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HP Software's community for IT leaders // February 2012
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Five steps to a better mobile strategy

In the mobile world, ad hoc development might seem the fastest way to get started, but it will only hurt you in the end. Instead, make a plan. Here’s how.

Today, the future of any enterprise depends in part on its ability to adapt to the mobile revolution. But going mobile isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It requires a well-defined strategy that takes into account a multitude of factors that most apps teams never before had to consider. Here are five best practices for adapting.

Step 1: Understand why a strategy is so important
Imagine this: Your CEO marches into your office with his brand-new iPad and one accusatory question: Why don’t we have an app for the iPad?

“If you fail to create an agenda around mobility, it’s going to be dictated to you by your employees, customers or internal leaders,” says Jonathan Rende, vice president of products for HP Software. He notes that none of those constituents will really understand what it takes to develop mobile apps. “The consumer world has driven unprecedented changes in IT, and now IT needs the practices, delivery models and management solutions to make it work.”

An added hazard of an ill-planned strategy, Rende says, is the high profile of mobile applications. 

“Whatever you do in the mobile space will be highly visible,” he says. “Your mobile applications will be a point of differentiation or public embarrassment.”

A strategy is the only way to ensure it’s the former—and to reassure the CEO that his iPad is already part of your grand design.

Step 2: Appoint a leader
Mobility is going to be a bigger, more rapidly changing front than anything the industry has witnessed in quite some time, and it requires a champion to guide its development from the top. You need a leader to set the vision for your apps team and work with your CIO and other IT units—Operations and Security, in particular—on defining and refining your organization’s mobile strategy.

This leader will set big-picture priorities and such details as device support. Otherwise, uncoordinated plans will grow up from project teams, causing duplication of effort (and perhaps of apps themselves), wasted budget, lousy user experience and endless rework.

Facilitate a companywide conversation on mobile and make sure your IT teams are involved so that they can integrate into upcoming developments. Start measuring the impact of your organization’s mobile initiatives.

Step 3: Ask the right questions
Before your team starts developing, consider these questions:

  • Which apps do you want to mobilize? You can’t do everything at once.
  • What type of app will you make in each case? Whether you create a mobile web page, native apps for each platform, or both, you’ll want to consider the tradeoffs.
  • How will business processes change, and what are the development implications? For example, location-based functionality might shorten the process of a mobile transaction. Or perhaps you can add functionality by taking advantage of a device’s camera.
  • What platforms will you support? The consumerization of IT has made it harder to limit internal apps to specific platforms. For consumer-facing apps, you have no choice but to build something that performs on all major platforms.
  • Can Ops handle what you have in mind? Prepare the Ops team for the kind of real-time performance data you’ll need to refine your apps in the future.
  • How do we measure the impact of each mobile initiative? Define the metrics that will let you assess progress.

Step 4: Adapt your testing approach
Some companies launch apps without rigorous testing, and the customer ends up finding the inevitable bugs. Results: Brand damage and more workload to belatedly fix the problems.

Adapt your testing approach by:

  • Working in an Agile/iterative process. Your apps will need to evolve quickly and often to keep up with the mobile space. You can stick with waterfall, but you’ll still need to make your process as nimble as possible, because mobile won’t wait.
  • Automating testing. New devices and OS updates come out every day, so you must make your testing processes automated and repeatable. You’ll have more applications to test and less time.
  • Re-testing the back end and the network utilization. Mobility introduces latency and bandwidth issues that weren’t present before, so you must test the API in addition to functional validation, security and performance. 

Step 5: Work closely with Ops after launch
The speed of change in the mobile world requires a close relationship between Apps and Ops, before and after launch. You’ll rely on application monitoring data from the Ops team—which you will have discussed in Step 3—to understand your application’s performance. The “build it and walk away” mentality of the past won’t work in mobile, where bugs must be identified and patched almost immediately. Start nurturing the relationship now.

Mobile is a dynamic space, so plenty of agility is required. But underpinning that nimbleness must be a guiding vision championed by the organization’s leaders. For more information on developing a strategy and how HP can help, go to www.hp.com/go/mobile


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