Av Trimble smartdelivery | Article | April 28, 2017

Lessons learned from migrating Windows Mobile to modern operating systems

Many organizations are waiting to replace their Windows Mobile systems. Why? Migration of business-critical applications is not easy – but with the right approach, it is a great opportunity… as our experience from many Windows Mobile migration projects shows.

For the last 15 years, Windows Mobile has been the de facto operating system for critical enterprise mobile applications.  But on January 14, 2020, extended support for it will end. This is indeed a hard stop. Practically, it means that many systems must be migrated to modern platforms well before that time. Based on our experience, this transition is more than just a technology upgrade. Because enterprise mobile applications are often tightly stitched together with a company’s business processes. In most cases we have seen, they are directly linked to products and customer services.

Moreover, user expectations are now much more advanced than they were in the early days of Windows Mobile. Most users today use a private smartphone and use apps as part of their daily lives. So naturally they expect a similar or even better look and feel, as well as behavior, from mobile-based systems.

Take an agile approach

A migration to a new system can be approached in many ways. Based on our experience, migration of a business-critical enterprise system should be done in an agile way. An essential factor is that users and other stakeholders should be involved from the start, to provide early and regular feedback.  It is essential to make sure to involve all stakeholders, and not forget the indirect ones, such as legal and accounting, as the work of these groups is also often affected.

Most often, enterprise application users can be divided into several groups. We recommend starting implementation or pilot activities with just one of these user groups.

Typically, the first group should be selected based on defined criteria, such as:

  • Complexity (process and backend systems)
  • Need for change (business requirements)
  • Isolation from other user groups
  • Ability to cover a user group with new software on new devices so that their old devices can then be redistributed to other larger or more complex groups

Based on our experience, the prioritization often looks like this:

  • Contractors who have just a few assignments per day and who don’t need advanced processes. This user group can often be allowed to be BYOD users (users who bring their own devices to the work task)
  • Locations that need limited functionality – for example, parcel shops for logistics applications. For this group, it is typically suitable to introduce new devices with new form factors simultaneously, taking advantage of larger screens, for example
  • Service technicians who are providing inspections and are reporting errors

One effective way is to start by rolling out basic features and then continuing to tweak and evaluate them.  Regardless of how well the specific project was planned, there is always something that needs to be changed once the pilot has started.  We have seen customers get stuck when they try to cover everything right from the beginning. That’s why it’s important to get started with a small user group and continue to evolve.

It pays to plan for running your new modern system in parallel with the old system. Then you can safely migrate users continuously from the old to the new system. If you are using a robust device platform, then it’s typically easy to introduce the new client and run both in parallel. Otherwise running both systems in parallel should be considered from the beginning, as this is typically complex and can involve changes in backend systems or integration busses.

Device & technology

The next step is often to start mapping requirements for each user group. Today we see that many large organizations standardize on several different devices for different user groups, everything from tablets, rugged devices, and smartphones for BYOD scenarios.

Don’t forget that many things have changed since Windows Mobile was launched. Make sure that your new solution takes advantage of what the new technology can offer. You will benefit from using the standard vertical functionality available as a baseline and configuring and extending to achieve your optimized application. This will in turn support rapid changes and meeting new business requirements.

When it comes to devices and technology, there is a lot more to consider, but that’s a separate story

Some good white papers that outline some of the technical aspects:
Enterprise App Modernisation – Successfully Migrate Mobile Apps to Transform your Organisation
Strategic Insights into Selecting the Operating System that Best Meets Your Long-Term Business Vision [PDF]

When you’re ready to go!

Working tightly with users and stakeholders, continuously delivering value, evaluating and continuing to help them improve the business is necessary. What we have seen in each case is that new requirements always increase very quickly. Sometimes even before you go live with the new system.

There are of course lots of other aspects to consider when running large change programs –  change management, roll out, training, etc. We’ll be covering these topics in coming articles.