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5 shades of mobile grey

imageOK, so you’re convinced that mobile computing may have some value for your organization. But where do you stand today? On a scale of 1 to 5 how deep into mobile is your company?


How important is mobile computing for your organization? Why should you care? The question may not seem relevant to you unless you consider this from the perspective of your organization’s objectives. In generic terms every organization has the following challenges:


So the real question you have to ask yourself is:

How can mobile computing help me to achieve the objectives of my organization?

We’ll come back on that question in the last chapter. But let’s first define the 5 shades of Mobile Computing.


Shade 1: Mobile e-mail and contacts

image In level 1 of the mobile adoption scale you have opened up your mail server to allow your employees to consult their e-mail and contact data on mobile devices (both Smartphones and Tablets). Almost every organization currently is in this level, at least for a selected group of employees.

Many organizations running their mail server on-premise hesitate to do this because of the security implications it has. Security will be a main concern in every shade of Mobile Computing. How you can deal with that is indicated in the last chapter. The fact remains that your work force is increasingly expecting to have access to their professional mailbox and contacts from their own mobile device (meaning that in the objective of having satisfied, motivated employees, this shade of grey scores quite high).


Shade 2: Mobile access to files and documents

image In the next level of mobility you allow users to access documents, pictures, etc. from their own mobile devices. Achieving this level might be a bit more challenging depending on where these files and documents are stored when you start.

If the documents are stored on file shares on the company’s network, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or VPN-like connection to access the files from outside the company walls.

In a similar case your files may be stored in an on-premise SharePoint. In this case you would also first have to install a mechanism to access your SharePoint from the outside.

In both cases you have to solve the scary problem of opening up your network in a secure way. There are various solutions. The last chapter will tell you more about this.

One of the possibilities is to make sure first that your files are stored on file servers in the cloud. There is a fair chance that if your organization fails to organize mobile access to files and documents, your users will do it themselves by setting up a personal Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive[1] account. Is that what you want?


Shade 3: Mobile virtual desktop

image Another way to make sure that your employees can access their applications, files and documents no matter where they are, is to implement a Virtual Desktop. This is a mechanism that allows you to log in into your network from virtually any device and still find the same desktop that you are using at the office.

.It is clear that the user experience may not be the same on the various mobile devices that you have, but at least you can be sure to have access any time, any place with any device and still find the familiar experience you have at your desk.


Shade 4: Mobile generic apps

image In the first 3 shades of Mobile Apps, you merely open up existing applications, files and data to mobile users. Starting with Shade 4, we are entering a new world in which you create new possibilities for your mobile users. From this point on you have to think in terms of new ways to interact with users that are on the road.


These new ways are available because the mobile devices have capabilities that your standard laptop or desktop PC doesn’t have: taking photos, knowing the geo-location, handwriting on a touch screen, etc. (see blog post “Business Processes on the Road: Why you need Mobile Apps”).

So Shade 4 is about mobile apps that were designed specifically for the mobile users. The easiest and fastest way to getting started with mobile apps is by using Generic Apps. Generic Apps are generally available on the market to fill in a specific (generic) business functions. Examples are: Track My Mileage (to keep track of your mileage expenses), BulldozAIR (for field reporting in Construction Projects), Timesheet .Net (to fill out time sheets on mobile devices) etc.

They are great because you can start using them almost immediately. However, their biggest disadvantage is that they are not integrated into your existing enterprise applications: e.g. the Timesheet app mentioned above cannot use the existing cost codes of your project management system.


Shade 5: Mobile enterprise apps

image This is the level you really want to achieve. The main difference between Enterprise apps and Generic apps is that the former bring your existing enterprise data straight to your mobile employees and customers

This type of apps is the darkest shade of mobile because by opening up your back-end data to front-end apps you create the highest possible business value.

Enterprise apps change the way you do business, because they give you possibilities you never had before. Imagine that your customers can place orders directly into your order system by using a mobile app that you make available to them. This App is branded with your organisation’s logo and colours and uses up-to-date information about your products (availability, price, actions, etc.)

Or imagine an App with which your Field Engineers can do a job at the customer’s site, fill out the job report on his tablet, and have the customer sign it on that tablet whereby this information is fed directly into your ERP-system. No paper involved, no writing and copying, no errors.

