Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, once said: “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a strategy of growth”.
I agree. The gap continues to grow between organisations that have embraced mobility as a way of life and those that maintain a tactical business approach and continue to resist the inevitable. The latter find themselves increasingly struggling to play catch-up and stay relevant. Those that have taken a “mobile first” approach have disrupted the status quo, and achieved unprecedented levels of success in a very short period of time.
Consider Uber, for example; launched in March 2009, the ridesharing service quickly tapped into customers’ enthusiasm for ‘everything mobile’ and is now valued at more than US$15 billion. The company completely destabilised the traditional taxi model, which simply cannot match the agility of a fully mobile business. Change or perish. Mobile technology really has worked its way into virtually every aspect of our lives.
We all experience at least one moment each day when we use a mobile device to urgently access information or make an important transaction, often when we’re nowhere near the PC or laptop we would have needed to do this in the not-so-distant past. Indeed, recent Oracle survey reveals that over 45 percent of adults prefer to access online services using apps rather than websites, while more than 70 percent use their mobile devices to check their social networks each day. We’ve even started to choose mobile over newspapers and books, with more than half of respondents saying they prefer to read these on their mobiles or tablets only natural that this trend is now sweeping the business landscape as well.
And yet surprisingly, many organisations are still trying to hold back the tide when it comes to enterprise mobility. Only 24 percent of employers actively encourage the use of mobile devices for work, with one-fifth actually limiting the applications and data that employees can access on these devices. The situation in Europe is particularly discouraging; 22 percent of the region’s businesses have a complete ban on data residing on employees’ BYOD devices. In reality, this approach serves neither them nor their employees.
Mobility has become inextricably linked to our daily lives. Our reflex to check our push notifications every few minutes has become almost as ingrained in our psyches as our impulse to drink water when we’re thirsty – and we probably do it more often, to be honest – so why fight the natural progression of things, especially when it can work in our favour?
A mobile approach can transform the way a business operates at its core. It allows people to make the most of their connected devices so they can collaborate more effectively and work in a more flexible way. It also encourages innovation through the use of pioneering apps and services, and perhaps most importantly offers businesses a better way to engage with their customers, their employees, and their partners. I’m not just talking about companies letting people use their smartphones at the office – although this does of course help promote a more mobile business environment.
Today’s mobile enterprise doesn’t just offer employees mobile access to services because they need it to do their work. A mobile enterprise understands that our connected technologies have become instruments for real market innovation and new business models. Companies such as Uber, Spotify, and WhatsApp (among others) have achieved extraordinary levels of success in the past few years because they recognised that mobile isn’t just a nice-to-have; it can be the very essence of a company. And while these young organisations have built themselves exclusively on mobile platforms, even traditional “bricks and mortar” businesses can transform themselves for the digital age by embracing mobile as a way of life.
Enterprise mobility will continue to gain momentum – the question now is whether organisations choose to benefit from this revolution or keep trying to stop the inevitable. The decision is of course theirs to make, but I would advise businesses today to stop fighting a losing battle and instead embrace enterprise mobility on their own terms so they can make it work to their advantage.
Resistance is futile
To a large extent, businesses have little hope of holding back what has become an unstoppable tide of enthusiasm for “everything mobile”. Only 18 percent of people think their employers can effectively control how they use their personal devices, while many have found ways to use them for work despite businesses’ policies to the contrary. The truth is that people have never been more attached to mobility – for example, a recent study in the UK found that on average people actively use their smartphones for two hours a day, more time than they spend with their partners! – and even company policies can’t stand in the way of this bond at the office.
Of course, while I believe in the power of mobile to transform businesses and call on all organisations to embrace mobility as the future, the current situation whereby employees are often taking it upon themselves to go mobile at the office is not tenable. Without oversight from IT, businesses have no way to separate people’s personal data and applications from those they use for work, nor can they secure the mission-critical data that these employees are accessing on their personal devices. There is a happy medium between complying with IT security policies and forcing people to endure an onerous user experience.
Making mobile an integral part of their organisation empowers businesses to enjoy a great deal of new opportunities offered by peoples’ connected technologies, but the scale and breadth of devices and possibilities out there demands a straightforward and secure approach to enterprise mobility.
Keeping things simple goes a long way
It’s understandable that companies have some concerns around enterprise mobility, particularly when it comes to security and integration, but they should by no means let their apprehension stifle innovation.
The trick for organisations today is to implement their own end-to-end mobile platforms, and to keep things simple. In my experience, simplicity is crucial to the rapid and effective integration of business data with user-friendly mobile applications. With an end-to-end solution, businesses will improve the way their employees collaborate. To add to this, going mobile across the business also helps companies better serve their customers and partners (both of which are no-doubt working in a more mobile way themselves).
Simplicity is also the key to cost-effective mobile working strategies. We have entered an era in which virtually every person and every technology is connected, and in which the relationships between people and their “things” – as well as between the “things” themselves – become increasingly intricate. Organisations operating under these conditions need to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of every employee’s devices and user profile across the business, on both sides of its firewall, and in the cloud.
The cloud offers businesses an excellent back-end platform to support their mobility solutions in a simple and cost effective manner. Cloud computing allows IT managers to easily define use policies and manage mobile performance and security across the business. It also facilitates the creation and monitoring of apps for developers while giving users access to a world class user-interface and to the data they need to perform at their best at all times.
When addressing security concerns, many businesses believe they need to buy new mobiles for every employee to protect their data. In reality, the simple and elegant technologies available today make it possible for workers to access sensitive business data on any device (even their personal mobiles) in a way that is completely secure. For example, ‘containerisation’ allows businesses to set up little principalities of work-related applications on an employee’s mobile and wall them off from all of his or her personal data and apps; a simple solution that allows businesses to support enterprise mobility without shelling out huge sums for new phones, while at the same time addressing their security concerns.
The technology needed to fuel the mobile business is here, and the appetite among people in the workforce for “everything mobile” is only getting more voracious. These changes have brought with them a host of new possibilities, and rather than viewing the rise of enterprise mobility as a potential threat and it letting it blow by them, companies should be capitalising on the opportunities that running a better connected organisation can deliver.
Read Suhas Uliyar's first part in the series here: The mobile apps revolution is here to stay