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Five mistakes companies make when creating mobile strategies

Many companies face obstacles in trying to go mobile, but not every mobile initiative has to be treacherous. IT can take steps to avoid making common strategy mistakes.

There are enough traps to ensnare IT administrators tasked with crafting mobile strategies for their organizations, admins may feel as if they're in an endless game of Pitfall! Of course, mobility pitfalls don't include any quicksand, rattlesnakes or crocodiles, but they can be every bit as frustrating for those trying -- but failing -- to get a mobile initiative off the ground.

Let's review five common mobile strategy missteps companies make, and how to avoid them.

Failing to define and communicate

Effective mobile strategies put enterprise users at the centerpiece.

Saying you have a strategy is one thing-- actually taking the time to document and communicate it is something else entirely. Some mobile strategy documents simply read, "We're going to go mobile," or, "We're giving everyone a company cell phone and building apps for it." But there's a big difference between actual mobile strategies and mere activity lists.

Carefully thought-out mobile strategies must include the organization's target audience, app development techniques, infrastructure adjustments, support structure and user experience measures. Listing these things clearly and setting measurable goals is the first step, but then IT needs to communicate them to the rest of the company. For a mobile initiative to be successful, employees have to buy into it. Communication and change management efforts are necessary steps to success.

Failing to evolve

Many organizations take their experiences from the PC world and try to transplant them into mobile, but there is a world of difference. Most desktop computing strategies are about standardization and harmonization in the name of cost efficiency; in mobile, the exact opposite is the case.

Mobile users are highly distributed, using an extremely heterogeneous selection of devices. Cost efficiencies come not through the devices and the infrastructure, but through productivity gains at the application and user experience level. Therefore, sound mobile strategies must embrace these differences and accept that complete standardization no longer exists.

Making development assumptions

Application developers must realize that it's not always best to create a native app. Mobile web apps may suit users better, particularly for transactional, real-time customers. Retail applications are one example: Many people walk into brick and mortar retail stores, find an item they like and then immediately comparison shop online to see if they can find better pricing elsewhere. Recognizing this trend and developing a sound mobile web presence in addition to apps is precisely what has made Amazon so successful over the last ten years, and other retailers struggle to compete.

When looking to develop their own business apps, IT shops must find out who their primary audience is, sit with them to find out how they would like to use the application and design it with potential users in mind.

Focusing too much on devices…

Work is a thing you do, not a place you go. In a mobile world, people should be able to access whatever information they need anytime, anywhere and on any device. Many organizations make the mistake of focusing solely on devices in their mobile strategies, forgetting that the employees, rather than their devices, are the ones that are mobile. Effective mobile strategies put enterprise users at the centerpiece, not the hardware they're using.

… And too little on users

User experience (UX) is more important now than ever. Users want to be able to access their mobile applications instantly, over cellular networks or free Wi-Fi hotspots at their local coffee shops. Most users are simply unwilling to wait for something to load on their mobile devices. If you have ever called a company's call center and heard an agent say, "Hang on, our systems are a bit slow today," it's a tell-tale sign that organization has ignored UX. And when companies ignore mobile UX, they will lose their users to competitors.

These five mobile strategy mistakes are among the most prevalent, causing many organizations to learn some lessons the hard way. When developing, revising or implementing mobile strategies, keep an eye on these five items to ensure success.

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