It is the era of the 24/7 employee – but no one seems to be complaining. Cloud computing, collaboration convergence and the need for access-on-the-go have driven a surge in mobility technologies. Instead of wanting to "get away from it all," people want to take it all with them – accessible through the lightweight devices of their choice.
"The iPhone put forth the concept that mobility could be fun, fast and touch friendly. The iPad took this to the next level, with other tablet manufacturers following suit," explained David Bankston, executive vice president, co-founder and chief technology officer for INgage Networks. "In just a year and a half, tablets have eaten away at 11 percent of the PC market – with no slowdown in sight. That's largely because of consumer purchases."
These consumers aren't buying the latest and greatest electronics for watching movies and catching up on Facebook. Instead of company-issued devices going home with employees for the weekend, people are bringing their own devices into the workspace. Why? Because they're probably way-cooler than their company-issued option.
"The Consumerization of IT is now setting the standard for what a device should be," said Phil Constantinou, vice president of products for Evernote Corporation. "Some years back, your company might give you a PDA that connected to corporate email, but there was nothing delightful about it and nothing to engage the user for an optimum experience. Now, the expectations are higher. "
In many ways, the future of the mobile enterprise rests in consumers' hands.
"Ultimately, it will all come down to the operating system, with the winner being the maker of the platform that dominates the consumer space," Bankston explained. "Who's going to own that platform, right now, is anybody's guess. But one thing is certain: consumer demand will drive the mobile platform for business."
Managing Enterprise Mobility in a BYO World
Okay, let's assume that one day, two or three operating systems will emerge as the winners. Until that time, employees are bringing their own smartphones, netbooks and the next iteration of mobile wonders to work.
How can a company manage and secure all of these disparate mobility devices?
The real answer? It's complicated.
"Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a huge market right now, with no real leader. Companies are concerned – and rightfully so – about security and compliance on devices that they don't totally own and control. This presents a tremendous opportunity for outsourcers," explained Danny Nguyen, director of product strategy, Collaboration & Mobility for ACS. "But, before companies start looking for an MDM provider – they need to map out their own security policies around mobile devices. That has to be the first priority."
Are there applications that should be blacklisted? If so, how can you apply policies to prevent employees from installing these items on their own devices? What is the process for identifying whitelisted, or "good," applications and how will continual evaluation occur? These are all important considerations.
"Some companies also require employees to disable certain phone or tablet functions in the office," Nguyen said. "For example, a biotech company might want to disable cameras while employees are in certain facilities to prevent intellectual property leakage. All this has to be documented upfront, as well."
One thing is certain: with mobile devices extending the reach of the enterprise and taking it to the street, the door is wide open for security vendors and MDM providers with the right solutions to penetrate the market. Very few companies have the manpower or expertise to manage the complexities of mobile internally.
Getting Everything in Sync
Although managing mobility isn't easy, no one can deny the productivity it provides. In today's global business world, the ability to access information, make decisions and work anytime, anywhere, is more critical than ever. Cloud computing and mobile adoption make this highly efficient, untethered work environment possible.
"The whole concept of sync – where everything is available on every device, everywhere, is the differentiator," Constantinou said. "A computer is bad at taking pictures, whereas a phone is pretty good. A tablet is good at consuming information, but not as efficient for creating information. Each mobile platform is ideal for certain functions, and sync makes it all fluid. "
Even connecting with someone by phone (as Stone Age as that concept may sound) is easier.
"Now, one phone number can connect to a mobile phone, work phone and computer, so the user can answer the call in the most convenient way," Nguyen said.
Phone tag – and the wasted time associated with it -- becomes a thing of the past.
The Rise of the Micro App
In the mobile enterprise as well as the traditional IT enterprise, it's all about the apps. Many companies are mobilizing traditional, core enterprise applications, ranging from CRM to ERP and everything in between.
"SAP, for example, is mobilizing key application functions like workflow approvals and notifications, giving users the ability to perform business functions remotely through their mobile apps," Nguyen said.
To function in a mobile environment, enterprise apps must be trimmed down to support transaction-based types of interactions. In other words, they have to play well in the simplistic world of mobile.
"Desktop-based applications are more monolithic. Outlook has a calendar, a journal and a to-do list – multiple functions in one app. In the mobile world, each of these functions would be a separate, individual app," Constantinou said. "That's just the nature of mobile."
The growing prevalence of the mobile enterprise – and the belief by some that the mobile enterprise may one day be "the" enterprise – have motivated developers to skip the desktop version altogether and focus instead on micro apps, which are applications created specifically for the mobile environment.
Many companies are turning to outsourcing for the development of custom micro apps supporting all areas of their business, then distributing these through their own, private version of the ubiquitous "app store," inside the company firewall, to maintain a greater level of control.
Meanwhile, independent developers are busy creating new apps that help us do things that we didn't even know we needed to do before. But, a year from now, we won't know how we lived without it.
No question, mobility is changing business, ushering in an era of anytime, anywhere productivity, connectivity and progress. It's a world that can improve customer service, speed decisioning and provide companies with the agility they need to compete. Although the consumer is in the driver's seat as to which OS and what devices will dominate the landscape tomorrow, companies must start fine-tuning their mobile strategies today, with the flexibility to adjust these strategies as business needs and technologies change.
In short, it's time to get moving. ##
Article Sources (alphabetically):
David Bankston, executive vice president, co-founder and CTO, INgage Networks
Phil Constantinou, vice president of products, Evernote Corporation
Danny Nguyen, director of product strategy, Collaboration & Mobility, ACS, A Xerox Company