications across multiple platforms. To compare mobile and traditional applications’ quality expectations, consider what happens when one visits a web page that not render properly—the individual simply refreshes the browser and thinks nothing of it.  However, with mobile, there is a very different expectation.  If an app does not perform well, the end user will likely delete the app, never to return again. In fact, a poor performing app can have a detrimental impact on a brand. According to Harris Interactive, 9 in 10 Americans associate negative feelings with regard to a brand that has poorly performing mobile experiences.  With app store reviews available for the entire world to see, it can be very difficult for a brand to recover from a poor quality app.  Companies need to build a mobile strategy that enables you to listen to your users and quickly improve an app based on feedback.   This means development teams need to move faster, be more agile and be able to quickly respond to user feedback.  The only way to accomplish this is to automate, orchestrate and drive all the inefficiency out of the dev and operations process. This is where the concept of DevOps (a methodology that emphasizes communication, collaboration and integration between development and operations teams) comes in. 

Myth: Testing across a handful of devices or emulators is all you need.
Fact: Mobile testing can be much more challenging than with traditional applications.
Testing for mobile devices is significantly more complicated than traditional application testing. It seems that every day a new mobile device is announced or a new version of an existing operating system is released. This apparent endless supply of mobile devices and technology is great for the consumer; however, this creates a challenge for a mobile development team trying to test for all the possible use cases. To maintain appropriate test coverage, as much as 20 percent of your devices may need to be replaced with new models each quarter. One should consider a broad set of techniques to help streamline and lower the cost of mobile testing.  The use of emulators and simulators early in the development process is critical.   Automated testing that works across device types should be used to reduce the cost and complexity of testing.  One may even consider using ‘device clouds’  access to get the widest variety of devices in order to obtain the right test coverage.

Myth: User experience and mobile security are unrelated.
Fact: It is important to understand how a security strategy will impact employee productivity.

Security is one of the top issues that come to mind when business leaders are considering a mobile strategy.  The issue of lost data or compromised network infrastructure can keep even the most experienced CIO up at night.  However, the entire BYOD (Bring Your Own Device, where employees use their own devices instead of corporate issued devices) movement is based on making employees more productive.  Therefore, if security features are too restrictive, it defeats the purpose of a mobile initiative that was designed to help employees get their jobs done more effectively.  When faced with burdensome security restrictions, users will often circumvent security controls, creating increased vulnerability, or abandon a program altogether.

It is best to find the right balance between security and user experience.  One approach is to include employees within a cross-organization taskforce where users are involved with the security policy definition process.  This way, the end user has a better understanding of the reasoning behind mobile security policies while sharing  feedback to help shape the user experience designed by the security team.

Myth: A mobile security strategy is successful if it stands the test of time.
Fact: You actually need an adaptive security strategy that is able to adjust as security threats and technology evolve. 

We are in early days with mobile technologies, and the market is in constant flux.  New devices are coming on the scene all the time with new technologies and platforms.  In addition, security threats are constantly changing.  With mobile tablet shipments predicted to exceed those of portable PCs, hackers are increasing their focus on mobile devices as a way to compromise both corporate and personal data.  In addition, mobile security best practices are relatively new and companies are evolving how to best approach mobile security.  Therefore,  you need to have an adaptive mobile strategy. You need to have the ability to monitor your networks, devices and apps in a way that allows for early detection of new threats, usage patterns and unusual traffic activity.  Incorporating a monitoring, scanning and analytics system that allows for early detection and then informs of how to adjust your security approach becomes important.

Myth: Securing the device is all that is needed in your mobile strategy.
Fact: You need a comprehensive strategy that deals with the device, network, app and how it fits in with your broader security systems.
It is important to have a holistic view of mobile security where one needs to consider more than just the device.  One needs a comprehensive view of the app, device and network.   Management software, such and MDM (Mobile Device Management), goes hand-in-hand with mobile security, ensuring the appropriate device settings are in place to align with security policies.  The device app needs to be managed with remote updates or even disablement of the app to ensure that the latest security features are in place.  You also need to monitor and manage the connection between the app and the enterprise so that one can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks or detect if the app has been tampered with.  This is where a mobile enterprise application platform can help (also known as an MEAP).  You also need to consider how your mobile security implementation fits in with your broader mobile strategy and your existing security infrastructure.   These considerations are all part of a comprehensive strategy.

Myth: Translation gives you a global mobile app strategy.
Fact: It is critical to consider the unique geographic characteristics of your audience.
It is easy to fall into the trap that your customers are only in the same geographic location as you are. You need to think globally and understand how mobility is different for them.  Even within a particular country, the rural and urban centers may have completely different technology requirements. The penetration of smartphones is not completely ubiquitous and, as such, some areas of the world may still be using traditional cell phones.  The way consumers get charged for services can be very different and can have a major impact on the way your customer experiences your app.  Pre-paid phones may be the norm, while in other locations monthly bills are typical.  Networks coverage and availability needs to be considered where it may not be practical to download large amounts of data and, instead, text messaging is more prominent. In the end, you need to have a global perspective and consider your audience and their unique requirements.

Myth: You need a separate strategy for mobile, cloud, social and big data.
Fact: Mobile, cloud, social and big data are reinforcing capabilities that are coming together to deliver new value for customers.
Social, cloud, big data and mobile (or SoCloDaMo pronounced So-Klow-Da-Mo) has begun to converge into a new IT delivery platform. It is driven by consumerization of IT, smaller budgets and an unending supply of connected smart devices. There is a growing interdependence and convergence between social networking behavior and mobile interactions, enabled by “around the clock” availability through cloud and big data. Social, cloud, big data and mobile come together to reinforce each other and when combined deliver greater value.  It enables your end users to interact with your business across multiple communication channels (also known as Omnichannel) whether it is PC, mobile phone, tablet, web site, kiosk, smart TV or any future device.  The reality is that a SoCloDaMo platform is here to stay and how the underlying technologies relate is critical to an overall mobile strategy.

Myth: The primary goal of a mobile strategy is to stay ahead of the competition.
Fact: If done right, a mobile strategy not only helps you stay ahead of the competition but can transform your business.
The mobile app empowers individuals with information in context of their daily tasks. Never before in human history have individuals had access to so much computing power and information at the tips of their fingers. Mobile technology can be used to transform your business by developing a deeper relationship with your customer, growing your brand and delivering better services.  The key to mobile transformation is to focus on bringing together context, intelligence and engagement to help your customers perform their tasks more efficiently and provide them with the next best action. Context allows your customer to interact with other people, the environment and past behavioral data in a particular moment.  Engagement is about delivering an easy and helpful user experience that weaves into your customer’s daily life.  Mobile intelligence is about leveraging the powerful computational resources of the device and the cloud at the moment of need.  This enables the end user to make the best possible choice to help complete their tasks.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of myths in the market place today around building a mobile strategy.  It requires a comprehensive approach that covers building mobile applications, security and mobile management, connecting to existing systems, extending your business and then transforming it.  With the right mobile platform married with the right strategy, you are on the path to transforming your business in an era of mobility.

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