Beyond E-Mail: The Right Mobile Enterprise Strategy

Guest analysis: While mobile e-mail is a leading application, the lack of a strategic approach and soft ROI are holding back mobile implementations. AMR Research Director Dennis Gaughan offers key points for getting a mobile enterprise strategy on

A recent survey conducted by AMR Research on the maturity and adoption of mobile technologies showed that for most organizations, mobile is still a low priority. The interest level generated by the survey was lower than expected. And while the technology has continued to mature, user strategy for mobile computing has not.

Mobile computing was supposed to be the next big thing, right? Certainly, the state of the economy has played a pivotal role in the delay of broad mobile adoption, but there are other factors that play equally important parts.

Enterprises are doing mobile, but in a very scattered, tactical fashion. Fewer than half of the organizations we surveyed have a corporate mobile strategy; of those that do have a strategy, almost 50 percent responded that it is driven by the IT organization. That IT is driving the majority of mobile projects is another proof point that this market is stuck in its early-adopter phase. Whether its an enterprise application or key infrastructure technologies like mobile, line of business must drive the initiative to ensure success.

Considering that IT is driving the majority of these initiatives, it is not surprising to see that 83 percent of respondents list e-mail as the first application deployed. E-mail can be a good application to test mobile technologies and learn the intricacies of managing a mobile workforce. However, these e-mail deployments rarely reach the scale required to deliver on the proposed benefits. And most organizations seem content to leave it that way—at least until the major e-mail vendors deliver credible offerings as part of their messaging platforms.

Why? Because no one does cost justification for e-mail, and soft benefits like increased productivity are too hard to quantify. E-mail will be an important component of mobile deployments, but it must be in conjunction with high-value applications such as field service, field sales and executive reporting that will provide the return on investment necessary in todays budget constrained environment.

But none of that matters unless you begin to look at mobile technology more strategically, especially when our survey indicates that about one-third of the respondents employees classify as mobile workers. In speaking with several users of mobile technology, I found that developing a strategy that includes plans for defining mobile infrastructure standards is critical to the success of any mobile deployment.

Organizations that continue to manage mobile projects on a one-off basis are wasting money and adding unnecessary complexity to their infrastructure. In addition, the importance of developing standards should not be underestimated. When speaking to companies that I would describe as "best in class," three reasons why standardization should be a critical part of your mobile strategy emerge:

  • Lower maintenance costs. Managing a diverse collection of mobile hardware and software makes it very difficult to manage support costs. Most organizations have well-defined standards for PCs and servers; mobile hardware should be no different.
  • Keep vendors honest. This was one of the biggest benefits cited by a best-in-class early adopter. Standardization of infrastructure, especially at the device operating system level, helps drive commoditization of the hardware and can greatly reduce acquisition costs.
  • Utilization of existing skills. One customer with whom we spoke talked about expanding his development talent pool from just over 100 engineers familiar with the specialized interfaces of their existing platform to more than 2,000 developers with Windows programming experience.

Tactical thinking and lack of initiative from the line of business are two reasons why the market for mobile technology remains in neutral. IT organizations must work with the line of business executives to determine where innovative uses of new mobile technologies can improve the efficiency of the growing mobile workforce. Only when organizations focus on defining a mobile strategy to support those business objectives and setting standards based on that strategy will we see this market accelerate.

Dennis Gaughan is responsible for leading AMR Researchs coverage of strategic infrastructure technologies including application servers and systems management technology. Dennis is also a recognized industry expert in wireless technologies and the mobile computing market, initiating AMR Researchs coverage of this emerging space in 1999.