Seven Steps for Success in Social, Mobile and Cloud

The Aberdeen Group states that cloud is the core, mobile its edge and social the connections are lie between endpoints. It places the disruptive technologies that are transforming businesses in context, and describes the technical and services infrastructure needed to provide that ideal end‐user experience where everyone’s connected (social), everywhere they go mobile, and have access to data when they need it (cloud).

Gartner asserts that these forces are intertwined to create a user driven ecosystem of modern computing. The individual is empowered. People expect access to similar functionality across all their roles and make fewer distinctions between work and non‐work activities. People have come to expect and make use of presence and location services, contextual search results, and spontaneous interaction with their social networks to enhance everyday experiences. And they spread those experiences across multiple devices, often at the same time.

But many organizations are still struggling to keep their business running by keeping pace with mobile, social and volume of data being generated.

The Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSCC) has published a whitepaper “Convergence of Social, Mobile and Cloud: 7 Steps to Ensure Success” to help IT and business decision makers as they consider the way convergence of social, mobile, and cloud technologies impacts their business. In 7 steps, the report provides guidance, strategies and important supporting technologies such as integration, Big Data analytics and DevOps.

Step 1: Adopt an Open IT Strategy & Architecture

The convergence of social, mobile and cloud starts with improve business processes across the business operation from increased collaboration, improved innovation, to better customer insight and support, etc. A successful planning requires collaboration strategies, architectural solutions, governance and overall flexible IT strategy.

The report says to adapt to an open IT strategy & architecture, businesses need to align business objectives with current social, mobile and cloud capabilities.

“It is important to conduct careful assessment of whether the new technologies being adopted will improve achievement of business objectives without significantly increasing costs, risks and complexity that have the potential to undermine the expected gains.”

The next step is to identify experts within or outside the company through collaboration with technology partners; measuring success by clearly defining business objectives.

For example, measurement of customer support due to implementation of social technologies may be tracked with metrics like number of service issues addressed in social media, percentage of issues escalated and resolved inside/outside social media, number of positive ratings and reviews, etc. In measuring risks in various IT implementation projects, key risk metrics should be developed that highlight the severity of the IT risks and the impact on individual business objectives, the report says.

The final step is to adapt IT governance to accommodate the new technologies of social, mobile and cloud. It is important for IT and business units to collaborate and view technology governance as a core part of business strategy.

Step 2: Establish Cloud as the Core

Cloud computing is the model for delivery of whatever computing resources are needed and for activities that grow out of such delivery. Without cloud computing, social interactions would have no place to happen at scale, mobile access would fail to be able to connect to a wide variety of data and functions, and information would be still stuck inside internal systems.

With cloud, everything shifts to the culture of the consumer and the externalized view of computing which allows the forces to converge and thrive. Mobile independent software vendors using cloud services have more options to access information and processes than ever before — without having to own it all. Crowdsourcing can be done through mobile communities because the cloud allows them all to exist in the same workspace rather than being isolated in enterprise or single‐PC environments. And, the cloud is the carrier ecosystem for a wide variety of data forms, both structured and unstructured. This data can be gathered from cloud‐based communities, through cloud services, from mobile endpoints, and all in a consistent and globally available environment.

Businesses should look into migrating existing applications to the cloud because it provides optimization. Cloud brings cost savings through automation or reduction of infrastructure footprint. It also brings opportunity to IT to deliver new and innovative ways to interact with customers.

In addition, cloud can bring on‐demand self‐service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured Service to business. To ensure a successful cloud deployment, the report says that deployment and service models, security & privacy, service level agreements, governance, legal & regulatory requirements, interoperability, and integration with existing systems requirements must be taken into consideration.

Step 3: Prioritize Mobile Access

Mobile applications are at the front end of the new systems of interaction, which engage directly with the enterprise brand anytime, anywhere. Mobile can bring collaboration among employee and accelerate business decisions to increase their overall productivity. Mobile applications are also the control interface to extend product value and differentiation by integrating context‐awareness, customer feedback and predictive analytics.

But mobile access comes with it a new set of challenges, Companies need to manage several public AppStores, synchronization with enterprise systems poses a new set of requirements, mobile applications pose greater challenges associated with application security, governance and version management.

To address these challenges, the report guide enterprises to think for adapting an extensible Mobile Application Platform (MAP) approach. Within the approach, organizations need to improve their mobile maturity in four key capability areas: mobile development and connectivity, device management, security and analytics.

