IT Management

Let’s say you have a box sitting on your desk. In that box contains all of your organization’s most important data. The people who are in your office can open this box and readily get the information they want. But what about the people outside your office? How do they get access to that same information? It’s a dilemma many organizations face today—providing access to mainframe data on mobile devices and gaining access to this data on these devices.

Most businesses today use robust mainframes that deliver exceptionally high levels of service, reliability and integrity for large volumes of business transactions and data. However, this data—valuable data “trapped” on your mainframe—isn’t readily available to applications on mobile devices, but it’s exactly the information your customers want.

Way back in the day, isolating data on a server wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, then again, back then, week-old data was considered “fresh.” We know that’s not the case today; the pace of business is much quicker and decisions are made in real-time. Operating under the rules of the ghost of business past is a surefire way to ensure your business won’t remain competitive in the future. The fact is, we live in the era of smartphones and tablets, and it’s critical for information technology to meet the needs for real-time access.

Real-Time Is Critical

Organizations need to integrate their real-time information in critical data collections on the mainframe with what they can “sense” locally from their customers’ mobile devices. This can help with “instantaneous” marketing decisions. For example, wouldn’t you want to know if a customer was in your retail store and surfing your Website? Or, even more important, if they were in your competitor’s store and surfing your Website? According to a recent JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report, 75 percent of mobile shoppers take action after receiving a location-based message; therefore, if you provide access to data, and in turn receive key customer information, you can intelligently act on it to potentially boost revenue.

But leveraging mainframe data isn’t limited to a single connection between back-office intelligence and one mobile device. With the rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, the line between personal and business use is being blurred. Thanks to social media, there are opportunities where one of your applications may need the location of a large number of employees or customers so it can send a mass notification to all or a subset of these people. The bottom line: Technology has rapidly evolved and companies must innovate to meet customers where they want to do business.

Going From Mainframe to Mobile Device

Most data stored on the mainframe requires the use of transaction processing systems, such as IBM’s CICS, and data management products, such as DB2 and IMS. Working together, these tools are central in creating, organizing, storing, accessing and analyzing critical data. The main challenge is integrating these processing systems and critical mainframe databases with the variety of smart devices in the marketplace today.

Smart devices have decidedly changed the rules and IT requirements when it comes to security. Most devices are shared, are used for both personal and business purposes, are used in both secure and non-secure locations, and, most important, have an extremely diverse set of characteristics and capabilities.

This is the precise reason many organizations have been so hesitant to provide mainframe data access to applications and customers. But it’s not impossible. Banks, for example, are leading the way in this regard. After authorizing a smart device and providing a username and password, customers can access account information, pay bills, transfer money and more. These banking applications have become the proof other industries need to show that providing this sort of access to information isn’t just possible, but potentially profitable.

Much of the data your users want can be broken down into two categories—historical (static) and active (in play). With historical data, customers may want to see what they previously ordered or a past transaction. With active data, customers are looking for information that’s more real-time, such as available seats on a flight or the current value of their investment portfolio. Sometimes, historical and active data merge to provide a more comprehensive view, such as how the value of an investment portfolio has changed over a set period. What organizations must figure out is how to satisfy the need for this information without having to create additional databases.

Questions to Ask Before You Begin

Prior to getting started, it’s imperative to assess your needs for a mobile application and how you intend on managing it, along with the plethora of devices on which it might run. Important questions to ask include:

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