SPFestDC: Jeff Willinger Talks SharePoint, Mobility, & the Reach/Rich Spectrum

I know what everyone’s thinking…the real reason I went to Jeff Willinger’s session today was to see what color glasses he would be wearing (in case you’re wondering, they’re blue). While yes, his fashion choices are always of the utmost interest, my focus for today was to see what Jeff had to say about mobility and getting social with SharePoint. While we’ve all been hearing terms like mobile and mobile strategy thrown around, it seems like there’s a little bit less clarity when it comes to how exactly to implement a mobile SharePoint strategy.  As Jeff succinctly noted, it seems like we all have mobiles, but don’t know quite what to do with them. This begged a question that was central to today’s session: What can we do in our organizations to make what we do a good experience?

When it comes to SharePoint and mobility, Jeff noted that it is important to not only understand how we can drive people to mobile devices and social but also how we can analyze our users’ needs to ensure that our mobile strategies address a specific problem or pain point. To better explain the range of mobile solutions available, Jeff used the Reach/Rich Spectrum to help break down the different approaches to mobility and mobile initiatives. Whether you need to reach a broad audience or provide a focused experience, Jeff’s spectrum includes four main options for building your mobile strategy:

1. Extend to Mobile;

2. Build Sites for Mobile;

3. Third-Party Apps; and

4. Build Apps for Mobility.

When it comes to Extend to Mobile, according to Jeff, your primary objective should be to make your SharePoint websites more mobile-friendly. To accomplish this objective, you have two main options available to you: either make existing pages more mobile-friendly or create pages on your site to enhance the mobile experience. While this option may not provide an optimal user experience, it can be extremely attractive to organizations that may not have the budget or resources to invest in a full-blown mobile strategy.

As a second option, Jeff suggests that organizations Build Sites for Mobile. The main strategy for building new mobile sites is to leverage your existing functionality to build a successful site with a mobile user interface; thereby making your mobile site have the same look and feel as your main site. This tactic is especially desirable if your current site layout does not lend itself well to being viewed on mobile devices. While this approach definitely has its benefits as it supports a wide variety of devices, at the same time, there’s the catch-22 that this approach requires extensive testing on all of these different devices.

If building sites isn’t quite your organization’s cup of tea, Jeff suggests you look into the option of Third-Party Apps. Though they may require a higher upfront monetary investment, the benefits that can be achieved are extensive. For one, these out-of-the-box products are most often turnkey and require little, if any, in-house resources. In addition, turning to established mobile developers such as Harmon.ie; Colligo, and Mobile Entree, you’ll benefit from years of training, experience, and best practices. While this may be an extremely viable option for many, Jeff did caution that when selecting a third-party provider that it is critical to research the company and make sure that its available features meet your needs. As great as a paid app can be, it is essentially useless if it doesn’t do what you need it to do.

Your last option when it comes to mobile solutions is to take the bull by the horns and Build Apps for Mobility. The main objective of building your own app is to keep the application focused on a specific set of tasks that takes advantage of the device you are working on, be it an Apple iPhone, Android, or Windows phone. One of the greatest benefits of this approach is the ability to create a personalized, engaging experience for every colleague. While the investment in resources and ongoing maintenance of building your own app maybe seems to be a lot, the trade-off is that you undoubtedly will have a superior user experience that is easily and readily adopted.

So now that you know what your options are, and have perhaps even chosen an option for your organization, your next question should be this: What defines success when it comes to mobile strategy? As Jeff identified in his session, there are a number of varying degrees of factors that determine success, including:

  • Meeting objectives;
  • Finishing on time and on budget;
  • Achieving sustained use; and
  • Achieving positive field reaction.

To close out his presentation, in Dave Letterman’s Top 10 style, Jeff rounded out his Top 5 Best Practices for implementing a mobile strategy with SharePoint:

5. Create an engaging user experience;

4. Incorporate rich media (pictures, videos, etc.);

3. Deliver targeted content;

2. Focus on culture and leadership buy-in; and

1 Tune into “What’s in it for Me?”

(Jeff was kind enough to ham it up for the camera.  Unfortunately, this blogger is more of a writer than a photographer.  Waa waa!)

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