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Enterprise mobile application development: A CIO strategy guide

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BYOA is here: Six steps to making mobile apps enterprise-ready

BYOA is here. Whether your mobility strategy is done or in progress, these six steps to enterprise-ready mobile apps will help.

Ready or not, the mobile space is evolving once again -- and yes, that means another four-letter acronym is coming your company's way. Now that bring your own device (BYOD) is the new normal, CIOs should start thinking about bring your own applications (BYOA) as a component of a complete mobility strategy.

Jack GoldJack Gold

That was the advice from Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates LLC, an IT strategy firm based in Northborough, Mass. Speaking at the recent e2 conference in Boston, Gold said that employees are starting to lobby to use the mobile applications they want, when they want to, and on all those personal devices they've already brought into their companies.

That means CIOs and IT leaders should be thinking about incorporating what's considered the best-of-class for mobile apps into the enterprise. As with BYOD, the adoption of BYOA will be a balancing act that ideally allows users choice but keeps IT in control.

The "the enterprise-ation of mobile apps," as Gold calls it, will be no easy task. Here is his six-step program for getting there.

Seven components to consider when calculating mobile ROI

  • Acquisition of mobile devices: Even if users buy their own devices, you're still supporting them.
  • Connectivity: They will have to go on the VPN and licenses may have to be purchased.
  • App development and integration: This can be the biggest cost in an organization, especially if it's not done right.
  • User training and support
  • Help desk: Just because users bring their own devices doesn't mean they know how to fix their own problems.
  • Device enhancement and management
  • App portfolio and liabilities

Source: Jack Gold

1. Create a strategic vision

The first order of business in making BYOA part of your enterprise mobility strategy is to play offense, not defense. If you're in reactive mode, users will come to you with an app they've found and demand to download it and use it on their device, Gold said. Proactive CIOs and their teams will do their homework, examining a wide variety of apps that they can then feel good about offering to users. When IT can say, "We know the apps are relatively secure, we know how to manage them, we know how to work with them and we've licensed them already" -- that's going from reactive to proactive.

2. Concentrate on the apps, not the devices

The mobile device is still important when figuring out a BYOA policy, because there are issues related to security and interoperability with apps. But Gold said it's more important to first look at the app requirements and understand what the end user is trying to do. Not all users are created equal: They have different needs, different access requirements and different access rights.

3. Consider the business roadmap

Individual BYOA requests should always be considered in the wider context of the enterprise's overarching mobile app strategy. It may sound obvious, but it is important to know the company's ultimate goal with mobility. A real mobility strategy -- not a mobile device strategy -- looks at where the business is going to be in three years and what kinds of applications it needs end users to be empowered to use. To reiterate: It's not just about looking at the devices of today and the apps of today, although that almost certainly will be the chief focus of the user insisting on BYOA. It's about choosing the right devices, strategies, applications, management, security, and more to serve the business strategy for as long a window as possible.

4. Build an app portfolio

How do CIOs know which mobile apps are worth supporting in a BYOA program? It can help to take a balanced portfolio approach, Gold said, recognizing that some mobile apps will have high ROI and other won't. For example, one consumer mobile application could enable the sales team to double its sales in a year -- in other words, a return well worth IT's time to support. Another mobile app may result in only a 10% boost in sales revenue and still be worth accommodating. A mobile app custom-built for a particular business operation could well exact a high total cost of ownership but still be necessary to support. Still other apps will tank. This is the nature of portfolio approach. Just be ready with an explanation for your portfolio mix. Most CIOs don't take the time to figure out ROI for applications, and this is a good way to fail at getting funding for mobile development.

More on mobility strategy

CIOs need to focus on crafting a mobile app strategy

Why CIOs must create a next-gen mobility strategy today

CIOs, listen to your end users when building a mobility strategy

5. Get users on your side

IT has a tendency to keep users in the dark on why technology decisions are made. ("Because we said so" is not an explanation.)This is fatal to a BYOA program, for obvious reasons. Explain to users the basis for decisions and they're less likely to believe IT is acting arbitrarily, more likely to understand the need to accept certain limitations on their mobile apps and -- bonus points -- they'll also feel more in control.

6. Lifecycle management

It is important to support users while simultaneously planning for obsolescence. For example, the average smartphone on the market today has a life of about 16 to 18 months; users will be replacing them often and may not go back to the same type of phone. Be prepared for the flux.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, features writer.

This was first published in June 2013

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Essential Guide

Enterprise mobile application development: A CIO strategy guide
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