More and more businesses are introducing mobile applications as part of their business activities intended to be more competitive, to increase market share, and to increase customer satisfaction. The motivation isn’t hard to fathom – creating mobile applications answers a perceived need to be more responsive to customers, and to provide improved access for your customers. Here are some interesting numbers regarding the growth in mobile application deployments out there – 92 of the world’s top 100 banks, 23 of the top 25 US retailers, 10 out of 10 of the world’s largest insurers, and 23 of the world’s top 25 airlines currently have mobile applications.
Creating mobile applications is one thing, but the question is, are back-end systems capable of handling the increased workloads that go hand-in-hand with the success of business marketing programs? Are organizations aware of the IT resource need? Here’s what I mean by that – Has the CMO or the marketing organization been in constant contact with the CIO or the IT organization regarding the new mobile applications? If the marketing organization doesn’t work closely with the IT department and keep them completely in the loop on the goals, requirements, and expected resource usage of their new mobile applications, the impact on the existing IT infrastructure could be significant. Taking this one step further, if there has not been adequate study performed on both the potential up-take of these application by customers, and the corresponding IT impact, the door is left wide open for a back end system capacity failure. In fact, real-life examples abound – think Best Buy’s Black Friday outage last year.
Another common pitfall to be aware of is the establishment of rogue IT projects. Is the marketing organization using budget to fund its own private IT infrastructure, or IT department? Driven by the desire to reach their goals of revenue, or customer reach, or loyalty, or any other corporate objective, the temptation to take IT short cuts and avoid the perceived excessive red tape placed on other departments by IT – can be strong. But it rarely ends well. A company can end up with a splintered IT with serious data compliance and audit risk potential, there can be costly duplication of effort, there can be serious security loopholes, or worse, system capacity can become an after-thought rather than a pre-thought. Or all of the above.
There are two ways to look at ensuring that back end systems can manage growing mobile workloads. First is making sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. Back office mainframe systems are very scalable when it comes to capacity, but IT organization need to know what to expect – failure to communicate is an easily solved problem: If IT is in the loop, the risk is low. Second is to ensure that your back end systems can actually handle the expected workflow traffic, and that it can be done cost effectively. Dynamic control on mainframe capacity can help to both ensure there is enough capacity, AND to ensure that the cost of increased capacity is controlled.
Black Friday 2015 is just around the corner – let’s keep our eyes peeled for retailers that didn’t heed the hard lessons learned by Best Buy and others over the past couple of years…