10 Top Tips for CIOs Investing in Mobile | Bob Egan, The Sepharim Group

Here’s a terrific guest post from Bob Egan, Executive Advisor on Mobile Business Strategies and Technologies, Founder of The Sepharim Group. Thanks, Bob!

[Our white paper Moving to Mobile? Five Considerations That Can Make or Break Your Business offers further thoughts about mobile strategy. Selecting the a well designed, secure, scalable mobile-first platform makes a CIO’s job a lot easier. — FotoNotes staff]


10 Top Tips for CIOs Investing in Mobile

Ask any CIO what keeps them awake at night and an honest one will tell you; how much mobility technology costs and finding the balance between enabling the user community, while not spending much more on IT.  But if a CIO doesn’t have a mobile strategy in place, they’re going to need a lot of coffee in the morning!

The fact that the world has gone mobile is old news now. Look at a small child and you’ll see them work a smartphone out and play with apps before they go anywhere near a desktop computer. This will be their world soon and we’re the test-dummies figuring it out for them.

Gartner estimates that by 2014 60% of typical Fortune 1000 companies will have failed to put a comprehensive mobile strategy in place – leading to considerable overspending and ever increasing data security risks.

To help you get your house in order, here are 10 tips to help CIOs who are investing in mobile.

1. Think beyond the app

CIOs need to lead their organisations to answer three questions:

  1. What can we do better because of an investment in mobility?
  2. What can we do that is new that will drive incremental revenue and profit?
  3. How can we make our employees more productive?

Thinking about building an app is strategic, but building and deploying an app is tactics, not strategy. In fact the moment your finally deploy an app, chances are it’ll feel old and you’ll already be thinking about the next iteration. Building an app is one of many outcomes that evolve from a mobile strategy.

It is important to provide a flexible solution that will allow for personal work preferences, increase productivity for employees and provide the right tool for the job.

Advice: The best return on mobile occur when organisations think forward and outward, not backwards and inwards. CIO’s best serve the interests of the business by establishing architecture that meets the long-term vision of the organisation.

2. Mobile isn’t just the new desktop

Mobile mandates the need to provide, support and secure a heterogeneous structure throughout all layers of the OSI model. Worry less about “gadgets” and more about “data fluidity”, functional agility and the user experience. Consider that these items are a long overdue paradigm shift irrespective of mobile in the way CIO’s and their IT organisations should think.

Advice: If you already have a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), layer in Mobile Oriented Services (MOS) as a platform with an eye towards retiring MDM point solutions. If not, start building one.

3. Design for “Mobile First”

Designing for mobile first can help make your enterprise more secure. The concept of mobile first is about building more agility into how solutions are deployed and used, supported, and secured outside the sterility of “traditional” IT models. Building for mobility promotes a greater focus on protecting data in motion and at rest, irrespective of server, the endpoint device(s) type or location or the networks that are being used.  Mobile first is also about enabling the right solutions, to the right people, at the right time and place to a device screen that is right for the user.

As an enterprise moves beyond endpoint device command and control tools, like MDM, in support of extending organisational functionality, both IT and the LOB’s are compelled to visit the overall structural intent and framework of their existing security.

The structural and framework review often leads an enterprise to discover existing latent security defects. Organisations also begin the necessary process of migrating from a one size fits all security paradigm to a more prudent and rational security framework. E.g. How you secure marketing slideware is quite different than how you secure patient or company financial documents and databases.

Advice: Design for mobile first, review your security. Don’t let the uncertainties of security prevent you from getting started.

4. Build for Scale

Being successful at building an enterprise grade mobile initiative means building for scale. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your access, authentication and application session server capacities are 10x more than they have been for traditional laptop access.

Advice: Build as if your app is going to be very successful. Make sure you understand what scale means to your organisation

5. IT needs to release some of its control domain

It’s a good idea to separate the presentation layers and content designs within your mobile initiatives from the back-office architectural interfaces. By modularising in this fashion, it allows IT, Info-sec and compliance groups to certify and support the technical integrity of the mobile solutions that integrate into the back office. And it allows marketing and HR to use the functionality of the modules to create valuable human user experiences – where they skillsets excel.

Advice: IT should be part of the solution selection and certification but should get out of the presentation layer and feature design business.

6. Engage employees and customers

Time and time again enterprise leaders tell me how they initially started down the road of building a very inspirational mobile roadmap only to find that what customers and employees wanted was far more practical. It may not be glamorous, but if employees feel lots of anxiety and waste time scheduling conference calls, meeting rooms and experience reimbursement, then start there. Be practical. Start small. Continue to iterate and evolve in line with your business objectives.

Advice: Find out what your customers and employees really want by asking them.

7. Build and use analytics

As my grandfather once said – measure twice, cut once. You’ll never know how those sage words saved me time and money as a budding carpenter around the house. The same is true for mobile initiatives – especially at the application level. No matter how many how questions we ask employees or customers what functionality they want and how that manifests itself through a user experience, there is nothing like bolting on analytics and do the math. I can assure you that you will find features that go unused, spot user confusion and varying adoption rates that may be role, geographic or device related (e.g. ultra book  vs. tablet vs. smartphone, keyboard vs. non-keyboard)

Advice: Use analytics to measure adoption, use patterns and to discover what to do next.

8. Balance the needs of business and the desires of employees

Consumers with gadgets in hand have created hysteria for IT and a gold rush for companies like Apple, Google and Samsung. And like it or not, your enterprise has subsidised this gold rush on several fronts. The pressure to satisfy the consumers’ emotional gratification throughout this era (e.g. “play happy”) has largely come at the cost of the “work happy” business goals of the company.

Executives involved in mobile initiatives should be made up of cross functional influencers and budget holders.  The team should get focus on how mobile is good for the business. Often breaking down the thinking into three buckets helps bring clarity.

  1. What are the business drivers? The majority of business drivers should be external influences on your business – what do my customers wants? What are my competitors doing? How are regional and global economics influencing shifts in my business about how my customers and my supply chain want to do business?
  2. What strategic responses? What do I need to do to successfully address the challenges and opportunities of the aforementioned in internal and external business drivers?
  3. Technology initiatives – What are the technologies and solutions that will most effectively help me execute against the strategic responses?

Advice: Establish an Employee Centre of Excellence with a charter that balances the needs of the business and the desires of the employees. Finance, HR and key LOB’s, IT and Marketing should all be involved.

9. Failure is success, but only if we learn from it

Consider that most companies:

  • Overestimate the number of features a mobile application should have
  • Underestimate the infrastructure impact (e.g., 100,000x more traffic on your Salesforce, email or Web server)
  • Create a poor user experience.
  • Fail to build in analytics

Advice: Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from getting started. Fail fast and move forward faster.

10. The beginning of something huge!

The one sure thing that CIO’s can count on about mobility is change. In terms of a human evolution analogy, we’re just at the point where we’ve discovered how to make a fire out of twigs and sticks.

Advice: Make a plan, build a playbook and keep your visors on.


Organisations are moving at a different pace and each CIO’s agenda will be dictated by the budget, manpower and technology that is available. But before implementing a mobile strategy, some golden nuggets of advice:  understand the nature of mobility and keep the channels of communication open; engage your workforce, listen to your customers and innovate to see what solutions are possible.

Written by Bob Egan, Executive Advisor on Mobile Business Strategies and Technologies, Founder of The Speharim Group. Please contact bob@sepharim.com