I am going to examine what the motivations are for “going mobile” to make sure that any of your efforts are targeted at the richest and most directly business-impacting areas.

This is the third article in a series -- at this point, we’ve covered:

  1. Mobile Content & Collaboration: Let's Face It, You Aren't Ready -- discussing the legacy issues that most companies struggle with from the perspective of IT, users, security, web developer, cultural and manager perspectives. Bottom line: You can’t just “go mobile” at the flick of your fingers.
  2. Mobile Readiness: Begin With the End in Mind -- discussing where to get started - fix everything you have now to be “fully mobile,” leave the mess and just move forward with new content in mobile world, or some hybrid? Bottom line: “Going Mobile” isn’t the goal (or shouldn’t be) - doing your work more effectively, more efficiently... with mobile, should be the goal.

Now let's look at motivations:


A few folks have weighed in via Twitter that it seemed I was proposing “putting lipstick on a pig” (or attempting to get pigs to fly) with the approach I’ve been describing.

The assumption was that I seem to be promoting continuing to use legacy systems and slapping/hacking on (or more politically correct, “integrating”) a mobile interface to an old clunker.

How best to put this...


There is never just one way to solve a problem, and I’m not proposing keeping clunkers around due to any special fondness for “the good ‘ol boys of content.” (See recent news that Box.net hired long-term EMC executive, Whitney Tidmarsh for a sign of the changing times)

What I do believe, based on having swum in the waters of content management for 15 years or so, is that people put far more faith than is warranted in the latest and greatest technology.

Even as a long-time Apple fan, sadly, “magic devices” still don’t make you smarter, better looking, faster, more efficient, etc..

Mobile capabilities are revolutionizing what’s possible, but the question is... are you really ready for this? Yes, I know that’s how I kicked off this series, but it bears repeating.

Multiple Paths to Mobile-Ready

In the last article, we’d discussed completely overhauling systems/content collections, only addressing “day forward” new content and a hybrid approach.

Just to be clear, if you have a good reason for shutting down or migrating from an old system to a new system, completely and thoroughly, please do so.

However, putting a different, newer or “more modern” solution in place is unlikely to really solve your mobile pains.

What Does “Go Mobile” Mean to You?

Regardless of what you do, what I’m proposing is that you should only do what is necessary to tackle REAL BUSINESS PROBLEMS.

As Content Management professionals, it is easy to forget something that is incredibly important, and that I have to constantly remind myself of on a weekly basis.

Most organizations don’t even realize that content management is an area they *could* care about, let alone actively address.

Beyond those that don’t know this universe of content management exists, the vast majority of businesses using content management or collaboration systems, are NOT in the business of creating, maintaining or integrating these systems. Should they? Probably not.

They are doing “real work” such as new drug discovery, auditing financial records, serving retail customers, coordinating and streamlining insurance claims, etc..

Not everyone needs to be a content mechanic or engineer -- just as most of us only have enough knowledge of our cars to know that turning the key starts the engine, and when that doesn’t work, it’s time to call an expert.

Shine on You Crazy Content

Therefore, if there is no real good reason (hard or soft dollars, risk avoidance, thought leadership, etc. -- whatever makes for a “good reason” in your own organization), then please... get back to your “real work” and don’t chase these bright shiny objects, no matter how tempting.

If you are, however, planning on moving into a mobile-ready and mobile-implemented state, then read on.

Scope Your Effort

For me, as an Agile/Lean Development proponent (being a non-traditional IT guy, I thought the goal was to deliver solutions rapidly, not “in due time”), I believe you should focus on doing less, doing it well, correcting/learning with each step, and doing it quickly.

If it takes you 12-18 months just to setup a new system, let alone the work to migrate, what have you actually accomplished? Is that actually a net value-add to your business?

There are certainly cloud and mobile-friendly content management systems available these days that could serve as the platform replacement for whatever you might already have, but functionality and moving where content is located is just the tip of the iceberg in any content management effort.

Estimating the efforts to make a complete platform change, and any needed cleaning/changes to your content is something that you may believe you can ignore in the costs (time, money, effort) of your project, but trust me... you’re only hiding from a pain in the project that’s going to boomerang back at you at some point.

Do You Need to Go “All In?”

You may be able to get 70-90% of the way to a similar end point of moving to an entirely mobile-friendly infrastructure, for example, by using modern search as the entry app into an otherwise legacy and “mobile-hostile” infrastructure.

That approach may take 6 weeks and $100,000 vs. 18 months and $3 Million -- and I’m sure that somebody with an accounting degree can step in here and point out an ROI disconnect in the time/value comparison.

If your environment is so far behind the current day and where you believe you are headed 3-5 years out, then perhaps it’s worth blowing up and trying again, but a technology project for the sake of technology is almost always a bad idea.

There is no doubt that mobile computing holds massive opportunities, and in a perfect world, we would all jump into pristine, mobile-enabled systems.

Unless you are starting a company from scratch, or are building your content infrastructure from scratch however, the reality is that at least *some* of your existing investments in content management capabilities do work.

Don’t throw away past efforts just because they are not entirely perfect, unless you are fully prepared for everything that is going to entail.

Some of the bad apples of the financial industry may not believe in fiscal prudence, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should treat our money like a risk-free game of Monopoly (tm).

Build a Foundation, and Expand

Whether you blow it all up, or incrementally improve your systems, my recommendation would be to aim for a foundation that you can build on, rapidly -- and not be subject to a single vendor lock-in (cloud or traditional deployment, doesn’t matter), or a massive project unto itself.

You have better things to do - like getting down to business.

Next up: Prototyping targets for enterprise mobile use...