More steps to making mobile-first a winning strategy

IT managers who want to turn their agencies into mobile technology powerhouses must help navigate cultural shifts, embrace constant innovation and enable increased security.

Recently, I outlined some strategies that federal IT administrators can use to successfully develop a “mobile-first” approach that embodies this movement -- but those strategies were only the tip of the iceberg. IT managers who want to turn their agencies into mobile technology powerhouses must develop strategies to help navigate cultural shifts, embrace constant innovation and enable increased security.

1. Make mobile an agency wide priority and encourage collaboration

The mobile shift must be felt in every aspect of an agency. It does not start and end with the IT department. Rather, it begins from the ground-up and reverberates throughout the organization, with managers, administrators and end users, all committing to their agencies’ mobile initiatives. Although it is important to get buy-in from top leadership, as executive sponsorship can greatly improve the traction of mobility initiatives, be careful not to neglect the people who are actually using the devices. Their input can also be highly valuable, and it can help shape a mobile-first initiative for the better.

IT managers must remember that they are enablers, not gatekeepers, of mobile projects. They must give agency personnel some level of control over the apps they use. Users should have the opportunity to share ideas and options, while back-end integration and operations remain within IT. This partnership can promote transformation and go a long way toward establishing a solid mobile-first foundation.

2. Embrace a cycle of continuous iteration and development

Mobile is often characterized by continuous deployment cycles, throughout which developers and DevOps professionals work collaboratively to create, integrate and deploy apps. It is important for agency IT managers and developers to emulate this iterative model when nurturing a mobile-first culture. They must work together -- fluidly and agilely -- to build great and effective apps.

Echoing tip No. 1, this development process should start with end users who are likely working with a wide variety of devices, and it is up to administrators to keep open minds about deployment options. Remember that there is no “one size fits all approach” in mobile. Today’s popular smartphone and tablet platforms might change tomorrow, and as the Internet of Things gains traction, more devices will become part of the mobile enterprise.

Finally, administrators should arm developers with the resources they need to build the best apps possible. Time to first application can be decreased if developers have access to open source technology frameworks and toolkits they need to build agile and effective apps.

3. Focus on security

Data workloads within the government are growing  astronomically. Mobile is fueling much of this growth, and administrators should to take steps to manage it to create enriched digital experiences.

Security should be at the heart of this effort. Administrators should start by deploying enterprise-grade mobile apps with security features, integrating them with back-end systems, applications and data. Mobile backend-as-a-service solutions can provide a high-performance, lightweight framework to help achieve this mission. Integrated development environments, application programming interfaces, source code control, device management and microservices can also speed app development.

Administrators should also ensure that channels transmitting data to the cloud are secure, as are those sending data to an app. Some agencies may opt for a hybrid cloud approach, where only some app development and data is managed off-site. In any case, the result should be greater performance security.

However, as important as end-user involvement is in mobile-first strategies, administrators must consolidate control over security, integration and policy management within IT. This centralized control helps combat shadow IT, which can create vulnerabilities.

4. Commit to it

A mobile-first approach is not something that administrators decide to do and then call it a day. It requires a commitment -- from IT, from management, from everyone -- to make mobile a core piece of the fabric of their agencies. This takes work, communication and a willingness to be open to new ways of federal IT management. The result can be worth the effort. Agencies can benefit from more agility, better collaboration, and an empowered -- and truly mobile -- workforce.

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