Smartphones, next generation mobile computing, and ITSM

In today’s IT planning and execution, we face increased expectation from users on seeing cool consumer products and technology in IT.  A good example of this consumerization of IT is in the mobile computing.   At one point, we all loved and used Blackberry that allowed us to check work emails from anywhere and anytime.  Now, wouldn’t you jump at a chance to replace your old Blackberry to the latest iPhone, Android, and Palm smartphones?  IT users want these latest smartphones with cool UI and they want to do more than just checking work emails. 


I spoke to a number of customers who are either evaluating or deploying iPhones, Android, or Palm smartphones as standard IT mobile devices.  With these latest smartphones, you can really enable mobile users to access key enterprise applications and take advantage of anywhere and anytime access.  So, within this context, let’s discuss some key considerations for ITSM mobile application. 



Thick versus thin clients for mobile:  Remember late 1990s when people talked about pros and cons of building Windows versus Browser applications.  Some people said that Browser applications do not offer the same rich set of functionality and flexibility of Windows applications.  Eventually, the increased technical capabilities and universal UI across multiple platforms allowed browsers to be the dominant platform for building business applications.  Who builds a new application on Windows platform anymore? 


I think the same argument can be made on building applications on native mobile apps or mobile browser environment.  Now, I am not saying that native mobile apps environment will disappear.  I believe native mobile apps running on iOS, Android, and WebOS devices will continue to prosper.  However, the technical capabilities of HTML 5 and Webkit will enable mobile browser apps to provide rich UI and functional experience for users.  In addition, mobile browser apps offer following benefits to enterprises:


  • You can support multiple mobile devices and types.  Browser application works same on iPhone, Android, or Palm Pre. 
  • Avoid nightmares of updating enhancements and applying patches on multiple mobile devices


If you are an enterprise looking to roll out mobile applications, then it makes perfect sense to develop for mobile browser environment.  The technology will continue to evolve and you don’t have to deal with headaches to support and maintain native apps across multiple mobile OS types, versions, or devices. 



Is your company developing thick or thin client mobile applications?  What are additional pros and cons that you would add? 



Who really needs ITSM mobile applications?:  It makes no sense to duplicate desktop or PC browser applications on mobile platforms.  The use cases and customer UI experiences are vastly different.   So for ITSM, what are the use cases and personas that need mobile applications.   Here are some examples based on my discussions with customers:


  • Field engineers (incident analyst):  Field engineers are typically tasked to work with business users (ticket submitter) at user premise, thus they work mostly away from their desk.  So, the field engineers are looking to close tickets through ITSM mobile application as they complete the work instead of running back to their desk or updating ticket status at the end of the day.  Another important use case is when the field engineers need to re-assign the tickets to a different assignment group (e.g. PC hardware to ERP application) after the diagnosis. 


  • Change approvers:  Ability to approve change requests using mobile devices would greatly benefit approvers that attend numerous meetings during working hours.  Another great example I heard from a customer on benefits of having ITSM mobile application is when a change approver needs to approve change requests during off hours.  You get a change approval request from your colleague in India at 8 PM at night.  You have done similar change approvals in the past, so you have a good idea on what type of request this is.  Instead of booting up your PC, connecting to VPN, and then logging to Service Manager, it would so much easier to click on the email link on your mobile device that takes you to the change request ticket on the ITSM mobile application.


  • Request approvers:  Request approvals through ITSM mobile application can assist with approvers that need to approve IT asset and services in timely manner.  Similar to change approvers, capabilities to approve requests on all hours even on the go will help with overall IT productivity.


  • ESS users:  Enterprises are distributing more mobile devices to employees, and some employees are using their personal Smart Phone devices to connect to work.  Ability to enter employee self service requests using ITSM mobile application can help employees log their support issues using their mobile devices.  Another key benefit is checking existing ticket status using mobile devices, so they can stay up to date on the ticket status. 


There are additional use cases and personas that can benefit from ITSM mobile application.  I believe the key design factor that one must consider is that ITSM mobile application must complement and co-exist with the existing PC browser based ITSM application.   ITSM mobile application is not necessary another client that needs to have full duplicate features and functionality of PC browser application.  ITSM mobile application must take advantage of mobility benefits and provide solutions that can be uniquely solved through mobile solutions. 



What do you think of the ITSM mobile application personas and use cases above?  What would you add?

Comments
Valued Contributor | ‎05-16-2011 10:48 AM

Having never supported a mobile browser pages or any mobile app, for that matter, what considerations need to be made for security when making the browser pages or app available external to our network?

 

Our user base is waiting for this type of functionality.  The uses that you describe fit our organization well.

HP Expert | ‎05-17-2011 10:18 AM

Beth, 

 

Thank you for your comments, and glad to know that use cases match your organization's needs.

 

In terms of security, the requirements may vary across enterprises.  At the end of the day, if you decide to allow users to access mobile applications anywhere including at home, then you have no choice but to leverage public Internet at some point in the access link.  This is how most work email access happens today.

 

Definitely good idea to speak to security experts at your company.

 

-Michael

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About the Author
Michael Yang is a senior Product Manager for HP ITSM Solutions. Responsibilities include product management, product roadmap, and customer u...


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