By looking a bit closer at the possibilities of this type of Mobile Apps you will discover a world of opportunities to really make the difference for your customers and employees. This type of app allows you to consider the specific context different steps in your business processes, and decide in which processes a mobile app can bring the highest value.



Business perspective

It is clear that from a business perspective not all shades of mobile apps contribute in the same way to your business objectives. Here is an interesting exercise that every decision taker should make: rate the different shades of Mobile Apps for their contribution to the organization’s objectives. Such an assessment may result in a table that look like this one:


This is a good basis to choose your first mobile candidates.

Technological perspective

It may seem like a big and risky leap to introduce mobile applications in your existing IT environment. However Microsoft has a comprehensive set of tools and platforms to help you achieve this in a controlled way, and Spikes has the people and skills to help you implement all that: check EMS or Enterprise Mobility Suite[2]. Based on the Windows 8.1 platform and using its cloud infrastructure, Microsoft offers a product for every part of solution that you want to implement:

  • Cloud infrastructure so that you don’t have to invest in new servers and other hardware
  • Cloud solutions to run your e-mail, contacts, files, etc. from the cloud
  • Identity management to make sure only authorized users get access
  • Encryption mechanisms to make sure that data remains confidential all the time
  • Communication mechanisms with which users can connect to the office from any place and on any device
  • Monitoring and Management Tools to control and manage the whole environment, even in a hybrid cloud-and-on-premise architecture
  • And many more

In other words:

Microsoft has the technology to let you run every shade of mobile grey.


Footnote [1]: OneDrive is the new name for the Microsoft service that was previously called Skydrive. OneDrive is a consumer tool to store files in the cloud. OneDrive for Business is the business equivalent of OneDrive. OneDrive for Business is part of SharePoint Online which itself is part of Office 365

Footnote [2]: Read more about Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) on (in Dutch).


Comments? Questions?

Marc Vanderheyden - Picture


Twitter: @mceev11



I went to the SharePoint Conference 2011 in LA and I brought back …

SharePoint Conference 2011The SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, CA, USA is over. 7500 IT professionals and users (approx. 1/3 of the participants had a business profile!) attended some 250 sessions in 3,5 days.

Here are my personal takeaways.

Project Server 2010

Brilliant product built on SharePoint 2010 (‘you can’t have one without the other’); includes portfolio management from request gathering over portfolio selection based on business objectives, all the way to planning and execution; integration with Team Foundation Server for progress follow-up, even in an Agile Development scenario; integrated Business Intelligence (one of the reasons why it requires the Enterprise Edition of SharePoint).

Here are the titles of some Project Server sessions:

– Microsoft Project and Project Server 2010 Overview

– Best Practices for Deploying Project Server 2010 on SharePoint Farm

– Leverage Project 2010 with Office 365 for Project Management Success

– SharePoint Lifecycle Management Solution with Project Server

– Solving Agile and PMO Problems by Integrating Project Server 2010 with Team Foundation Server 2010


SharePoint and Social Computing

Inspiring ideas on how to combine tagging of content on one hand, and search or content query web parts to display content in various contexts (who has contributed, to which services/products content applies, etc.) on the other. Aka: ‘Taxonomy based content targeting’.

Technical deep-dive in Claims-based authentication to use e.g. Facebook credentials to filter content on your SharePoint site. Very powerful.

In many sessions Microsoft demonstrated how they ‘eat their own dog food’.

Some session titles that should get you interested:

– More Than My: How Microsoft is driving social adoption and intranet change through shared services

– Integrating Social Networks into SharePoint Internet Sites


Content Management

Various sessions talked about how to analyze and structure content in SharePoint (no surprise). Some sessions were very business oriented (‘Document Management – Planning For Success’) and others very technical (‘The Nuts and Bolts of Managing Enterprise Content Types At Scale’ or ‘Creating an Easy To Use File Plan Builder for Your SharePoint Records Center’).

I personally appreciated very much the sessions presented by Susan Hanley,Essential SharePoint 2010 co-author of the book ‘Essential SharePoint 2010’. in one session she talked about measuring the value of your SharePoint 2010 investments. And believe me, it was not a high-level, theoretical talk about ROI and alike: it was a very convincing talk about ‘serious anecdotes’ and users who say ‘”Don’t take it away”.

