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We’ve come a long way since the first consumer mobile device hit the U.S. market in 1981. What started as a 150-person mobile test network in Baltimore has grown to a 5.3 billion-subscriber worldwide market. Mobile networks now covering 90% of the world’s population.
The transformative power of mobility can be felt all over the globe, from the streets to the boardroom. The combination of untethered broadband connectivity, global reach, availability of Web-based resources and the emergence of personal, powerful and affordable devices has shaped the mobile device into the information-sharing platform – a historic impact on par with the invention of the printing press and TV and radio.
What’s holding organizations back from exploiting the potential benefits of the mobility trend? Our research shows that IT executives are facing formidable challenges around how to effectively secure and manage the tidal wave of mobile devices and applications being used in the enterprise – and they are reacting defensively by attempting to continue age-old IT governance, management and purchasing models that don’t work any more.
This resistance to change is understandable. But are we protecting corporate information assets at the expense of missed business opportunities?
To answer that question, we must first take a step back and consider why mobile devices have grown so pervasive over the past 30 years. Several factors have contributed to the unique value premise and resultant success of mobile devices, including:
- The ultra-portable characteristics of mobile technology, combined with and enabled by the Internet, that allows instant, anywhere/anytime access to information.
- Strong personal association with users. Unlike personal computers, which in many cases are actually shared with other people, mobile devices carry a strong personal identity to their owners, manifested in the form of preferences, contacts, schedules and even location information.
- Tight integration with powerful computing and communication capabilities from voice to instant messaging.
- A broad array of add-on features and built-in sensors from GPS to cameras.
- Ground-breaking innovations in user experience in the form of touch screens and gesture-based interfaces.
The combination of these capabilities makes mobile platforms a potentially huge disruptive force for innovation in nearly every industry. As with any disruptive trend of this magnitude, a window of opportunity exists for organizations to position themselves for the era ahead and capitalize on mobile technology for competitive advantage.
To date, however, we’ve seen mainly surface-level attempts from organizations to modernize their applications to take advantage of mobile channels. These initial forays have primarily been around offering employees mobile access to standard communications functions such as email, calendar and directory access and offering customers Web access to non-mission-critical functions.
The true business value of mobility will be unlocked only when organizations make mobile devices a first-class citizen in the enterprise workflow. This means looking beyond mobile versions of their Web sites, deep into their business processes and business models and re-engineer them to fit into the anytime, anywhere business paradigm. In most cases the core business value chain will need to be opened up by mobile-enabling legacy enterprise applications, transactions, and databases to make core functions available on which to build a set of new mobile-friendly business functions.
Mobile devices offer the potential to invent and deliver differentiated services that cannot be delivered through other channels. Features such as location-based services, near field communications, augmented reality and an array of motion sensors deliver a platform ideal for business process innovation.
So where should you start in creating your enterprise mobility plan that addresses security, management and other challenges?
- Define your objectives. From both a cost and employee welfare perspective.
- Assess your transactional mobility capabilities. Deploying mobile functions does not mean force-fitting new processes to existing business applications or directly lifting PC based web capabilities to a mobile platform. Mobile devices are not just small PCs. They have unique form factors, use cases and capabilities, which, in turn, provide unique end user experiences. For this reason, any mobile initiative must start with a comprehensive analysis of your current applications and customer-facing interaction points to determine where you are now and where and how best to leverage mobility in the daily workflow of your end users.
- Develop an integrated mobility roadmap to get where you need to go. Such a roadmap should include governance, operational and legal policies, enterprise security, end-user mobile device management and enterprise applications and processes.
- Consider existing as well as new delivery channels. It’s important that services provided on mobile devices are consistent, compatible and complementary to the services employees and customers experience on other delivery channels.
With usage of mobile devices and applications growing exponentially in the workplace, now is the time for organizations to put in place a well thought-out and comprehensive mobility strategy. Mobility is changing the face of business. Ignore it at your peril; embrace it at your advantage.