How to steer clear of getting caught out by mobile

Derek BrittonMobile is one of the revolutionary forces changing how IT is requested and delivered in today’s commercial world. The advent of the savvy end-user and the trend towards BYOD has changed immeasurably the way in which services must be provided by IT. As smartphone capabilities further develop, so does the level of expectations for added functionality.

Businesses will find it impossible to ignore mobile if they wish to remain competitive in the next few years and must consider the most effective way to develop and adapt business applications to the needs of the mobile user.

It comes as no surprise that a new study from Forrester Research predicts that the take-up of mobile technology will have “dramatic effect” on back-office IT systems. Modern users expect 24/7 mobile access to all the applications and online services that they would use on their desktop or laptop computer, visiting e-commerce sites, accessing their bank online, and more recently, loading their work applications. Yet, according to Forrester, “hidden costs and disruptions” are set to plague organizations that do not make appropriate preemptive action.

The Forrester Report suggests that mobile projects hide a variety of potential pitfalls as a result of infrastructure that is ill-prepared for exploding activity volumes. However, organizations need not think that embracing mobile will require a costly and complete overhaul of existing IT infrastructure to resolve these issues.

Businesses should consider re-using as much of their existing business applications and processes as possible in order to guarantee integrity, continuity and security of service for the future. Potential threats to the infrastructure of exploding activity volumes can be mitigated by making smart choices about application provision and workload management, to relieve pressure and offer a more cost- effective and viable solution to adopt mobile.

So what should businesses be doing to embrace mobile in a cost- efficient fashion?

There are several steps that businesses can take to ensure that their IT infrastructures are prepared for the mobile explosion:

Re-use and adapt: All too often businesses approach mobile by developing new applications when in fact they could simply re-use and adapting existing, core back-end applications. The benefit of this approach is that costs are reduced and the existing infrastructure is not compromised.
While many may not consider COBOL for adapting business applications to support mobile use, its simplicity and therefore adaptability, makes this programming language, which accounts for approximately 70% of all critical business processes, the perfect candidate to take IT into the mobile era. With tools such as Visual Studio or Eclipse, developers are able to modernize applications to support new mobile applications across a wide number of technical platforms.

COBOL can be used in each instance to efficiently deliver business services and their supporting data from the back-end to the user. The benefits of re-using COBOL systems rather than re-writing them are numerous and include a faster delivery of IT service, at lower cost and risk, while retaining intellectual property and competitive advantage.

Thoroughly test your mobile apps: When undertaking a considerable project such as adapting to mobile, testing is one area that cannot afford to be compromised. However traditional testing practices can mean that projects can overrun on time as well as budget. By moving application testing for mobile, web and related back-end systems to a more cost- effective environment that is easy to use, testing phases are able to be completed much faster and more thoroughly without eating into mainframe power. These environments also lend themselves better to supporting test automation and performance testing needs.

Review your workload deployment strategy: In order to cope with potential spikes in activity that mobile may bring, many businesses may look to add extra back-office capacity. However, this can be a costly solution. For example mainframe system capacity may be in the region of approximately £2,500 per MIPS. Instead, IT can look to optimize workload deployment and seize advantage of server choice to free up precious capacity to support mobile application needs.

Adapting your IT processes to mobile, if approached in a strategic and efficient fashion does not have to be the costly and disruptive burden that Forrester Research suggests. Much can be done with existing IT infrastructures and core assets to improve efficiency without requiring complete overhauls or re-builds that ensure that the IT infrastructure is able to take businesses in to the future as cost-efficiently as possible.

(The author,Derek Britton, is senior solutions marketing manager at Micro Focus)

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