The consumerization of handheld computers has come a long way since the "personal digital assistants" of the 1990s (i.e., Palm Pilots). By the end of 2013, for instance, the number of mobile devices exceeded the global population, according to Cisco. By 2017, Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for more global IP traffic than wired devices, the same report estimates.
In other words, what was once used to take notes and manage work calendars is now being used at home, work, on the road and on vacation to manage all aspects of our lives, including full-time work, voice and e-mail, shopping, searching, music, reading, movies, socializing, gaming, everything.
Consequently, the mobile revolution has prompted radical change in the way organizations deploy, derive value from and manage portable worker devices. As the number — and applications — of these devices increases, so does the need for a comprehensive mobility policy, encompassing everything from touch screen usability and content, to operating system (OS)-agnostic security and connectivity.
For many, a mobile-first mindset can be achieved by an established and empowered "mobile center of excellence." Of course, centers of excellence are nothing new. Traditionally, they have been instrumental in company-wide leadership initiatives, including best practices, evangelization and training for an emerging focus area.
In terms of mobility, organizations typically embrace a mobile center of excellence after developing their first mobile Web site, app or content publication for smartphones and tablets. Before implementing a mobile center, however, interested organizations must develop a well-staffed, documented, funded and officially chartered mobility strategy.
The first step includes assigning a stewardship team to govern and oversee all aspects of the center. Said strategy should be based on industry-specific best practices and pursued with clear ownership and cross-discipline participation from HR, legal, corporate, operations, sales, marketing and others.
To succeed, each element of the governance process — mobile architecture, mobile development, mobile partners and mobile platforms — must be unrestricted by traditionally hard-coded IT management processes.
The forces that shape the mobile center of excellence's approach include the level of leadership involvement, maturity with mobile technology, organizational culture and available resources and budgets. As such, setup is not for the faint-hearted.
A full-service center, for example, involves significant cross-department leadership, from the C-suite through core line-of-business functions, including communications, marketing, sourcing, security, HR, legal, app development, infrastructure and finance. Gathering the necessary commitment requires a key change agent in the organization who understands mobility and can evangelize its strategic importance to the business.
As such, many centers are usually spearheaded by a "chief mobility strategist," "head of digital," or "chief mobility officer." These individuals are tasked with building not only the relationships within IT, but also between IT, the executive branch and the wider lines of business. Such agents understand IT delivery, can make build-vs.-buy decisions and understand infrastructure, middleware and mobile architecture.
Once spearheaded, the center should be responsible for executing the mobility program and serving as the touchpoint for all lines of business. The goal is to ensure user satisfaction with mobility services, including employee productivity and operational efficiencies resulting from mobile workflows. All told, the center and its staff help prioritize mobile initiatives and enhance existing processes, including setting mobile standards for existing digital assets to adhere to, such as content, user interactions and security.
Four Primary Functions
In our experience, mobile centers of excellence cover four major areas: A program management office to connect stakeholders within organization, an innovation function to initiate and manage new mobile business, an app management function related to development and audits and a governance function to oversee day-to-day operations.
Although a mobile center's focus is primarily on new technologies, the fundamentals of program management, customer service and cross-functional communications still apply. Hence, the program office plays three distinct roles: Defines standards and mechanisms by which outside stakeholders engage the center, continuously measure customer satisfaction with services rendered by the center and report back to the executive sponsor community on the center's performance value.
As a cross-discipline practice, enterprise mobility involves not just IT resources but also employees across the business, in areas such as product development, marketing, public relations, operations and customer service. Consequently, internal groups have unique viewpoints on "the next great app." The center's innovation arm, therefore, collects ideas from internal and external sources, then validates and prioritizes them for all parties.
In accordance with prioritized mobility initiatives, the center's app management team develops frameworks and reusable artifacts that assist with mobile development. Examples include user interface templates for commonly used mobile functions, compatibility with third-party tools, barcode scanning and Wi-Fi printing. Overall, the app management arm should help internal users make better development decisions while designing and coding. This is typically done with approvers and technology oversight.
Lastly, the governance arm ensures that the entire center (and other embedded branches) fulfills its charter, namely performance, internal mobility awareness and new strategies to enhance business. To create buy-in, a monthly communication should be sent to all employees to showcase the latest mobile advances and exclusive information on a mobile-first perspective.
Reaping the Benefits
For those wanting to perform in the digital economy, a center for mobile excellence is critical. We know because we've helped numerous companies — from a global pharmaceutical leader to large U.S. health insurer — establish, extend and benefit from a uniquely tailored mobile center of excellence.
At a minimum, your center should offer methodologies, best practices and solution accelerators that can be used internally to create higher quality applications faster and cheaper. At most, your center should contain human resources and enterprise assets to take a mobile project from inception to production, while continuously enhancing every step of the design, development, deployment, extension and sun-setting process.
Either way, the long-term benefits of a mobile center of excellence are many, namely a more agile development environment (since apps require regular updates), consistent user experiences (since apps are deployed on multiple, OS-agnostic devices), improved employee productivity (i.e., anytime access to work), better data security (since mobile requires a heightened level), more mobile innovation and apps (since centers tighten focus) and most importantly, a mobile-first mindset.
For more information, read the full white paper, Mobile Center of Excellence: An Enterprise Playbook or visit Cognizant's mobility practice for more insights.