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Mobilizing content brings a number of business benefits, with productivity gains being chief among them. But, of course, gaining those benefits requires developing a successful strategy--and that, in turn, requires that organizations take a close look at their existing business processes and the business problems they hope to solve.

“The business process for delivering mobile content is no different from delivering content to desktop workers that we’ve been using over the years. There’s a design methodology and process centric design methodology that people have worked on for many years, and they are still very valid,” says Geoffrey Bock, principal of Bock & Co., a technology consulting firm.

“The only reason to do any of this, whether on the BPM side or the ECM side--and, to me, they are two sides of the same coin--is to give people who need information to do their jobs the information they need in the format they need it as quickly as possible,” says Steve Weissman, principal consultant for the Holly Group, another consulting firm.

But even benefits such as accessibility and portability of information aren’t enough to drive a mobile content management strategy. “Just because we can now mobilize content and deliver content to mobile workers, we still have to understand the business process that we’re using to manage and organize and deliver that content,” says Bock. “The content is only important as it relates to a particular business process. You can’t really divorce them or attempt to divorce them.”

For that reason, Bock says, BPM should be part of any overall content management strategy. “BPM capabilities have been going on for a long time. What’s changing now is the cost of the devices and the ease with which we can now push information down to consumer devices,” he says.

Special-purpose mobile devices have run on pager channels for years. But they were expensive and not built to industry standards. Now that has converged, and ruggedized smartphones are cost-competitive. Says Bock: “What we’re seeing is the standardization of mobile.”

While mobile devices have become more accessible to organizations of all sizes, they still present several major challenges for organizations looking to mobilize their content-management strategies. They must decide which devices, models and operating systems to support. Currently, there are two primary categories of mobile devices--smartphones and tablets--but each of those categories involves several models and operating systems, Bock says. And all are in flux.

They must also determine what kind of application to build. Do they build a native application that runs on the device, a mobile web application that is rendered via a web browser, a mixed-mode application that combines the two, or a hybrid app that makes use of HTML5 to wrap the web experience in a native shell? “You need to think through how much you are depending on the device versus building an application that uses the web,” says Bock. Then there’s the issue of connectivity. “When developing an application, you need to be clear about what assumptions you’re making about the network connectivity,” Bock says. “If you’re going to assume that the users are always going to be connected on a high-speed network, then you better be damn sure that they are, and you better have a fallback strategy in case your users somehow end up in a 3G wireless environment.”

Security is a significant challenge as well, particularly in the era of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), when organizations start mixing personally owned devices with corporate data. “Mobile devices, by their very definition, move around and get lost,” Weissman notes. Obviously, if mobile devices containing corporate data become lost or stolen, the organizations lose that data as well. “These are issues that need to be thought about before you move forward,” Weissman says.

Navigating through such technical challenges involves revisiting the whole reason for mobilization in the first place. “I try to pick out as much of the vocabulary and the hype as I can, and really focus on the nature of the business process,” Weissman says. “Getting one’s head around that will make it clear what technology needs to be investigated and in what priorities to solve a business problem.”

And what if the organization has moved forward without thinking through the business processes behind a mobilization strategy? Well, that’s inadvisable. “These challenges are critical. You need to really think about this first. Don’t do anything until you sit down and sketch all this out,” Weissman advises.

“It all boils down to what business problem are you trying to solve and for whom. Everything else flows from that,” he adds. “Particularly for the ‘for-whom piece:’ That’s where you’ll find the mobile piece.”

READER FEEDBACK: Does your company have a content mobilization strategy in place? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Crystal Bedell is an award-winning freelance writer who specializes in covering technology. Contact her at cbedell[at]bedellcommunications.com.

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