Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.
Consumers have a new passion – their personal mobile devices. Whether it’s a smartphone, laptop or netbook, consumers always have their device of choice nearby. And this mass adoption of mobility has carried over to most workplaces.
With these devices at the ready, flash mobs of mobile users are storming the IT castle, forcing CIOs and CTOs to change the way they adopt technology. Mobile users can’t wait for IT to define corporate policies or to choose which systems to adopt, which groups to support and what applications will be available. They want to experience a mobile lifestyle both at home and at work – and they insist on using a single device for both.
This consumerization of IT, where the proliferation of mobile devices and employees’ desire for greater convenience and access to centralized systems collide, is upending traditional IT deployment strategies. IT is being pushed to loosen its restrictions and control on corporate systems and to support end users’ demand for access to enterprise applications and data from anywhere.
Mobility crosses the workplace border
Mobility is mainstream for consumers and is moving into businesses because the technology is mature, reasonably priced and advanced enough to support mass appeal.
Smartphones have compelling applications, intuitive user interfaces, larger, color screens, and always-on Internet access. In many cases, smartphones have the power, memory and storage capacity to make them reasonable alternatives to notebook computers for many business purposes. These devices also have ubiquitous wireless access over 3G and Wi-Fi networks, which ensure mobile applications work as promised.
Because of these key enablers, we are already seeing mobility at work – and we expect the mobile enterprise to become pervasive. According to Forrester Research, some 73% of the global enterprise workforce will be mobile users by 2012. That percentage translates to 397.1 million mobile employees in 2012, more than double the 187.9 million mobile users in 2008.
Even when only a small portion of the enterprise workforce is mobilized, businesses are seeing significant ROI from their mobile deployments, including:
–reduced sales cycles;
–streamlined workflow with added visibility;
–increased productivity and efficiencies;
–reduced operational costs;
–improved data collection and accuracy;
–increased customer and business partner satisfaction.
Productivity and efficiency examples are readily available because mobile applications allow employees to respond at just the right time, instead of too early – or worse – too late. Pharmaceutical sales representatives, for example, can now access all the information they need for each visit on their handheld device. Having real-time access to sales orders, invoices, payment information and inventory data when they meet with a client is reducing sales cycles and cementing customer relationships. Representatives can also capture doctors’ signatures on the devices, acknowledging the receipt of samples, and immediately sending this accurate and real-time data directly back to the CRM server. The introduction of a mobile solution increases the efficiency of the pre-sales and sales processes, improves data accuracy and availability and eliminates paper.
Field personnel, such as airline mechanics and service representatives, are also using mobile devices to decrease response time and increase effectiveness. Delta Technology’s 220 field engineers rely on handheld mobility solutions to receive, report and resolve incidents in real time, wherever they happen to be – in the terminal, at the gate or in an administrative office. Their ability to receive information on the go enables them to react more quickly to emergency maintenance calls and to resolve problems. That ability is key to keeping customer satisfaction high.
Again and again, businesses that are adopting mobility are streamlining their work environments and empowering their workforce. The next stage of workplace mobility will be to extend these functionalities to everyone within the organization.
Trends to watch in the mobile enterprise
Smartphones and mobile applications in the enterprise are causing a shift in the mobility paradigm and are reshaping how business gets done. While we are seeing consumerization of IT occurring now with mobile devices, it will soon bring social networking applications, collaboration tools, unified communications systems and video into the enterprise. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, instant messaging and other applications that are popular now with consumers are finding utility in the workplace – just like smartphones.
These applications will connect the large pool of front-line knowledge workers – tech-savvy middle managers, executive assistants and support personnel, for example – who keep most businesses running smoothly. This grey-collar information worker is a dynamic, productive and critical portion of many organizations’ workforce.
Once these knowledge workers join forces with the already mobile executives, sales teams and field force, they become the new mainstream mobile information workers. The entire workforce will have anywhere, anytime access to business critical information and instant connections to the contacts and resources needed to utilize that information. To optimize productivity and effectiveness, these employees need wireless access to e-mail, the Internet, corporate intranets, enterprise applications (ERP, CRM, SFA, etc.), customer information, and personal/corporate calendars. Underlying these application requirements, they need data storage and synchronization, mobile device security and application enablement.
When armed with these mobility tools, businesses will see significant improvements in productivity, new efficiencies and cost savings.
Mobility at work
Operators are already helping businesses bring mobility into the enterprise. In late September, Verizon introduced Managed Mobility Solutions, which utilizes the enterprise device management platform from Sybase. This innovative service helps enterprises manage multiple mobile devices, usage plans and applications across hundreds of carriers.
Enterprises are using the service for inventory and expense management, logistics, mobile device management, mobile security and application management. Mobile device management and mobile security are key features in the managed service offering. Mobile device management ensures delivery of tools, applications and data to enterprise employees in a timely manner, and it creates and enforces flexible mobile policies across devices, groups or individual users. Mobile security enforces access codes, establishes lock/wipe policies, encrypts devices and data cards, delivers firewall and antivirus applications, and supports mobile access to corporate applications.
The Verizon service is a significant step toward helping businesses simplify their mobility deployments. It will help mobile enterprises decrease the complexity related to managing disparate devices and applications, gauging device usage, combating security threats, and managing multiple networks and device platforms. Ultimately this helps to lower the barrier to entry for organizations to adopt a mobility solution across their entire enterprise.
Mobility’s next steps
Mobility is a game-changing technology, and it is here to stay. As mentioned earlier, industry estimates reveal that mobile employees now comprise more than 35% of corporate employees, and that number is projected to soar to more than 70% over the next few years. Enterprise mobility growth is occurring faster than most industry analysts and observers can track.
In upcoming articles, I will look at successful strategies for a mobile deployment. In November, I will explain how a single mobile platform can ease the development and deployment of enterprise mobility. In December, I will follow up with a discussion of how to manage complexity and security in a mobile environment that has no set standards. And finally, this series will wrap up with a look at how a healthy mobile ecosystem ensures a successful mobile enterprise.
As President of Sybase iAnywhere, Terry Stepien plays an integral role in establishing the company as the premier provider of mobile enterprise solutions. During his tenure at the company Stepien has held many positions including Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Mobile and Embedded Computing division. He also served as Vice President of Product Marketing responsible for Sybase’s key initiatives in Enterprise Data Management, Data Warehouse, Application Development Tools and Occasionally Connected Computing. Before coming to Sybase, Stepien was at Powersoft Corp. as Vice President of Marketing for Powersoft’s Watcom subsidiary.
Stepien is an active member of industry consortiums, and is founder and co-chair of the ITAA m-Commerce Committee. Stepien began his career at the University of Waterloo where he was engaged in software research and development at the University’s Computer Systems Group, and where he held an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Computer Science. He is a recipient of the 2001 J.W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation from the University of Waterloo.Stepien holds a Master of Mathematics degree in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.