Simply using mobile devices and applications to put out fires in the field for your construction company, without having the proper mobility strategy in place first, can become more a game of playing with fire than anything else.

The demand for using mobile devices in construction today has reached a pinnacle, it seems, multiplied by the influx of new devices. Project managers, among others, are turning to the IT department and demanding such devices to help them streamline tasks like safety inspections and QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control), to name a few. By and large, the construction industry has experienced considerable success as of late with tying devices like the iPad or even more ruggedized tablets to such aforementioned processes.

However, what began as an idea of simply putting out one fire–i.e., solving an immediate problem–with mobility could turn into a full-out demand for mobilizing the entire organization. Given the multiple different devices that will more than likely be in demand (if not already in use) by your employees, the multiple mobile operating systems, and even the different types of software applications that you will need to support, it might be best to start planning now for a better way to apply a strategy around your mobile initiative for the future.

Developing such a strategy can involve everything from basic prioritizing and planning by department, all the way up to a full-on mobile platform management deployment.

Regarding the former of the two strategies, this can simply involve the same process you would normally put forth when evaluating any other type of technology for your business, such as project management or ERP (enterprise resource planning). Technology that impacts such a wide range of users and groups within your organization means you need to have input from all groups as to the things they would “like” mobile to do, and then balance that against what should be priority for the better of the company.

As some suggest, it not enough to simply decide you would like to apply mobility to a process; instead you need to have some clarity about what is good collectively for the company. Without such clarity, everything will look appealing.

We have even seen such large enterprise software providers like SAP, www.sap.com, Waldorf, Germany, offer mobile application platforms. As more of an application development tool, for once you have your strategy in place, such a platform provides the ability to design and deploy business-specific applications that can be used across a whole host of devices and mobile operating systems. While the tool offered by SAP, Sybase Unwired Platform, is not construction specific, it is a platform the company is promoting to this industry more as of late, due to the growing discussion in this space.

Overall, mobility can present many exciting opportunities. But at the same time, much like any technology investment, mobility can be a slippery slope to manage without the proper strategy in place. Now might be a good time for IT managers to head off the challenges related to user demand before they get out of hand.