It is highly likely that you are reading this article in a car, or while waiting for your flight at an airport, or perhaps even lying down in your bed with your iPad (or a Galaxy Tab or a Kindle Fire if you don't fancy a 'designed in Cupertino' product!). Well, I wrote half of this on the way back from work on my iPad! Can you imagine a world where you don't have access to news and Google and Wikipedia and the stock market at your fingertips, anywhere and anytime? It is only when you look back and realize that access to digital data and information meant sitting in front of a computer even as recent as a few years back, that you realize how swift and overwhelming the mobile revolution has been. And it is nowhere near being over!
Innovations in mobile hardware and operating systems along with advancements in wireless telecommunications have fuelled this growth. While mobility first caught the fancy of consumers and gamers, it has now made a strong entry into the enterprise segment over the last 18 months or so; and it is something that's going to be increasingly hard for the CIOs to ignore as we enter 2012. Since the advent of RIM's Blackberry, email on the move has become ubiquitous among corporate executives. But enterprise mobility is much more than email and calendar. It is about having anytime access to enterprise data, information, processes and applications on any mobile device. In today's increasingly borderless and flat world, corporate workforce is geographically dispersed and they cannot always be expected to sit in front of a desktop computer to conduct business. CIOs need to ensure that information and business processes are made available to employees on any smart device that he/she may choose to use.
Mobility related technologies have evolved rapidly with multiple innovations and this has helped in speeding up their adoption within an enterprise. Some of the challenges faced in the early days included development and deployment across multiple device types and underlying technology platforms in addition to security. Technology standards such as HTML 5 and more and more powerful web browsers that today's mobile devices flaunt, have helped address the first concern quite effectively. Latest versions of the underlying operating systems have security controls baked into them. With remote administrative access to mobile devices, serious security concerns have been addressed quite effectively. Most of the enterprise technologies have built-in mobility add-ons or third party frameworks that help extend application functionalities to mobile devices - these have been successful in reducing time-to-market significantly..
It is extremely important to design a mobility strategy along with strong governance that should address what data, applications and processes should be mobile enabled. The strategy should also address who should have what access and how much access. While most of the large global enterprises have already defined their enterprise mobility strategy, others are gradually doing it. In fact, 2012 may well be the beginning of large-scale implementations of enterprise mobile applications.
Compelling Cases for Mobility
There are quite a few compelling use cases in almost all verticals that are well suited for mobile implementations. Sales force automation and work force automation are perhaps the most common use cases that are mobile enabled in the first wave. Applications that provide sales force on the field with latest and accurate data about the products and integration into back end enterprise applications for approval workflows make the process more efficient. Interactive applications on mobile devices also take the user experience to another level which sometimes makes the customer conversion easier. Mobile applications for the work force help them efficiently detect and carry out routine maintenance in an efficient manner. Queue buster applications help retail stores to manage the customers efficiently. These are some of the areas where CIOs are finding quick return on their mobility investments.
Roablocks to Enterprise Mobility
Maturity and adoption of Information Technology in India has always lagged behind developed economies by a few years. The situation is no different for enterprise mobility. While consumers are being offered a variety of smart mobile devices, enterprises are taking a very cautious approach to mobility. CIOs are grappling with policies and practices around mobility that can help introduce a new channel into the business. Inconsistent telecommunications coverage and lack of 3G bandwidth as well expensive data plans are some of the inhibitors for mainstream adoption. Industries such as retail, aviation and logistics are some of the early adopters of enterprise mobility, albeit in a very limited capacity. As mobility standards get more and more universal, we will see increased adoption in Indian enterprises.
Technology innovations have always helped optimize processes and sometimes they go beyond and help create positive disruptions. In effect, Mobility with its global reach and universal acceptance is one such technology that no CXO should ignore.