The Mobile Project Lifecycle
According to Rob Bamforth, lead analyst from Quocirca, “It is essential that enterprises adopt a mobile strategy that includes plans for the evolution and continuous improvement of a mobile project.”
A continuous improvement approach in a mobile project is the key to maximising profitability from your investment in mobility. Continuous improvement in mobility projects is particularly important in line-of-business (LOB) environments such as field service operations, retail or parcel delivery; where the entire organisation is dependent on a mobile workforce to deliver a product or service. As mobility grows in acceptance, an increasing number of mobile workers need access to mission critical data and therefore the mobile workflow and supporting infrastructure needs to be robust.
This is also becoming increasingly important in emerging LOB sectors such as healthcare, pharmaceutical and law enforcement, where mobility is flourishing. As a result, mobility is becoming a core part of an enterprises’ competitive strategy.
However, no two organisations are alike. An iterative and scalable approach means that no matter what stage a mobile project is at – whether planning and selection, deployment, ongoing management, measurement and analysis or optimisation – a strategy that encompasses continuous improvement is essential to meet enterprise needs. To this end, the mobile lifecycle has five distinct phases with a number of key attributes at each stage:
1. Planning Phase
The planning phase of a mobile project is often concerned with the selection of devices, mobile application software and networks. At this stage, a lifecycle management approach will ensure attention is focused on both current and future requirements. A future-proofed solution must provide for a population of devices that will increase over time and is highly likely to be characterised by diverse models from multiple manufacturers running multiple software applications.
It’s at this stage that the concept of a project must be proved. Tools are available that will enable you to measure the success of a trial – providing criteria to assess and compare performance e.g. battery life on devices, network coverage and application failures.
Moreover, as the organisation increases its reliance on mobility it becomes an integral part of its business model. To this end, it is important to measure performance against key indicators and targets.
Achieving the correct combination of device, application and suppliers, before mass deployment, will mean less ‘pain’ during deployment and lower ongoing support costs.
2. Deployment Phase
The more efficiently and reliably a device population is rolled out, the quicker your enterprise will benefit from a mobile project.
During the deployment phase of the mobile lifecycle, the mobile enterprise needs to stage rollouts with minimum disruption to the business. Large scale deployments to multiple time zones will need to be undertaken remotely, all over-the-air.
At a basic technology level, it is essential that the deployment is tightly controlled in mission-critical LOB environments. This will require secure and efficient device commissioning and rollout, giving the enterprise granular control over all aspects of deployment. Alerts and monitors, delivered via RSS or Atom feeds, will enable deployments to be closely monitored without interrupting other important work.
Once up and running there will be requirements for remote software updates, software patches, driver
updates and new versions of software deployed over-the-air to minimise the impact on the business. A secure and robust communications framework will ensure that devices are always kept in a known state with all the required applications, drivers and configuration. As the mobile enterprise expands, you will need to maintain a comprehensive asset register which tracks devices right down to the component level – such as the SIM card, radio devices, scanners and cameras.
3. Management Phase
At the management phase, functions such as device lock and remote wiping will enable you to maintain the integrity of the mobile estate in the event of a lost or stolen device. Security, configuration and setting updates need to be tracked and logged and a detailed asset register ensures the data is presented accurately. Location-based services are available that add location information to events, this can be via GPS, for GPS enabled devices, or based on the last known IP address (network) for non-GPS enabled devices.
Obtaining detailed data on device aspects such as battery levels and power consumption assists with better battery life management and can lead to reduced support requirements. Reports that detail the current configuration, along with depreciation and the disposal of devices assist with ongoing asset management and accounting processes and contribute to corporate conformance procedures.
An organisation’s helpdesk can minimise device and therefore user downtime. A helpdesk armed with pro-active alerts and monitors can identify problems in the field and then deliver full remote management including problem diagnosis and resolution. They can manage the roll out of bug fixes and applications updates as well as take full control of device repairs.
4. Measurement/Analysis Phase
Once the technical infrastructure has been deployed and is operating smoothly and efficiently, then service oriented companies will be looking to leverage increases in customer satisfaction. Look for tools that enable you to manage by exception – thus freeing up management time to focus upon running and growing the business rather than fire-fighting.
Organisations need to be able to measure and analyse service levels to ensure they are aligned with both IT and business strategies. Sophisticated analytics and management tools deliver both macro and micro level views of the performance of a mobile enterprise, covering everything such as device type, groups, locations, GPS co-ordinates, help desk statistics, suppliers, applications, networks, ROI, KPIs and performance against SLAs.
Business managers need to be able to view detailed reports that measure the impact of changes, trends and performance over time.
5. Optimise Phase
At regular points in the mobile project lifecycle, incremental business intelligence is required in order to
identify best practice and ready the organisation for its next stage of growth. As an example, device utilisation charts may be produced to identify the time spent on certain tasks and the cost per user per hour tracked, or inefficiencies in the supply chain highlighted. The process improvements based on intelligence gained from the mobile enterprise can deliver improvements to user experience.
The performance of suppliers needs to be measured, analysed and evaluated to establish their conformance to service level agreements (SLAs). Existing contracts may then be renegotiated to yield a more acceptable return on investment (ROI) or terminated in order to appoint new suppliers.
Management information needs to evolve along with the maturity of the mobile project and its alignment to business objectives. Reports and analytics will illuminate the opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed. A comparison of the efficiency of two sites, for example, may lead to a redefinition of processes in the under performing site, whilst identifying possible training needs. An analysis of helpdesk operatives may identify deficiencies in service levels. With this level of information the cost of downtime can be tracked.
The evolution of new working practices and services
One of the most critical and fundamental elements of the mobile lifecycle is the need to integrate a mobile solution within the overall enterprise and its management information systems. It is no longer acceptable to treat mobility as an adjunct to corporate IT strategies and policies.
Pioneers in mobility, looking to maximise the return on their investment, will use devices for multiple purposes – such as stock checking in a warehouse on a wireless LAN during a night shift and then delivering the item and getting proof-of-delivery the following day. The mobile market is developing at such a pace that new services are constantly emerging in the mobile space and these services are often required to be delivered across wide territories, even embracing several continents. The net result of this growth is that the number of workers with access to mission critical data will increase and the extended enterprise will grow. Therefore, policies and management control needs to be even more robust.
So when deploying a new scheme, enhancing an existing project or embarking on a next generation deployment, a lifecycle approach focused on continuous improvement will support maximising the immediate return as well as the reengineering of key business processes.
Julie Purves, Managing Director of B2M Solutions
(ITadviser, Issue 60, Winter 2009)