Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Building a Mobile Strategy - Part 1a

As promised, the results of my conversation with the Mobility Guru.

What Is Mobile?
After some discussion, the Mobility Guru and I decided to treat mobile based on operating system (iOS, Android, Win8RT) vs. hardware or form factor.  His original definition "can hold it in one hand" doesn't really account for netbooks or other forms that smoothly run pre-mobile operating systems (Like Windows 7, Linux and the Mac OSs).

The complication with Mobile is not necessarily with the form factor.  It's with the OSs, it's range of implementations (especially with Android), and the difficulty handling various websites and existing applications.

We plan to change this definition.  Especially once we see how Win 8 and iOS Mountain Lion work and evolve.  We both hope that the success of these products will successfully merge PC and mobile spaces so we only have to develop one thing for all form factors. 

I would love to not have to treat mobile as an entirely separate beast.  Instead - mobile-first and it seamlessly goes to other form factors without having to accommodate all of the variation. 

We both may be dreaming.

Mobile Goal/Success Definition - IT
Stated goal (cribbed from the Strategic Plan for IT) - "Lead the Mobility Expectations for the Organization". 

Apparently, this is defined as the following:
  • Improve mobile access (which I guess means get rid of dead spots in our physical space)
  • Engage in outreach (no idea what this means)
  • Content-focused  (which is probably "get our existing stuff mobile-friendly")
Real goal - Not have the Super Muck get yelled at by VP and board member types. I can respect that.

I think they missed a real opportunity to think about mobile in a way that makes our business operations more efficient.  But that's a conversation reserved for my managers and something I sadly picked up on as the Mobility Guru and I picked through the Strategic Plan. After the senior executives asked for feedback. My bad.

Mobile Goal/Success Definition - Training
Training and support - As Needed, Where Needed

IT General Mobile Strategy
Still in Development.  Or as the Mobility Guru put it - it will be determined by whoever screams the loudest.  Guess that's us :)

Device Support
We are assuming BYOD, whether it is stated or not.  Because that is the reality.
We have decided that getting stuff to work on Blackberries will be lowest priority moving forward.
Unless some miracle occurs that saves RIM.

We seriously hope that HTML5, as it matures, will help reduce concerns with content across the various OSs and hardware.

Who else needs to be involved in this discussion?
Mobility Guru and I identified a couple of areas we need to reach out to.

The Web Folks.  Since a lot of stuff will be delivered through their shop, we need to make sure we are aligned with what they already have planned.  Plus they have toys.  We like toys.

Help Desk Reps.  I'm at a University.  Ideally, we'd have one rep for students and one for staff/faculty. 

An IT Architect.  We have one already part of the team, but he's going to be spending the next 6 months figuring out where our entire system is and creating some configuration management.  And that's just the hardware.  If applications were added to that job, he could spend his entire career figuring out what we've got.  We'll keep him in the loop.

So how does this all impact Training?
I took a lot out of this discussion and have a better idea of where I want to head - reserving the right to change course at any time.  I'm gonna call that "agility" :)

Thought #1
We are going to look at 2 tiers of offerings for mobile:
  • Cellular-friendly - text, minimal to no images, no video.  The goal is to minimize the cost to the university and/or employee
  • WiFi supported - this will be all of the multimedia goodies.
Mobility Guru suggested that when we start developing mobile-friendly materials, that we specify whether it is cell-friendly or if it needs to be accessed via WiFi.  Basically - a replacement for my standard "how to work the tutorial" introduction.  Awesome idea.

Thought #2
Leverage vendor content.

With as rapidly as our applications are updating and changing (please see Google),  leveraging vendor content becomes even MORE critical.  Simply because we, as an organization, won't be able to keep up with all of the updates.

We already started focusing on organization-specific tutorials.  I think we need to get better at this.

Thought #3
Design and prioritize performance support

I've already been doing this - especially over the past couple of years. 
My clients, however, have been thinking "courses". 

An argument I heard from a manager was "They can do training while traveling on the shuttle.  It's still work time."  True.  I personally find that time to be valuable thinking and decompression time.  I get LOTS of ideas while not actively engaged in "gotta do" stuff.  It makes me more productive.  But I get where he is coming from.

Thought #4
Web apps first

There is just too much variance in our environment to be able to maintain native apps.

Fortunately - Mobility Guru and his friends are implementing a mobile device management system this fall.  He tells me there are cool things in there I might be able to leverage. 

I'll get a chance to see that up close, since it looks like I'll be creating support materials on it...

Mobility Guru and I decided that chatting about this monthly will be useful. 

This will hopefully allow us to fine-tune our plans and maintain some level of focused flexibility as this whole plan evolves.

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