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5 shades of mobile grey

imageOK, so you’re convinced that mobile computing may have some value for your organization. But where do you stand today? On a scale of 1 to 5 how deep into mobile is your company?


How important is mobile computing for your organization? Why should you care? The question may not seem relevant to you unless you consider this from the perspective of your organization’s objectives. In generic terms every organization has the following challenges:


So the real question you have to ask yourself is:

How can mobile computing help me to achieve the objectives of my organization?

We’ll come back on that question in the last chapter. But let’s first define the 5 shades of Mobile Computing.


Shade 1: Mobile e-mail and contacts

image In level 1 of the mobile adoption scale you have opened up your mail server to allow your employees to consult their e-mail and contact data on mobile devices (both Smartphones and Tablets). Almost every organization currently is in this level, at least for a selected group of employees.

Many organizations running their mail server on-premise hesitate to do this because of the security implications it has. Security will be a main concern in every shade of Mobile Computing. How you can deal with that is indicated in the last chapter. The fact remains that your work force is increasingly expecting to have access to their professional mailbox and contacts from their own mobile device (meaning that in the objective of having satisfied, motivated employees, this shade of grey scores quite high).


Shade 2: Mobile access to files and documents

image In the next level of mobility you allow users to access documents, pictures, etc. from their own mobile devices. Achieving this level might be a bit more challenging depending on where these files and documents are stored when you start.

If the documents are stored on file shares on the company’s network, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or VPN-like connection to access the files from outside the company walls.

In a similar case your files may be stored in an on-premise SharePoint. In this case you would also first have to install a mechanism to access your SharePoint from the outside.

In both cases you have to solve the scary problem of opening up your network in a secure way. There are various solutions. The last chapter will tell you more about this.

One of the possibilities is to make sure first that your files are stored on file servers in the cloud. There is a fair chance that if your organization fails to organize mobile access to files and documents, your users will do it themselves by setting up a personal Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive[1] account. Is that what you want?


Shade 3: Mobile virtual desktop

image Another way to make sure that your employees can access their applications, files and documents no matter where they are, is to implement a Virtual Desktop. This is a mechanism that allows you to log in into your network from virtually any device and still find the same desktop that you are using at the office.

.It is clear that the user experience may not be the same on the various mobile devices that you have, but at least you can be sure to have access any time, any place with any device and still find the familiar experience you have at your desk.


Shade 4: Mobile generic apps

image In the first 3 shades of Mobile Apps, you merely open up existing applications, files and data to mobile users. Starting with Shade 4, we are entering a new world in which you create new possibilities for your mobile users. From this point on you have to think in terms of new ways to interact with users that are on the road.


These new ways are available because the mobile devices have capabilities that your standard laptop or desktop PC doesn’t have: taking photos, knowing the geo-location, handwriting on a touch screen, etc. (see blog post “Business Processes on the Road: Why you need Mobile Apps”).

So Shade 4 is about mobile apps that were designed specifically for the mobile users. The easiest and fastest way to getting started with mobile apps is by using Generic Apps. Generic Apps are generally available on the market to fill in a specific (generic) business functions. Examples are: Track My Mileage (to keep track of your mileage expenses), BulldozAIR (for field reporting in Construction Projects), Timesheet .Net (to fill out time sheets on mobile devices) etc.

They are great because you can start using them almost immediately. However, their biggest disadvantage is that they are not integrated into your existing enterprise applications: e.g. the Timesheet app mentioned above cannot use the existing cost codes of your project management system.


Shade 5: Mobile enterprise apps

image This is the level you really want to achieve. The main difference between Enterprise apps and Generic apps is that the former bring your existing enterprise data straight to your mobile employees and customers

This type of apps is the darkest shade of mobile because by opening up your back-end data to front-end apps you create the highest possible business value.

Enterprise apps change the way you do business, because they give you possibilities you never had before. Imagine that your customers can place orders directly into your order system by using a mobile app that you make available to them. This App is branded with your organisation’s logo and colours and uses up-to-date information about your products (availability, price, actions, etc.)

Or imagine an App with which your Field Engineers can do a job at the customer’s site, fill out the job report on his tablet, and have the customer sign it on that tablet whereby this information is fed directly into your ERP-system. No paper involved, no writing and copying, no errors.

By looking a bit closer at the possibilities of this type of Mobile Apps you will discover a world of opportunities to really make the difference for your customers and employees. This type of app allows you to consider the specific context different steps in your business processes, and decide in which processes a mobile app can bring the highest value.



Business perspective

It is clear that from a business perspective not all shades of mobile apps contribute in the same way to your business objectives. Here is an interesting exercise that every decision taker should make: rate the different shades of Mobile Apps for their contribution to the organization’s objectives. Such an assessment may result in a table that look like this one:


This is a good basis to choose your first mobile candidates.

Technological perspective

It may seem like a big and risky leap to introduce mobile applications in your existing IT environment. However Microsoft has a comprehensive set of tools and platforms to help you achieve this in a controlled way, and Spikes has the people and skills to help you implement all that: check EMS or Enterprise Mobility Suite[2]. Based on the Windows 8.1 platform and using its cloud infrastructure, Microsoft offers a product for every part of solution that you want to implement:

  • Cloud infrastructure so that you don’t have to invest in new servers and other hardware
  • Cloud solutions to run your e-mail, contacts, files, etc. from the cloud
  • Identity management to make sure only authorized users get access
  • Encryption mechanisms to make sure that data remains confidential all the time
  • Communication mechanisms with which users can connect to the office from any place and on any device
  • Monitoring and Management Tools to control and manage the whole environment, even in a hybrid cloud-and-on-premise architecture
  • And many more

In other words:

Microsoft has the technology to let you run every shade of mobile grey.


Footnote [1]: OneDrive is the new name for the Microsoft service that was previously called Skydrive. OneDrive is a consumer tool to store files in the cloud. OneDrive for Business is the business equivalent of OneDrive. OneDrive for Business is part of SharePoint Online which itself is part of Office 365

Footnote [2]: Read more about Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) on (in Dutch).


Comments? Questions?

Marc Vanderheyden - Picture


Twitter: @mceev11




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