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Four crucial enterprise mobility mistakes to avoid

Mobile initiatives are complex, but IT can keep its project on track by using analytics and recognizing the differences between mobile and desktop app development.

Few things are more deflating than a mobility project gone awry. Organizations expect a return on all the time and resources spent mobilizing business functions, but it's easy for things to go off the rails.

Part of taking the right approach is knowing what not to do, such as underestimating the complexity of mobile application development, ignoring the opportunity of analytics and failing to learn from the past. Let's take a look at four mistakes you'll want to avoid to stay out of the mobile initiative graveyard.

Confusing mobile and desktop app development

Many organizations underestimate the nuances of application development and think a Web developer can apply his knowledge, tools and experience to mobile application development. That previous experience is certainly helpful, but mobile apps are an entirely different animal. Mobile app development relies on a different set of skills and best practices, an understanding of user expectations, a separate group of development tools, and knowledge of security and compliance implications.

Enterprises need to take the time to understand these differences, especially when it comes to user expectations. Consumer mobile apps have set a high bar for user experience, and employees expect similar ease of use with enterprise mobile apps.

Mobile and Web app development are inherently different, but IT departments should still try to take advantage of the tools already at their disposal. For example, if your developers have a lot of Web experience, then focus on building mobile applications with tools that use those same technologies -- hybrid or mobile Web applications.

Using the wrong measurements and metrics

In any mobility project, organizations must determine how they plan to define success. Part of IT's job is to implement ways to measure application usage.

There are three types of analytics IT should use to evaluate applications, gain insight into user needs, and facilitate continuous improvement throughout their lifecycle:

Device and operating system-specific information. This data tells IT which types of devices employees are bringing to work, which operating system (OS) they use and even the specific OS version. That helps IT determine where to focus its mobile app development and management because it knows what OS to emphasize.

It's hard to overstate the value of learning from previous mobility projects.

Installation and app usage. IT should track how many people downloaded and installed applications and, more importantly, how many of those users actually opened the application and used it. Similarly, it's important to know how many people uninstall the application. With this information IT can determine what types of apps employees prefer and the ways in which they use them. If certain applications often get uninstalled, IT can take a second look and learn from which apps users seem to like.

In-app usage. In-app reviews help reveal how a user actually engages with an app. That helps IT determine which features and functionality are boosting productivity, and which ones still need further improvement.

Underestimating enterprise mobility challenges

Many organizations believe their in-house talent has the skills and passion to pull off mobile initiatives, or they think mobility isn't much different from their desktop environment -- but you shouldn't be overconfident. IT departments should conduct an honest self-evaluation of their level of expertise in mobility before diving into a project.

It's always humbling to own up to your shortcomings, but the real problem is ignoring limitations entirely. Taking stock of resources and skill level allows IT to identify which tools it still needs and whether it needs to contract an outside developer to work on areas of weakness.

Some companies run into trouble because they just don't have enough experience to predict the challenges of mobilizing business processes. Most enterprises would benefit from establishing a good relationship with a consulting group or service provider that knows how to address the realities of mobility; they've been there before and can help keep expectations realistic.

Refusing to learn from past mistakes

It's hard to overstate the value of learning from previous mobility projects. We can all improve in some way, so make sure to spend time evaluating, documenting and sharing the lessons you uncover. IT can use those notes to help make its next initiative even more successful. Some of those takeaways become organizational best practices, and others become teaching points for mobility hang-ups to avoid.

Watching a mobility project fail to meet its goal is always hard to stomach, but with proper planning IT can clear away many of the roadblocks to success.

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This was last published in May 2015

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What is the most important lesson you've learned from past mobility projects?
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That mobiles are used in most unexpected way one could ever imagine. Don't take this for granted assuming that 'users won't use it this way". 

There is very little to be sure of when it comes to mobile testing in particular. 
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Very informative post. Looking at what we started with 3 years back and now where we are with our mobile testing/development I can easily relate the lessons shared with what we have come across. 

There is one more I would like to add to the list which is "don't take users for granted".
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I like the focus on metrics for adoption; knowing how many users are using what browsers and platforms can drive test strategy, but also business strategy -- if nobody is using the native mobile apps, maybe it's time to go back to mobile web.

The biggest challenge I see is a sort of means/ends inversion. "We're doing mobile apps because mobile!" is not really a reason. "New and shiny" is not a reason either, nor is "we all secretly want to pad our resume with new tech." Mobile apps can be powerful and useful, especially for simple searches and database-backed behaviors (lookups, add, create, read, delete) or to combine with GPS functionality. So first figure out the problem you need to solve -then if mobile is a fit - is probably my biggest lesson learned.

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