Taming the Wild West of MobilitySo you're part of a successful IT Department that has mature infrastructure, a high performance website and integrated back end systems. Then your CIO asks you to look at the company's mobile offerings and the team that develops them. It seems a lot complaints have come in from the App store and the CIO wants to know what the problems are and how to fix them.

This is where we start.

Living on the frontier of the enterprise, mobility in many companies has taken on a decidedly anarchic flavor, existing outside the norms of software development. This article discusses how to bring these initiatives into alignment with best practices and proven processes while retaining their vitality.

The Big Picture

Mobile projects developed their unique characteristics due to the perception that they are a different technology requiring unique approaches and controls. Coupled with the rapid growth of mobile platforms, this resulted in companies organically growing their mobile environment driven by circumstances rather than planning. I'd argue that despite the newness of this paradigm, it shares many characteristics of previous technologies and its newness springs partly from the unfamiliarity of those versed in web based development with these earlier models.

Let's begin with some common traits that all software projects share. They must:

  • Reflect the goals of the business
  • Deliver value for the investment provided
  • Leverage the enterprise architecture of the organization
  • Provide transparency and accountability

How do we accomplish this? Through the application of what I consider central components of an enterprise architecture -- Standards, Processes and Values.

Let's define each of these terms before we use them:

  • Values reflect the institutional beliefs of the company and drive all activities.
  • Standards are the compilation of experience in specific areas and guide the choices made in these areas. 
  • Processes help guide execution through proven approaches and defined outcomes.

Defining the Approach

We'll begin with an example and follow it through to its conclusion. Let's work with privacy -- something that many companies claim as one of their core values. Protecting the confidential information of customers is not only a business necessity but a legal requirement. For example, California's Privacy on the Go initiative defines a variety of items as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including a user's geolocation.