How mobile became a boardroom issue: what CEOs need to know about the ‘mobile first’ story

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of major consumer technology trends and developments leap into the enterprise world. Technology giants that dominate our personal computing experiences are increasingly revamping their products for a business context and consumer devices are rapidly making their way into the workplace.

These developments have paved the way for true mobility within the enterprise. Now, it’s less of a vision and more of a reality. Mobile First, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) and the rise of the Mobile Cloud are becoming increasingly prevalent within the enterprise both now and in the future.

The Internet of Things will also drive the management of an ever broader range of devices, as we start to see many smart gadgets both at home, in the field and within the office, all of which can add valuable business data and insight. However, greater investment is needed and certain barriers overcome in order for mobile to really take off. 

While mobility has been on the IT department’s agenda for a while now, translating the benefits of mobility to the board is somewhat more of a challenge. To the CEO, the conversation is more focused around Just In Time data which can improve business intelligence and increase revenue but with minimal capital costs.

Data mobility can improve user interactions and the speed at which it can be shared and analysed. To the CEO, this can drive big efficiency gains within the business and it how the CIO translates the importance of mobility to the CEO. What’s more, the mobile itself also creates a brand new business channel which can be used to target customers and prospects.

> See also: 3 pillars of enterprise mobility in 2015

It should also be noted that the extent to which businesses are rolling out technology varies considerably between sectors. Those sectors driven by the need to transform customer experience have been at the forefront of adopting mobility, as it can enable staff to better engage with customers, can cut queuing times in retail stores, can enable the swift management of information for executives and can ensure quality assurance in the production line. If we look at utilities for example, at the beginning of the century, mobile devices were heavily relied upon for field work; this requirement has only increased.

Retail is another early adopter of mobile innovation, primarily driven by the need to enhance customer shopping experiences. Many of the big high street stores have dedicated mobile applications for quick and easy mobile purchases and they’re experimenting with the latest in mobile payments.

More recently, retailers have been trialling beacons in-store, so they can send location specific information directly to a customer via their smartphone, and obtain valuable data based on how customers interact with the Beacon. The development of mobile networks has been essential in supporting these mobility milestones; without the development of 3G, 4G and wireless, retail, and other sectors, would not have been able to deliver the sophisticated services we are now seeing.

As these examples show, there is a tremendous opportunity for mobile to transform the way businesses work and to improve customer service. However many more need to wake up to the possibilities. As an area that is constantly evolving and innovating to meet our desire as consumers to be mobile, organisations must move fast in order to stay competitive and to meet employee demands and expectations.

Mobility innovations moving into enterprise solutions

With Apple, new features such as ‘handoff’ allow an individual to continue working seamlessly from a MacBook to an iPad and Apple ‘Document Provider’ extensions allow content to be more easily shared between iOS apps. Elsewhere, Google introduced new Android based devices on Android Lollipop; an improved user experience with integrated real-time information through Google cloud services.

Microsoft has also made a strong play for mobile in the workplace introducing Office for iPad, a technical preview of a more ‘start-menu-friendly’ Windows 10 with one OS experience across all devices, and exploring new areas in cloud services with APIs for Office 365 and OneDrive. This device consolidation – with laptops performance now available in a tablet – also greatly reduces management costs and headaches associated with multiple devices.

Companies like Samsung are also making a play for the business world, with the Samsung KNOX recently launched to address security and mobile device management pain points and Reach 3.0 content management provides the latest technology for hospitality displays, for example.

All these developments combine hardware devices with tightly integrated software, in which the operating system is becoming increasingly immutable and hardened to provide a new level of security and management. On top of these platforms, consumer app developers are building rich applications on HTML5 and HTML6 that tie into the near infinite compute and storage capability of the cloud and a User Interface which can work across multiple device operating systems.

This separation between local experience and cloud computing allows users to have an optimised and enjoyable experience, with the real-time computing power benefits of the cloud – all in a phone.

This is absolutely the right approach to mobility and it’s what more organisations need to consider when looking at their mobile strategy. HTML6 development is supporting cross platform applications and allowing the enterprise to devoid themselves of devices and focus on what is important – connecting users to applications.

Are businesses heading for ‘mobile first’?

One of the big trends that we’re seeing in 2015 and beyond is the move to a ‘mobile first’ strategy. Echoing this trend, IDC predicts that IT organisations will dedicate at least 25% of their software budget to mobile application development, deployment, and management by 2017 and the number of enterprise applications optimised for mobility will quadruple by 2016.

Clearly, mobility will become increasingly important, but organisations still aren’t giving it the full attention it deserves. This reluctance is partly due to a general lack of understanding about mobility initiatives and a fear of worst case scenarios such as critical data loss. It’s not as simple as buying some iPads and giving them to your executives or arming your sales teams with iPhones for instant access to on the move.

It’s about getting under the skin of how your employees want – and need – to work to be more productive. It’s about understanding what data employees need to access. It is about understanding how customer experience can be improved and understanding how mobile is crucial to addressing these needs and challenges.

From here, you can think about getting business-critical data and applications onto mobile devices rather than desktops and allowing the right employees to access them in order to make their working lives easier.

There is still some way to go before businesses make drastic changes within mobility. However, as more and more people get used to intuitive Apple products as well as those from other competitors, employees expect their IT departments to provide exactly the same type of experience.

Unfortunately, many are still playing catch up as they get bogged down by legacy systems and outdated ways of working. So, we believe there will be a much larger investment in mobility in the near future, along with Mobile First applications, and the user experience behind those applications. In this way, consumerisation of IT is not just a big trend, it’s a big movement.

How BYOD could drive ‘mobile first’

The notion of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is certainly a prominent phrase within the industry, and is even developing into CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) in some organisations. Smartphones and tablets are now the norm, challenging the ‘everyone gets a PC’ assumption, and many users now require or expect to work through multiple devices.

In Europe, however, there are still some hurdles to overcome around BYOD and CYOD, as some vertical markets along with segments will not want to bring their own assets to work and will to look for their employers to provide the hardware. Some organisations also don’t allow personal devices to be used at work, but we expect this to change over the next few years.

Countless times it’s been proven that the user experience on mobile devices is much better than on desktops, not least because you can’t take a desktop with you out of the office – or even away from your desk for that matter. To the extreme, many employees would rather bring their own device to the office than their packed lunch!

> See also: 10 essential requirements for enterprise mobility success

End-user demand is clearly there and Michael Dell’s recent prediction that the average user will interact with 10 devices on a daily basis in 2020 supports this. The announcement of the Apple Watch will no doubt contribute to this number of devices.

With this in mind, when planning mobility projects, businesses need to start by looking at user experiences and then putting adequate budget behind the initiatives. Organisations need to look for the ‘mobile moment’ – what is it that the user wants that will drive adoption of mobility and how can the IT department harness this? If end-user demand cannot be demonstrated, and pain point areas cannot be revealed, then the opportunity for justifying mobility is far lower.

The beauty of mobile cloud is that it can be a very cost-effective alternative. It requires less capital expenditure and as physical desktop spending declines and cost savings are achieved through virtual desktops, more budget is available for mobility.

Alistair Wildman, managing director for End-User Computing (EUC) at VMware EMEA

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...