How to build a unified mobile strategy for the wearable age

The trend towards wearables in enterprise means another step towards a seamless digital experience for employees

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The introduction of wearables like the Apple Watch will redefine the goal posts for mobility in enterprise

The mobile revolution continues to drive consumer interest and appeal, especially as wearables begin to enjoy more widespread adoption with devices such as the newly released Apple Watch.

Upon initial thoughts, the Apple Watch may seem like another consumer gadget. CIOs know better, though. In business IT, the trend toward wearables is just part of the necessary push to a 'unified digital enterprise.'

From an IT perspective, the key to corporate success is to understand the landscape of the unified enterprise in the digital environment. While wearables are the hot topic now, they are only part of an overall digital strategy. Wearables, iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart devices are all part of the digital experience for today’s workers, and all these devices have to work seamlessly together.

Especially with the graying of the existing workforce and the increasing importance of younger and mid-tier employees, what we deploy today will only continue to grow in sophistication and intelligence. We have to be prepared for a comprehensive and unified enterprise where anyone is able to collaborate anytime, anywhere.

Wearables and true mobility requirements

A recent research report from 451 Mobility Research predicts that smart watches and other wearables will find a welcome home in the enterprise. The research also suggests that 39% of IT decision-makers at companies are either currently using or planning to use wearable technologies to deploy business solutions in the immediate future.

Businesses across all industries are adopting a flexible BYOD policy that will also embrace wearable technology in the workforce. This, however, requires a rethinking of 'mobility.' It’s not 'mobility' if business users are only able to check email remotely, or if applications are developed to serve only one purpose without intersecting across all lines of business.

A custom application platform is required that enables such success by incorporating a cloud approach with mobile, collaboration, records management and reporting at the core, enforcing a truly unified approach to bridge the industry and business gaps.

True mobility in a unified digital enterprise demands specific functionality:

Collaboration

Because so much of today’s business demands immediate communication between and among internal staff and external customers, suppliers, collaboration across every element of the supply chain is essential.

Enterprise-specific applications

This is particularly true for enterprise organizations with a large client presence. You have to be able to execute your own processes and functions on any device, wearable or otherwise, in the office or on the road, whilst at the same time allowing customers to self serve.

Analytics and reporting

 Because processes demand fast action, data should be shared across all departments, rather than in silos. That data should be accessible on mobile devices, to allow employees to take action in the field and document all activity being performed. Re-entering data for every department introduces error and high risk to the business as well as constantly reinventing the wheel.

Cloud

The cloud today is not just hype. It is an important part of developing a truly unified digital enterprise. The cloud eliminates reliance on a dedicated and costly IT infrastructure. Application updates can be made seamlessly, and information can be shared across business units regardless of the device.

The Internet of Things has also ushered in real advantages for today’s businesses. The always-on and always-connected digital world allows for more efficient and cost effective business processes to be accomplished allowing for a more powerful and unified universe. For businesses to adapt to the Internet of Things revolution and the always-connected mobile worker, they must enable mobile wearables for the workforce.

That alone is not enough, though. Cross-platform, device-agnostic applications allow for real work to take place from various user communities across the enterprise, anytime, anywhere. Wearables, therefore, should be paired with business applications on 'old technology,' such as smart phones, laptops and desktops.

How wearables fit into the mobile enterprise

Of course, some businesses remain unsure about enabling wearables for work. Pushback is only natural. Companies may have entrenched opposition to or suspicion of newer ways of working. After all, if it’s already working, why fix it with something new?

That suspicion of new technology has begun to change over time. For example, only a few years ago, the financial services community resisted the cloud. These companies wanted to be certain that the technology was 100 percent secure and scaleable before making the move to the cloud.

Until then, they wanted only on-premise solutions. As Cloud solutions were adopted organisations started to realise the benefits and this then triggered the next innovation which was mobile. .

The same is sure to be true of wearables. Let’s consider some of the key benefits that may turn opposition into acceptance:

Bye-bye email!

Did you know most employees spend about 11 hours of the workweek responding to emails? Wearable technology in the workforce may replace mundane emails – especially when process-based mobile applications with a strong social interface are integrated with wearable technology. Cutting email overload means that employees will be able to spend more time with work-related tasks instead of replying to multiple emails.

Pairing: This one’s specifically true for companies that use Apple products in their BYOD strategy. As an extension of the iPhone rather a stand-alone device, it is exceedingly easy for employees to start pairing up the Apple Watch with their already corporate-approved iPhones. In that way, companies are already taking steps toward a unified digital enterprise.

On-the-go: The promise of wearables has always been to make information more accessible on-the-go. Unfortunately, most enterprises also face the same issues when adding wearables to their enterprise mobility plan: security. The solution is simple: Begin with an application platform for business operations that can negate unknown security threats. Application platforms enable companies to create specific applications that can work natively on any device, wearable or otherwise.

All of this is to say that the answer to creating a unified digital enterprise is to make it easy for your organisation to get up to speed rapidly. Younger and mid-tier business users may have an advantage over the more traditional senior employees, since they are more familiar with configuring and using their own mobile devices daily for personal circumstance whether it be socially via Facebook or twitter, shopping online or simply downloading a new app. In essence the mobile age is very much upon us.

In general, however, regardless of the user, your success in establishing a unified digital enterprise requires a mobile vision, whilst embracing the whole of the organisation and complementing your existing product landscape.

It’s easy to omit a component, like wearables, but you need to start thinking about how mobile can add value today. Make steps to become a more powerful, unified organisation and realise the potential this will bring to your operations.

Don’t neglect the innovative technology of today because it is becoming the standard way of working now. Organisations must be able to have the power to see a unified view of their business – the business should own the information and that’s made easy by having a digital, mobile strategy for your enterprise.

The moral of this story: If you don’t have a unified mobile enterprise strategy, you’re not ready for the digital age.

Sourced from Vikki Hailey,VP of UK and Ireland Channels, Appian