Before cloud, mobility was in its infancy—a means of obtaining email, calendar and contacts on the go. People who relied on desktop computers for communication were unchained. For salespeople, this was awesome. But, for the rest of us, the business apps we needed required too much processing power to travel with us.
Then, along came cloud.
"The emergence of cloud enabled mobility, making it possible for people to access more types of applications and transactions on their smartphones and tablets, "said Danny Nguyen of Xerox's ITO group. "Because of cloud, mobility simplifies access to information. That's why we're seeing such a mobility explosion across all vertical markets—one that shows no sign of slowing down."
According to Nguyen, the mobile market has moved from one driven by employees bringing their own devices to work into one that is driven by business itself. And that's changing everything.
"Now, we're seeing a more holistic approach to mobility. Companies are not just looking for Mobile Device Management (MDM) and security, but they're also looking for mobile application development services to help them optimize their business, in addition to telecom expense management to help them drive down cost. Mobile is an integrated part of the total business strategy."
Providers Move Fast to Support Changing Mobile Needs
Enterprise mobile adoption is increasing so quickly that providers are already adapting their initial services to meet evolving demands.
"In the past, providers offered MDM solutions as well as a separate, private company app store where employees could safely download the appropriate business applications," explained Craig Johnston, senior manager, mobile strategist and evangelist of NTT DATA's mobile practice.
"Now, instead of offering these services separately, vendors are building these secure app stores within their MDM solution. As adoption increases, I believe you'll see more of these bundled mobility offerings. Vendors are consolidating where it makes sense for the customer."
According to Johnston, an alternative to MDM called Dual Persona is emerging, giving companies a choice in how they manage those ever-increasing, employee-owned devices.
"In some companies employees are pushing back against the concept of MDM, saying that these solutions give their employers too much control over their personal devices," Johnston said. "Unlike MDM, which is all-inclusive, Dual Persona sections the personal data and the company data in two secure silos. This separation enables companies to control and manage the corporate information and apps but makes it impossible for them to delete personal apps, games and media."
Clearly, there are pros and cons to each of these device management solutions. But now companies have a choice of how to best handle the new mobility onslaught that will only get bigger from here.
The User Experience Is Everything
In their earliest iterations, mobile apps were primarily adaptations of existing desktop/laptop applications. Now that has changed. A successful mobile app not only has to deliver functionality but also provide a great user experience. It has to look good and function well—regardless of the device's form factor or the user's geographic location.
This focus on the user experience has spawned newer, more creative ways to test applications before these are released into the market. A Massachusetts-based company called uTest, for example, is taking application testing out of the lab and into the real world.
"A traditional testing environment involves bench testing in a QA lab. Although you can test functionality and usability to an extent, you certainly can't determine how the application will perform in different parts of the world on every device model, carrier and OS version," explained Matt Johnston, chief marketing officer of uTest. "Our model provides in-the-wild testing services that span the entire software development lifecycle—including functional, security, load, localization and usability testing. We engage 60,000 professional testers from 190 countries who test on real devices under real-life user conditions."
These 60,000 non-employee testers aren't just tech lovers with too much time on their hands. Seventy-five percent have full-time jobs as software developers or quality assurance pros, and another 20 percent are QA contractors. uTest keeps intricate profiles on each of its testers, including what kind of browser, operating systems, anti-virus software and devices they own, so the company can precisely match the project to the right selection of testers.
"For these people, spending a Saturday afternoon testing new applications is nirvana. Plus, they get paid for what they do—and get paid well," Johnston said.
In addition to testing for functionality and usability, uTest offers localization testing to validate that the app's content is saying what the developer thinks it's saying in any given language. They can test for security and perform load testing to make sure the app won't degrade under a heavy traffic load.
"Essentially, we've found a way to take a portion of a company's testing and move it outside the QA lab, closer to where end users work, live and play," Johnston said.
Mobility Gets Down to Business
In a very short time, mobility has penetrated the very depths of industries of all types. Once a tool for unchaining the traditional white-collar salesperson from his or her desk, companies are now engaging mobile solutions to supercharge the entire workforce—including those who weren't formerly technology driven at all.
New applications for internal productivity and customer connectivity are quickly making their ways to all vertical markets—from hospitality to healthcare, from manufacturing and retail to the service industry.
"Companies of all types are engaging mobility to solve a problem—to make a manual task or inefficient way of doing something more efficient," Nguyen said. "It's not one industry or one area that's getting the greatest benefit. It's about asking the default question: how can we optimize business through mobility?"
A new age of efficiency has begun.