Mobile collaboration is an increasingly important topic as two-thirds of the information workforce already work remotely, according to Forrester data. With the adoption of tablets such as the iPad and the proliferation of smart phones in the enterprise, that number figures to grow significantly. It is a matter of when, not whether that mobile devices exceed desktops. The new Forrester Wave™: Mobile Collaboration, Q3 2011 by Ted Schadler for Content & Collaboration Professionals offers some useful advice on how mobile collaboration requires a new app approach.

We are now living in a work everywhere world. I have noticed that even most small vacation inns have free wifi as a standard offering. Forrester notes that your most productive employees m now use four devices to get work done. This means that “client/server solutions with on-premises servers are inadequate, simply not responsive or agile enough for escalating user requirements and expectations.”

They note that mobile apps need to be designed to run well on any mobile device because of the proliferation of devices. With so many different mobile platforms and form factors to target, app developers will have to organize differently, code differently, and execute differently. In this new environment design skills grow ever-more important (and scarce). There will be new abstraction layers that separate presentation from interaction from back-end services. Teams now must design for mobile first.

Mobile apps must be delivered as a cloud service. Forrester notes that latency is already a problem for distributed organizations and even waiting for email to upload or download to a remote site can be painful. I see this with my iPhone. For me this wait time is mitigated by the fact that I mostly use the iPhone to check for messages when I am killing time. It would be very frustrating in normal use. In addition, access to team sites and even the file system from a hotel room over a virtual private network (VPN) can be excruciatingly slow. Fortunately this is no longer an issue for me but I remember it well. Forrester states that the problem is the lack of capacity, bandwidth, and data close to the device. The solution is cloud suppliers with data centers around the world and points of presence in every major city. The cloud is simply better for delivering good mobile app experiences. I would agree.

Here is another perspective on mobile app creation from the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference. This session discussed three components that any mobile strategy should have, which includes deciding what goes mobile, understanding how to mobilize applications and services, and designing a framework for managing mobility. On a related note here are some thoughts from the 2011 mLearn Mobile Learning Conference.

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