CIOs, as the leaders driving technology strategy, must develop a mobile engagement strategy that embraces the needs of customers, partners, and employees. But, before diving in head first, it’s important to understand your readiness for mobile engagement today and the steps you will need to take to succeed. 

From the executive suite down, employees want access to and support for business applications on personal smartphones, tablets, and computers. The desire to allow employees to take greater control of the tools they use to work is driving many CIOs to launch formal bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs. These give employees choice over the smartphones and tablets they use for work, focus on managing device configuration and security across platforms and deliver foundational apps like email and calendar. 

Mobilising your collaboration, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, and countless other business applications could be an all-encompassing task. Or it could be a methodical process that you use to open up the lines of communication with critical operating executives in sales, service, and other mobile business functions. 

The real opportunity for innovation and business impact is operating mobile applications that change your service model and value proposition for customers and partners. Given the limitations of smaller screens and fewer input options, mobile applications designed for the consumer will push the limits of innovation by focusing on three core values: immediacy, simplicity, and context. Customers want access to your products and services wherever they happen to be, and partners want easy mobile access to catalogs, inventory, and order information from the shop floor. However, few firms have a comprehensive mobile strategy (or even the desire to build one) and IT leads very few customer-facing mobile projects.

Forreste Formal BYOD Programs are gaining popularity 

Asses your mobile engagement maturity to align key stakeholders

Smart CIOs will take advantage of their comprehensive technology view to bridge the gap between employee, partner, and customer mobile initiatives and marshal the resources, skills, systems, and partners to create systems that support the rapid growth in mobile app development.

The CIO Mobile Engagement Playbook highlights the fact that the CIO's role in both business and technology provides a unique vantage point from which to develop a comprehensive "mobile engagement" strategy.

Pursuing a mobile engagement strategy will allow you to confront and resolve issues around organisational boundaries, skills, investment strategy, technology platforms, supplier choices, and governance. An assessment of your organisational alignment, strategic planning approach, and technology capabilities will help you plan and execute a cohesive mobile engagement strategy.

A mobile engagement maturity assessment tool may help you assess your team's readiness for mobile engagement based on four main categories: strategy and vision, organisation and execution, measurement and metrics and technology. 

There are four possible stages of mobile engagement maturity:

Stage 1 - ad hoc: IT's mobile initiatives are focused mostly on employees.

Stage 2 - coordinated: mobile initiatives include both employee and customer projects under a single planning and execution aegis but not team.

Stage 3 – aligned: mobile initiatives that span employee and customer mobile are driven by single strategic plan. The advisory group now functions as a mobile center of excellence.

Stage 4 – unified:  a multifunctional mobile team leads and evangelizes all mobile initiatives; coordinates budget, funds investment, and innovation; and pushes "mobile-first" thinking.

Recent data shows that for the vast majority of firms, mobile strategy is a relatively new concept. When moving from ad hoc stage to coordinated stage, your first steps should be to inventory your existing mobile projects, fund a project to assess workforce and customer mobility needs, and establish a cross-functional mobile interest group.  

Successfully transitioning to an aligned mobile engagement model includes developing common governance, business cases, funding, and metrics, and turning the mobile interest group into a mobile centre of excellence. A centre of excellence is a formalised vehicle to plan, execute, and evangelise mobile strategy and to codify best practices.

The unified stage is a big step forward. With this level of maturity, you are coordinating investments, making smart trade-off decisions on technology, and beginning to settle on a core set of partners, architectures, and re-usable "patterns" for application development and deployment.

With a true mobile centre of excellence and a common approach to governance, business cases, and metrics in place, moving to the unified stage comes down to appointing a senior executive with the power to get things done, and maintaining one budget and financial autonomy from business and IT. 

The path to mobile engagement success is long. The cultural and organisational changes it may demand in your company are complicated by a technology landscape that will take years to evolve. The pace of change and your ability to adapt quickly will be critical to success. Our analysis suggests that you continuously assess the needs and wants of your target, refine objectives to align with business metrics and goals, embed mobile engagement in your overall BT strategy, and keep technology road maps short but agile.

Simon Yates is a Vice President and Principal Analyst serving CIO professionals at Forrester Research.