Although mobile computing is not new, there has been a lot of discussion lately about it, and about having an effective mobile/social strategy. The first question we need to ask is: what should your mobile strategy be? Of course, this ought to be related to your business strategy, but we still have to dig into a lot of details and answer a lot of questions to properly formulate the strategy, perform a cost/benefit analysis, and create a roadmap and plan. So how can we go about investigating this?

It should come as no surprise that I would suggest business architecture as an approach. The first step would be to identify the stakeholders that you are trying to address with your mobile strategy. I would expect there to be a variety of external stakeholders, such as customers, partners, suppliers, and so on, as well as a variety of internal stakeholders, such as field agents, employees, operations staff, and others. Clearly, the interactions that you would have with customers are different than with field agents, which are different than with suppliers (if a mobile strategy even made sense for them), and so on.

The interaction with each stakeholder would be expressed in a value chain. There would potentially be more than one value chain for each stakeholder. Analysis of the stages of the value chain would provide insight into the opportunities for new interactions via mobile devices and social networks, and allow you to associate the potential value to the stakeholder and the internal value to your organization through that new interaction. Each new interaction would be evaluated in terms of how it supports the business strategy as well as the opportunities it creates. If you had previously analyzed and documented your business architecture, it would give you a tremendous jump start in this analysis. If not, then now would be a good time to do it.

Having identified potential and beneficial areas for new interaction, we would then identify the new capabilities that we would need to support them. Each stage of the value stream would require one or more new capabilities. Of course, many of those capabilities would be common for multiple value streams and multiple stakeholders. For each new capability, we could identify different sourcing options. Some capabilities may be available from the cloud, some as COTS products, and others as new or enhanced implementations of existing capabilities.

Let’s take a step back and examine what we have done. First, we identified the overall set of potential stakeholders that could be affected by a mobile strategy. Next, we examined opportunities to add value with that strategy, across all stakeholders and scenarios. Finally, we identified the capabilities that would be required to provide the complete scenario, and where those capabilities could be leveraged to maximize their value. Now we are ready to do a cost/benefit analysis.

For each new interaction, there is potential benefit and cost. If we don’t understand the value and the associated cost, we can’t perform a realistic evaluation of making the change. At the same time, the cost is shared across multiple different stakeholder interactions, and if we don’t understand this, we will be evaluating the tradeoff incorrectly. Conveniently, with the analysis afforded by the big-picture architectural view, we can make realistic decisions about what should and should not be part of the strategy, and how to measure the results to see if the strategy is delivering the expected value.

We can also prioritize the new capabilities based on dependencies, how often they are used, and what scenarios they support. Now we have a mobile strategy and plan that addresses business goals, identifies opportunities, measures value and costs, optimizes the implementation of capabilities, and prioritizes actions. What does your plan look like?

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Mike Rosen

Michael Rosen has more than 20 years technical leadership experience architecting, designing, and developing software products and applications.

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