Alphabet Soup

by Brian Katz on February 13, 2013 · 1 comment

In the mobile world, we literally live in an alphabet soup. There are more acronyms than you can shake a stick at and once you figure out what the acronyms stand for you have to figure out what they mean. If we start to look at the list, BYOD, COPE, MDM, MAM, MIM, EMM, MEAP, MADP, TEM, MRM, CoIT, and MEM, we quickly realize that we have a bunch of terms that really mean different things to different people. In some cases these are catchy phrases that when abbreviated might make it easier to write a 140 character message on Twitter. In other cases the terms are made up so that a company can market their expertise over their competitors. In the end though, all they succeed in doing is dragging the focus from where it really belongs and pointing it into the shadowy corners where they can air their laundry list of expertise. There is always a solution seeking some problem.

Alphabet-soupThe dirty little secret that everyone avoids letting out of the bag is that in this mobile world, we really only need to care about a few things. Those things are the user, the need, and the data. Everything else turns out to be superfluous. Once you understand that, mobile becomes much easier no matter what type of company you are. As the saying goes, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Let’s take a deeper look into these pieces. The user, this can be your employee or this can be a consumer of your product. In either case they are the one who will be using the mobile device and whatever app that you happen to provide. They are going to use your app because it fills a need. That need may be for entertainment, (let’s say a game or a media app), for directions to a specific place or restaurant, or a work need, where they have stuff they need to accomplish to get their job done. Whatever their need is, the way you are going to fulfill it is by providing them the data that they want; when and where they want to get it. You do this through building apps that allow them to use the data in whatever way they see fit.

You succeed based upon how well you fulfill the user’s need. You can build a great app that enhances their flexibility and agility compared to however they used to do things or you can create a crapplication that makes them want to do anything but use your app. It all revolves around the way you present the data that the user wants and how you let them manipulate it. It’s about their user experience. This determines whether you are a success or failure.

Notice, we haven’t talked about who owns the device, how we manage the device, how we build the app or even what type of technical experience the users have. We concentrated on fulfilling the needs of the user the best way we know how. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need a way to manage or secure this experience. Those are all parts of the need. The data is your asset and you want to make sure that you can protect it while still allowing the users to use it when and where they need to.

The trick is to stop approaching mobility from a device level and working your way down and to start working your way from the data that is needed on up to the user. When you use this approach, things like BYOD and COPE have only small consequences. MEAP, MADP, Native vs HTML 5, they all work themselves out because you worked from the data and the need. You built the app based upon the requirements, not the other way around where you built a fancy doohickey that becomes a crapplication because it tries to be everything to everybody.

Sooner or later you need to stop looking for that special something that everyone is happy to sell to you by throwing the latest acronym at you and figure out what it is you’re trying to accomplish. The end goal is to make your users flexible and agile by giving them the data that they need, when and where they need it with a kickass user experience that makes them more productive. So stop worrying about the alphabet soup and start worrying about your users, their needs, and what data they need to get there.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe Romeo February 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I think this is where “outside eyes” can be really beneficial for companies trying to tackle BYOD policies. A more customized approach starting at their employees needs is a detailed process and requires knowledge of a wide variety of technologies. In my experience those aren’t the type of projects many Medium to Large IT departments are willing to tackle.

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