Author: Dirk Nicol
Publisher: IBM Press
Audience: Business leaders
Reviewer: Sue Gee
With the subtitle "How Your Company Can Win by Embracing Mobile Technologies" this book promises a lot. Does it deliver?
As a developer you will be aware just how comprehensively mobile is transforming every aspect of interaction in a way that affects almost everyone. It should therefore be no surprise that the mobile revolution is beginning to have an impact on the way enterprises do business both inside the company and with customers and partners. In this book Dirk Nicol, program director for IBM Mobile Strategy and Produce Management at IBM, provides background, guidance and a framework for establishing a mobile strategy.
Nicol starts by establishing that mobile is the next era of computing and shows how as well as continuing the trend that made computer power ubiquitous going from the mainframe, visa the PC and the Internet it is also a fundamental shift in bringing the power of technology and software to individuals. He also points out the rapidity of this development and how much shorter the upgrade cycle is for both devices and the software that runs on them and provides a list of features that drive the success of smartphones and tables from the point of view of individuals - including engaging users experience, social interactions, always connected.
He moves on to discuss an important factor that is propelling mobile into the enterprise and driving the introduction of consumer technology and culture into the enterprise, a development he refers to as Consumerization of IT. The impetus is the increasingly widespread practice of BOYD (Bring Your Own Device), that is permitting and encouraging employees to use their personal laptops, tablets and smartphones for business use. He outlines the advantages of BOYD in terms of increased productivity and improved morale and its costs and disadvantages in terms of the potential risks of network access and security concerns. Chapter 1 concludes by stating that enterprises require a mobile strategy framework in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the mobile era - and this is the topic of subsequent chapters.
Chapter 2 has the title "Defining Business Value" but it postpones tackling this topic and instead provides a history of the smartphone and its impact on individuals - including a mention of the Arab Spring. Towards the end of the chapter it outlines a set of Business to Enterprise B2E value-based goals including increase worker productivity; increase revenue through sales engagements, improvement in information, and workflow; resolve internal IT issues faster; improved work life balance. It has a corresponding list of Business to Consumer (B2C)goals including improve customer satisfaction; deeper customer engagement and loyalty; reduce costs of delivery. All this sounds very general and disappointingly there is only one example of a mobile app that shows how such generality could be related to value goals and performance indicators. At the end of the chapter, while you will probably agree that:
Fundamentally a mobile strategy needs to be based in value to the end user and the enterprise,
you might well be left wondering what you have learned that helps you devise one.
Chapter 3, "Mobile Business Challenges" outlines the problems of developing applications for multiple platforms. This is something that developers will be very well aware of, so perhaps given that this book is primarily for business leaders it is a good thing that this very obvious problem is emphasized here. Nicol also notes the problem posed by the rate at which new platform releases happen in the mobile environment which multiplies the number of versions of an app that are required.
The other app development challenges mentioned are:
- Delivering high-quality apps that engage users and meet business objectives
- Connectivity to back-end systems and data
- Integration with existing development processes
The final pages of the chapter outline security challenges, from securing and managing devices, mobile threats, network protections and identity and access management to data loss prevention and application security - noting in a final bullet point that: Even with the best security, management and strategy, you still need to consider the human part of the equation. A short section considers post-deployment control of apps.
There is a switch to more detailed, concrete and practical advice in Chapter 4. It presents a diagram to illustrate a mobile framework and a table to provide example mobile vertical applications and their relationship to common functional patterns. Another table lists app capabilities in context of key functional patterns. It then provides key imperatives with a set of steps to follow for the three different categories identified. But at the end of the chapter you get the feeling that no new insights have been provided and in the summary we are told:
"The remainder of this book goes into greater detail of how this framework can be applied to delivering an overall mobile strategy.”
The next two chapters do live up to this promise and rise above waffle to providing not only a compelling outline of the problems faced by enterprise mobile but also practical guidance that will be useful for developers as well as business leaders. Chapter 5 is on Mobile Development and considers three major challenges - user expectation for speed and quality; device diversity; and integrating with existing systems. Chapter 6 is on Mobile Security and Management and concentrates on the threats introduced by BOYD and ways in which these can be mitigated.
After these two relatively "meaty" chapters, in terms of practical information, the book lapses back into generalization which while while raising interesting questions doesn't provide answers in sufficient detail to be useful. Chapter 7 has the title Mobile Business Transformation and rehearses advantages such as deeper relationships with customers and more productive employees before presenting a strategy. Although Chapter 8 has the title Planning a Mobile Project it seems to go over the same ground in terms of value goals and value indicators.
At this point the focus goes wider. Chapter 9 looks at mobile in the context of the other current trendy topics. Its title is SoCloDaMo (Social + Cloud + Big Data + Mobile). Chapter 10 then considers International Considerations with reference to issues influencing the adoption of smartphones and tablets in emerging markets.
The book rounds out with a series of case studies in Chapter 11 and an overview of what the reader has learned from the book in Chapter 12.
At the end of reading it, you get the impression there is some goodness in his book, even for the developer - but it is hidden among a lot of padding.