Step 4: Extend Social Interaction

Social technologies both drive and depend on mobile and cloud computing. The report says social business applies social networking tools and culture to business roles, processes and outcomes. A social business monitors and analyzes social data to discover new insights that, when acted on, can drive business advantage, for example, faster problem solving, improved customer relations, and more effective prediction of market opportunities.

Social interaction benefits business in the following way – improve productivity, accelerate innovation, connect with clients, drive loyalty, anticipate problems, respond faster and enable self-service. The report further added that for creating value across every level of the organization, be it in marketing, product development, sales, research and development, or customer service, etc. requires a range of social business technological building blocks including – profiles, activity streams, Wikis, blogs, instant messaging, communities, files, social analytics and UI components.

For ensuring an effective social business platform, business organizations should look at a strategic approach, apply to the most common activities, build trusted relationships with employees, customers and partners, apply analytics in massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and monitor and measure the impact of social business.

“Leveraging a standards based approach is the final ingredient for achieving success in a space that contrasts the immaturity of social technologies and scenarios with the dynamic rate of change being realized with cloud and mobile technologies. The resulting roadmap places heavy initial leverage on a hybrid cloud model capable of interoperating across enterprise resources and with other cloud environments. This approach enables an enterprise striving to integrate existing systems of record in support of emerging systems of engagement to move forward as requirements, best practices and technologies mature,” says the report.

Step 5: Leverage Analytics to Gain Insight

Over 4 million petabytes of new data will be generated in 2013 by both structured and unstructured data. To effectively handle these large volumes of data generated by social, mobile and cloud applications, companies can bring new Big Data engineering solutions to business including NOSQL databases, distributed file systems, and programming paradigms like map reduce.

Big Data analytics is key to enterprise’s social business strategy and can power social business in either of the following patterns – outbound engagement and inbound engagement.

Furthermore, Big Data can power infrastructure services in the following way – cloud services ensure Big Data is always there for your mobile access; big data enables real time mobile experiences; mobile devices related mobile data can be feed into big data cloud analytics; and location analytics can use Big Data to orient your mobile device on the ground.

It is important to realize that production ready Big Data deployment demands a lifecycle focus that encompasses all of the enterprise’s Big Data platforms, not just a single one (e.g., Hadoop), and should address more than just a single requirement e.g., availability, scalability, security, backup and recovery, etc., says the report.

Step 6: Establish a DevOps Capability for Rapid Delivery of Innovation

DevOps is a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and IT professionals. DevOps is a response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations. It aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services.

DevOps can help business to have a competitive advantage based on innovation and continuous delivery. In this environment, fixes and enhancements to software arrive quickly, seamlessly, and continuously.

The whitepaper suggests several key tenants when implementing a DevOps solution. These are establishing executive support for cultural and process changes; agreeing upon DevOps practices that are important to your organization; reducing waste (wait time and manual hand‐offs) across processes for delivering change; establishing meaningful measurements of progress; and changing business culture by institutionalizing tools that embrace DevOps.

“Recognize that improved processes such as automated build‐and‐deploy processes, improved testing processes, and version controlled source code management processes provide better quality code and faster continuous integration of new features,” the report noted. “Leveraging a DevOps reference architecture is important to help organizations define the capabilities and tools that will be used to implement their DevOps environment.”

The whitepaper suggests implementing a DevOps tool chain comprising development, build, application deployment automation, cloud provisioning and application release management.

Step 7: Adopt a Flexible Integration Model

Hybrid cloud approach for mobile and social enterprise applications deployment are gaining momentum. Hybrid cloud provides not only availability and security advantages of internal systems but also on‐demand and elasticity advantages of Public cloud deployment.

The report guides for integrating the mobile and social applications in a hybrid environment, organization should establish connectivity, messaging and integration approaches like EAI/ESB; implement special cloud integration solutions, which connect SaaS applications and cloud services for mobile and social solutions to internal enterprise applications; and manage a effective solution to leverage a messaging network and extend it outside the datacenter, scaling to handle concurrent connectivity between a multitude of devices and applications with predictable latency.

The report notes that cloud integration solutions are most effective when applied to business objects with stable, typed data structures. A good example is cloud‐based CRM integration with backend ERP solutions which involves primarily “static” data structures which are perfect for a mapping pattern. Such mappings can be predefined in an integration package requiring relatively minor customized mappings and transformations.

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