The corporate workplace has become a diverse mobile device environment driven mainly by demand for newer devices with improved UI, applications, speed, and a certain cool factor. From the SharePoint user perspective, the perception is “it should be easy” for IT departments to provide multiple devices and deliver user support and trustworthy security.
But many still struggle with the basics, such as consistent mobile access, providing employees with mobile devices and plans that are justifiable, and providing secure data access to corporate networks.
In this four-part series, I’d like to step you through the process of architecting mobility for SharePoint in any size organization. I'll provide you with a multistep approach for architecting mobility for your environment, highlighting key success factors and common risks and how to deal with them.
Tips for Approaching SharePoint Mobility
The approach I generally recommend to organizations is to assess the feasibility of mobility for the area of business in question first. Generally, a solution must either save money by creating efficiencies through process simplification or make money by supporting a new service or product offering.
More specifically, does the business area in question benefit from staff being mobile and having access to the organization’s applications? For example, does it benefit your organization to have a sales person get access to inventory and ordering systems or a consultant to have access to knowledge networks and other intellectual property?
These sorts of discussions help justify the monetary investments and ongoing operational costs.
Getting Started: Making SharePoint Mobile
So where do you start? Here are some steps to take:
• Be thorough with your feasibility study – A feasibility study should focus on the case for mobility, the business and technical opportunity (problem to be addressed), research performed, how mobility could address possible solutions (options), assessment of the options, risks, solution summary, and recommendations for going forward.
• Pay attention to governance – Governance will facilitate your success no matter your organization’s size and complexity. At its simplest, it offers stakeholders a forum for communicating their requirements, facilitating decisions, managing risks, and escalating issues.
Essentially, governance is much like project/program management but for your SharePoint service.
• Get facts on paper – As you meet with stakeholders and team members, document and distribute information. During the artifact collection/creation process, document the specifics to make sure there is measurable traceability.
Use a SharePoint site to house, distribute, and track content. Finally, create a communication plan that details the communications, to whom, how often, and the format.
• Focus on business requirements - Focus on the specifics of financials (establishing and sustaining), and cover schedules and functionality (user experience). Knowing what can be designed, assembled, tested, and deployed within the requirements is critical.
Specifically, an off-the-shelf solution can generally be deployed and operated “easier” than custom in-house solutions, though I have seen organizations butcher off-the-shelf software. It’s critical to gather enough requirements to determine the better choice.
• Choose metrics for success that are achievable – Utilizing governance, you must establish achievable financial, technical, operational, and organizational metrics.
For example, financial metrics could be that mobility must cost no more than $5 million to plan, design and deploy and $2 million a year to operate. Technical metrics could be that mobility must support IOS and Android devices and use native or HTML 5, as best makes sense.
• Set service-level objectives and agreement – Service levels build on metrics for success and include availability, performance, application provisioning timeframes, and the responsibilities of each party involved.
• Know your SharePoint environment – The technical and operation aspects of your farm(s) must be well known.
If you’re outsourced, what capacity do you have? What are the contractual obligations your vender provides for mobility? What solutions do they offer? Will their options meet requirements? What are the financial effects?
If you’re not outsourced, where are your farms located? What capability do the data centers have? What space is available? Operational skills? Capacity on hand and trends? Provisioning time for servers, networking and storage?
• Determine off-the-shelf versus in-house developed or both – Based on the requirements, which makes most sense based on your need?
Off-the-shelf software is generally lower risk, but you're locked into the vendor’s development priorities and cycle. In-house means you have full control but also own all the risk, although in some cases this might be your only choice.
• Assess political maneuvering and skin in the game – Using governance and relying on your executive sponsor, you must carefully map out the political landscape of your organization.
What you're looking for are fiefdoms and other landmines that could derail your project. Generally, the larger and more dispersed the organization the more fragmented and greater the chance of political islands.
Working with your sponsor and using governance, you will determine which battles you can win and which you must steer clear of.
• Set up representation, paper trails, and communication – Paper trails…paper trails. All the meetings, presentations, data collection you do must result in artifacts.
These artifacts could be meeting notes, documents sent to you, or acknowledgements of agreements and requirements. This is called measurable traceability and helps you link factual requirements to stakeholders and also helps refresh people’s memory and enables effective communication.
Now that you’ve got this important background work laid, let’s move on to the next part: SharePoint mobile app types--and, in part three, SharePoint mobile operations and financial considerations.