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Seven business and IT challenges for a mobile enterprise

Cloud Computing Concept

With the proliferation of mobile devices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage security in a mobile enterprise. Enterprises are reluctant to use personal mobile devices for business due to inherent security concerns. However, a majority of enterprises still want to go with mobile enablement due to its scalable benefits and pervasive connectivity.

What are the challenges?

Let’s discuss seven crucial challenges enterprises face when they begin to allow personal mobile devices in the workplace.

1. Form factor

The major challenge from a development cost perspective is the need to deal with multiple device platforms and varied development styles. Due to different form factors, the development lifecycle of a mobile application is complicated. The amount of data that can be displayed on a device depends on its display size and pixel density. On smaller screens, we can display only the most important data, while on comparatively bigger screens, detailed information can be displayed. The selection criterion of content to be displayed on each device needs to be consistent.

2. User experience

Mobile devices are still evolving at a very rapid pace in terms of screen size, touch responsiveness and sensor support. Most of the time, people interact with their devices by hand, whether by texting using swipe or touch keys, swiping through pages, listening to music, watching videos or capturing pictures and videos. These activities are mostly done on the go, so there is a minimal interaction time to use the applications. Users want to simply open an application and get the work done, so applications should be able to quickly finish a task before the user switches attention to something else. This necessitates a strong focus on user-centric design in the early stages of the development lifecycle.

3. Connectivity latency and response time

Typically, it takes close to two seconds for a mobile web browser to handshake with an enterprise data server and next to one second to initiate a data transfer due to limitations we have on current mobile web browsers.* Also, you are dependent on the 3G, 4G or General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) Internet bandwidth being used for data transfer. Business transactions require low latency for a request/response cycle. Studies predict that the first five seconds are critical for a user to frame his or her opinion about the application and its brand. Also, the application needs to stay connected even when users are traveling. This poses a bigger challenge to manage seamless switches between WiFi hotspots and cell towers when a user is on the go.

4. Complex application development lifecycle

Mobile applications are expected to securely integrate into back-end business processes, both traditional systems and more advanced cloud services. Keeping in mind the users of mobile applications, scalability is of utmost concern. Business processes change often in a customer-centric environment. Great care needs to be taken while delivering to the customer. Since development lifecycles of mobile applications are very short, processes need to be very responsive and rapid.

5. Protecting confidential information and privacy

For organisations adopting bring your own device (BYOD) as a key enabler for their business processes, maintaining device security for protecting enterprise data is a concern. Since devices are owned privately by the users themselves, if not efficiently controlled by the enterprise they can result in serious data leak issues. Devices are prone to loss or theft, malware attacks, Trojans, viruses and shared data over WiFi. These risks require immediate attention if devices are compromised. Another key issue is the use of social media and cloud storage applications. Users should have a fair understanding of sharing data in public, especially with regard to appropriate privacy settings.

6. Aggressive project delivery timelines

Businesses want their mobile applications to quickly hit the market in order to beat the competition and keep pace with the frequent updates to mobile operating systems. Businesses are under pressure to deliver fast and keep up with the brand identity before competitors take them over. In such an environment, it’s common to have multiple builds released over a short period of time. This calls for an exhaustive testing of applications on a very tight schedule.

7. Testing

When you are developing for a multitude of devices, an even bigger challenge is the testing of the mobile applications. There are thousands of devices available with various mobile operating systems, network carriers and local language settings. If you plan to prepare test cases for each combination, there will be thousands of test cases to be written for specific devices.

How would you respond to these challenges?

Even though these challenges exist, there are plenty of solutions available in the market. In my next blog post, I’m going to talk about some solutions in detail.

If your enterprise has faced similar issues, please comment on this blog post and tell us how you overcame them.

Also, make sure you follow IBM Mobile on Twitter and stay updated about how IBM is helping enterprise customers become mobile.

*For more info, see “Primer on Web Performance.”

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