5 steps to a mobile-first strategy

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

5 steps to a mobile-first strategy

Acknowledging that mobile technology represents the present and future of federal communications,  many government officials  have established mobile-first directives.

However, having a goal is not the same as understanding how best to meet it. This is especially true with mobile technologies, whose continuous evolution has left many administrators and government IT organizations playing catch up.

In this first of a two-part series, we’ll take a look at what administrators must do to develop a foundational mobile strategy.

1. Recognize mobile maturity curves

The first phase of building a mobile strategy entails assessing an agency’s mobile maturity level -- the level of mobile development and device use within the agency.

There are four stages to mobile maturity. In stage one, an agency has no apps or mobile projects, though employees may use publically available apps on personal devices. In stage two, an agency has begun developing its own apps, but that development is very siloed and not necessarily tied to an overarching strategy. Stage three is one of strategic mobility, where an agency has deployed apps across the organization in a strategic manner but is not yet innovating. In the fourth and most mature stage, an agency is using mobile to transform most aspects of the organization -- be it the war room, the conference room, the White House or the U.S. Capitol and everywhere in between. In this stage, end users are driving the development of mobile projects, and IT is enabling that development.

2. Identify hurdles to mobile maturity

IT personnel should examine the barriers that might keep their organization from “growing up.” Often these are a combination of technical, cultural and process-related hurdles.

Overcoming these hurdles involves several steps. First, IT staff should identify their mobile-first hurdles. Second, they should rate these hurdles based upon how they are impacting efforts toward a mobile-first approach. Third, personnel should examine ways to break them down. Finally, teams should identify processes where a mobile approach can be most impactful, such as using mobile technologies to help users work more efficiently or reduce the cost associated with rolling out large-scale software. Anything that speaks to reducing costs and staying within budget is likely to be a winning strategy.

3. Think small, stay focused

A successful mobile strategy involves scaling things down to a singular focal point. Applications should be robust, but tailored to specific needs and easily navigable, requiring only one or two touches or swipes from users to access information.

Development teams will want to focus their efforts as well, particularly if their agencies are just starting the journey into the mobile realm. They’ll want to cherry-pick key processes or challenges that could benefit from a mobile approach. If the project is successful, it may spur others within the agency to adopt a similar strategy and help solidify a mobile foundation across the entire organization.

4. Combine agility with stability

Agile development is an ideal model for mobility. Through agile, production timeframes can be greatly decreased, enabling developers to quickly create and update their agencies’ applications. It promotes a nimble and iterative environment that is well suited for today’s fast-changing mobile world.

Teams should use cloud platforms and technologies to help facilitate agility and flexibility. These solutions should support development across multiple teams and projects with a wide variety of toolkits and frameworks. They should integrate seamlessly with enterprise systems and give administrators control over security and policy management. Mobile backend-as-a-service tools can help agencies accelerate mobile application development by providing a more secure platform for collaboration and continuous iteration and deployment.

But while mobile development requires speed, it should not be done at the expense of stability. Therefore, development teams should take a bimodal approach, keeping one eye on acceleration, while the other focuses on the core federal IT tenets of stability and security.

5. Choose open

Old, monolithic architectures are simply not suitable for a mobile environment. They can be inflexible, difficult to scale and a threat to agility.

Open technologies and architectures are more appropriate for mobile development. Through their lightweight approach they can help ease developer discovery and drive greater agility across agencywide projects. They present the opportunity to use microservices that can be reused across multiple mobile application projects, decreasing development time and cost. And mobile applications built on open source can also be more iterative and benefit from continuous integrations and deployment, enabling  continuous innovation.

Next month we’ll take a look at strategies to help navigate cultural shifts, enhance business value and enable increased security -- all important factors in cultivating a mobile-first strategy.

About the Author

Jim Tyrrell is a principal JBoss solutions architect, Public Sector, Red Hat.

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