I enjoyed catching up with Kevin Davis of Lowe's a couple of weeks ago about the customer loyalty programs at the home improvement chain and how they are combining disciplines and different kinds of data into a focused user experience for associates as well.

One theme had to do with mobility. I'm hearing from many people these days about the need to better support smart devices and mobile users (especially analytically), but I think my chat with Davis was the first time I'd heard or thought about a governance program created specifically for mobile applications and data, and it made a lot of sense.

Think about it. If "application creep" has been a problem with multiple and redundant enterprise software and desktop applications, the new lightweight smart device development arena magnifies that exponentially. Lowe's is in the process of distributing more than 42,000 iPhones to store associates (and just for a reference point, consider that more than 500,000 apps are already available at Apple's App Store).

The developer tools for mobile apps, especially Apple devices have become simple and welcoming enough to allow fast application creation and customization, much more so than the developer interfaces of traditional enterprise software.

Bruce Yen at Guess (the bluejean and fashion company) described this in the way his team ports Microstrategy reports to the iPad, and he still enjoys coding the technology even though he has a much bigger job now.

Davis doesn't even build dashboards for Lowe's on desktops anymore because, he says, it's easier to port a mobile dashboard to a PC than the other way around.

What that tells us is that IT teams at any number of organizations are big enough to deploy apps by department without others knowing about them, and that semi-casual users can now do the same. There is good news and great democracy in this empowerment to build simple and even "disposable" apps destined for short-term use -- like for an event or a campaign.

There is also a risk to end user experience. If you do get a variety of developers "just raining apps" on people as Davis noted, you don't have a standard for data and you don't know users are finding the apps or information you are seeking to provide them.

A mobile governance team like the one at Lowe's allows stakeholders to decide the mission, the strategy for mobile and what to plan for and how to weed ideas internally. As an unintended consequence of a very positive development I think we'll hear more about it going forward, and I hope you'll share your experiences and actions in this area at your organization.

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