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Planning Mobile Strategy at Your Organization? Look to the Birds

This is the second part of a three-part series exploring mobile enterprise and application platforms with Red Hat, a leader in the open source industry. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for one more – and read the first blog post here.

You may think that bird watching is the purview of the retired, but I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. I’m in my 30s, and every time I go on vacation or camping with a certain group of friends, all they can talk about is the birds we see. “Was that a great blue heron?” one gasped on a recent hike in Washington state. When kayaking in Florida last winter, all the group could talk about was seeing something called a frigate bird. Me? I was left staring blankly, but with a renewed appreciation for the variety of winged friends that we have out there.

You know what else is surprising? Thinking hard about what bird watching has to do with mobile application development and platforms. Seriously. Think about how bird watching has generally happened in the past: you’d head out into nature with a pen and paper notebook, and log the birds you saw. You might take the unrecognized ones and look them up in a book afterwards, or at your desk if you remembered to go back to your computer after your outing.

But imagine bird watching, done mobile application style. You could immediately log any birds you say into a snazzy application with a good interface, and look up the ones you didn’t know. You could snap geo-tagged photos of the birds you saw, and share them with an online community. It’d revolutionize bird watching.

To think about how a mobile strategy could apply to this sort of interaction in the public sector, GovLoop sat down with Josh Bentley, Mobility Sales Specialist, Red Hat, to discuss the ways in which government needs to be thinking about mobile app development and strategy.

“What if you were out in the field, and you were doing something in an area that you know the government maintains?” Bentley asked. “Maybe a national park, a fishery, or something along the coastline. You could actually have citizens or the employees go through and scan a barcode to show an inventory of something. It could be the name of a tree, or where you are spotting a certain bird. So now you can have interactions with employees and citizens all funneling data back to the back end because they’ve always got their device with them. Whereas previously, if you’re out bird watching and you see an amazing bird, and maybe you jot it down in a log, maybe you don’t, but either way you’re not going to go back to your desk and log into a system and find that webpage. But if you have a simple, easy way to get to it from a mobile device, it’s stickier. People actually enjoy using it.”

This simple exchange illustrates why it’s so critical to be thinking about where mobile application development fits into your organization. If you can imagine how a well-designed and executed mobile app can affect something as simple and pleasurable as recreational bird watching, the effects it would have on business transactions or citizen interactions are innumerable. So how can you make sure you’re doing it in the best way possible and making sure that it fits into your organizations strategy?

“The public sector right now is in an early adoption stage of using mobile application platforms,” Bentley said. “We’re finding that a lot of people have just a few use cases that they build applications for. But they’re not doing it in a reusable format with a platform. What they’re doing is they’re taking a use case that has traditionally been deployed onto something like a web server that is in a secure environment only accessible on devices that are attached to the network. And now they’re moving those use cases to mobile. That’s not the way to go.”

Enterprise mobile application development is predicated on determining what mobile apps your organization’s employees and customers are using and why, or what ones they may need but that do not yet exist.

Some questions to think about when figuring out how a mobile strategy fits into your organization:

  • Focus on the experience. What is the interaction you need to provide? How are you doing it now? How can its workflow be improved by mobile?
  • Whose input do you need for a mobile strategy? IT obviously needs to be involved, but what other departments (even those without technical expertise) need to be involved?
  • Your strategy starts with user experience, but then it needs to incorporate developer empowerment. You need to free up your developers to focus on user interaction. Consider using a cloud-based backend.
  • Stay safe. Security is one of the most important considerations for mobile, so it must be incorporated into your strategy and approach. How will your agency’s data be protected? How will users’ data remain safe?

By turning to Red Hat, you get a mobile application platform that accelerates the development of mobile projects by facilitating collaborative app development and secure backend integration in the cloud and on premise.

Interested in more? Stay tuned for one more blog post about mobile use cases in the public sector. Also make sure to check out Red Hat’s page about the mobile enterprise platform, and their report about Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS), which attempts to fill the gap between traditional app platforms and mobile apps.

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