A CIO's essential guide to mobile business strategy
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Nothing frightens me more than a meeting agenda that includes an item such as:
- FASB Topic 606 -- Narrow-scope Improvements and Practical Expedients
When I see such an agenda item, I beg my wife to write me a note that will excuse me from attending the meeting.
I suppose I should be grateful that the accountants in my company have a passion for the rulings, topics, interpretations and the like from the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB). I don't have that passion. And I do not wish to become an expert in the narrow-scope improvements and practical expedients related to FASB Topic 606.
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My passion is figuring out how to leverage technology to move the needle in the organization's life. Mobile computing is a technology that can be used to invigorate and improve how work gets done in the enterprise. This makes me -- and not our accountants or operations folks or even our marketing gurus -- the right person -- perhaps the perfect person -- to take on enterprise mobile application development. What does that mean (and why the italics)?
I segregate mobile applications into two general categories -- stand-alone and enterprise mobile apps.
The stand-alone apps can exist and operate without connecting to back-end data and services. My calculator app is an example of a stand-alone, as is my camera app.
The enterprise mobile apps get data from and send data to my complex back-end applications for transaction processing. A mobile banking app does not store transaction histories or process payments on a mobile device. Instead, it connects to the heavy-weight, back-end transactional systems and acts as a mobile interface to those systems.
Since my life revolves around enterprise applications, I spend the bulk of my time and attention on enterprise mobile apps. This makes me the right person -- perhaps the perfect person -- to take on enterprise mobile application development.
Brainstorm, map, apply technology
If this is true, how do I either lead or involve myself in enterprise mobile app creation?
I like to start with basic brainstorming. This might take the form of a high-level mapping of the customer/employee journey. A journey map is a process diagram or picture of the customer or employee's life. We then add to that map the ways in which we can or should touch their lives. With enterprise mobile application development, we add the dimension of the touchpoints that occur when the customer or employee is not bound to a specific location.
As we map the customer/employee journey, we identify the compelling, journey-improving things we can do via technology. For example, what transactions or notifications would someone like to perform or receive while away from their web, client-server or mainframe applications? What functionality and tools will overhaul our interactions with our customers/employees?
Depending on the condition of your back-end enterprise systems, an enterprise mobile app might be easy or difficult to develop and deploy. In our case, we have had to break our large, complex, monolithic enterprise applications into smaller services that talk to each other via APIs. Our mobile apps leverage these same APIs to get and store data.
Mobile modernizes legacy apps
For us, enterprise mobile application development has created significant benefits. We needed to modernize our legacy applications, and our enterprise mobile application development plans provided the motivation we needed to break up our legacy beasts. The nice thing is that we can follow the two streams -- one to make our enterprise applications "service and API-centric" and another to define and develop compelling enterprise mobile apps -- in parallel.
Our legacy enterprise applications are much more flexible and reliable, and we have mobile applications that have made a difference for our customers/employees. And, because of the need to possibly refactor and re-architect our legacy applications so that enterprise mobile apps are a reality, I just might be the right person -- perhaps the perfect person -- to take on enterprise mobile application development.
Recent columns by Nickolaisen:
Putting a human touch on mobile security
An ERP experience that changed my life
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