Mobile apps have the thorny problem of needing to work spectacularly and safely on any device over the last wireless mile. Systems integrators, interactive agencies, software vendors, and your own infrastructure and application development teams will pitch you endlessly on technology to handle these problems. Some of these technology solutions will be great. But others carry traps for the unwary. In our new report, we call out 7 pitfalls and describe 7 mobile-first alternatives that are better.

One big trap lurking in most firms’ mobile strategy is using MDM to indiscriminately lock down devices. The temptation to replicate the BlackBerry era will backfire. Remember that RIM’s controls is partly what spurred employees and executives to defect to iPhones. If you lock mobile devices down too tightly, you will be pummeled for putting a theoretical concern for information security ahead of usability and the practical reality of a productive mobile workforce. If people can’t immediately get what they need, they’ll leave the phone in their pocket.

Figure 1: 7 Pitfalls To Avoid

Print out this list of pitfalls and their alternatives and tape it your monitor. Or blow it up and post it in your mobile center of excellence. Here are two pitfalls for everybody to avoid:

1. Relying on VDI and VPN to mobilize and secure your applications. Your mobile workforce will use any device they can get their hands on to get work done. VDI made good sense on corporate PCs, and a virtual private network (VPN) works OK on laptops. But neither is tuned to the diverse platforms and get-in-get-out behavior of mobile apps. Even on tablets, having to log in and wait for pages to load is onerous. While you can’t completely avoid this pitfall, don’t rely on VDI and VPN, or your employees will just do an end run around your controls and use their own apps.

Mobile-first alternative: As an alternative to VDI solutions, explore new client virtualization solutions such as Citrix’s CloudGateway and Receiver or VMware’s Horizon Suite. These solutions give employees a self-service app store with apps that securely deliver SaaS, browser, and Windows applications and data to any device your employees choose to use.

2. Relegating mobile customer engagement to the marketing or eCommerce teams. Most of the marketing and eBusiness teams we speak with have an arm’s-length relationship with IT and to the data services, middleware, and security requirements of mobile apps. An arm’s-length approach will lead to underinvestment in the core systems of engagement needed to deliver a great experience across all customer touchpoints.

Mobile-first alternative: The only way out of this pit is for you as CIO to fund a multifunctional team to guide the mobile technology investments. Some firms call this team a “mobile center of excellence.” One of the charters of this group is to turn common capabilities — campaign management, social listening platform, product catalog, customer database, order management system, loyalty systems, etc. — into common services that can be used by the website, mobile app, store systems, and all the other places a customer might touch your company. And that requires investments in a service-oriented architecture and open web approaches that decouple that technology back end from the customer app front ends.

What pitfalls are you seeing ahead with mobile?