Her second presentation was all about ‘a practical approach to SharePoint Governance’. Again full of tips you can start using tomorrow (or today?). You can read it all in her book.


Check it out

All the content of the conference is available on the web site of the  SharePoint Conference 2011.

The Buzzwords: Portals & Collaboration, Content Management (incl. Case Management), Workflow, (Self-service) Business Intelligence & Digital Archive

There are (too) many words for describing the digital sharing and processing of documents and other types of content. ‘Document Management’ is one that is often used. What flavors does it have? (And yes, they can all be implemented with SharePoint).




Portals & Collaboration

Portals & Collaboration refers to the single entrance (‘portal’) that people get to loads of information. It also refers to the unstructured, loosely defined collaboration they can set up using the portal. ‘Collaboration’ refers to the fact that the way in which people work together on documents is not organized in a formal way. Who is allowed to add content, modify it, etc. can be configured by using the authorization mechanisms that are available. But the sequence of events who is supposed to do what and at which moment is not formally defined. Collaboration therefore equals communication without formally defined rules.

Still there are various mechanisms (also all available in SharePoint) to ‘collaborate’:

– Centrally stored documents that can be accessed – and modified – by authorized users (using a check-out/check-in mechanism or not)

– Wiki’s to share knowledge

– Discussion Groups

– Announcements

– Task Lists

– Team Sites


Content Management (incl. Case Management)

Content Management is a different ball game. It almost the opposite of collaboration in the sense that here the way in which content is managed is as structured as possible. The whole life cycle of each document type is analyzed and defined, and finally implemented: who can create content, who should review added or modified content, who should approve the added or modified content before it can be published, etc.

Content Management without versioning is inconceivable. Content Management without workflow is hardly conceivable (see next chapter).

A special form of Content Management is Case Management. Where most people think of individual documents or single items of content when they talk about Content Management, Case Management is about sets of documents (files, dossiers, cases whatever you call them). In Case Management the same principles of structured content creation, review and approval apply to sets of documents (aka ‘Cases’).

And yes, you can implement Case Management with SharePoint too.



Workflow is the mechanism that is used to automate the processes related to documents and other types of content. The content reviews and approvals that are mentioned in the previous chapter can be fully automated with workflows.

By automating workflows, you take away the risk that the prescribed way of working is not followed. People can make mistakes. People can forget. Or you can forget to train people to work in the correct way. When procedures are really important (e.g. for compliance or liability reasons) it can be very helpful to automate the process by means of workflows.

Tip: before you start implementing workflows: read our blogs about Process Modeling.


(Self-service) Business Intelligence

Why write about Business Intelligence (BI) in the context of Document Management?

First of all, because a Portal is the perfect place to publish your reports and figures, especially when they take the shape of dashboards and scorecards.

Secondly because reports can be considered to be ‘content’ like documents, having similar properties: collaboration, meta-data, life cycle, authorizations, etc.

So why not take advantage of the platform you already have to make the right version of your reports available to the right people at the right time?

The possibilities of BI in SharePoint are countless, and yet most people don’t even know about it.


Digital Archive

What is the relationship between a Digital Archive and Content Management? The content Life cycle!

One of the simplest rules in Content Management is: what gets in, must get out! For each type of document, and therefore for each document, you must know when it is going to be removed from your content database at the moment you add it to it! Sounds impossible? Can be done!

And because people don’t like to throw away things, or because the legislator or compliance committee may demand that you keep record of specific types of documents, you need a (digital) archive to store documents that are no longer ‘active’.

In the archive, your content starts a second life that eventually ends with the permanent deletion of the content.

The key concept here is: content life cycle management!


… and CRM?

This may seem like an odd one. What is the relationship between CRM and Content Management?



Document Management is about collaboration. Collaboration is about communication. Organizations communicate with their external contacts more and more through portals in stead of through e-mail. By sharing documents on a portal with customers, partners, members, etc. the communication becomes so much more efficient: everyone shares the same version of a document, everyone can modify that version (if authorized) and so on.

CRM is about keeping track of your contacts and of the touch points you have with those contacts. So if you want to keep control over your touch points with customers and other external parties, it does make sense to integrate your CRM with your content management.



If you want to hear more about projects we realized in this context, or want to learn how this may apply to your organization, don’t hesitate to contact me or the company:

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