By Samuel Greengard
Mobility isn’t a new concept. For more than two decades, employees have carried around cell phones and laptops. They’ve used VPNs and tapped into remote servers and systems.
However, the last few years have brought about a revolution in mobility. As smartphones and tablets have gone mainstream, organizations have watched the dial slide from niche devices and specialized applications to an always-on environment that connects people, applications and data across vast geographies.
What’s more, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement and the consumerization of IT have profoundly changed the way workers interact, collaborate and manage tasks. “We have crossed over from mobility representing a channel to it serving as the primary channel for accessing content and getting work done,” points out Fernando Alvarez, a senior vice president and global leader for Capgemini‘s Global Mobile Solution Service. “Ultimately, the technology creates enormous disruption, but it also presents a huge opportunity to become more efficient.”
The post-PC era has arrived, and it’s fundamentally changing the enterprise landscape. Today, 90 percent of American workers carry smartphones, and enterprise tablet adoption is swelling by nearly 50 percent annually. In addition, more than half of all new network devices are now wireless, and that figure will continue to rise over the next few years.
Yet all of this is only the beginning. According to digital advertising agency Vertic, mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a 4-to-1 ratio by 2015. Factor in social media, the cloud and big data, and it’s clear that nothing less than a revolution is under way.
“Mobility started out as a way to access email, contacts and calendars, but it now extends into productivity applications and enterprise data,” says Daniel Eckert, director and CTO of the Emerging Technologies Group at consulting firm PwC. “Pervasive mobility translates into an always-on and always-available state. The technology is forcing organizations and IT executives to re-examine everything.”
The proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise has far-reaching implications. As Dan Shey, practice director of M2M Enterprise and Verticals at ABI Research points out, it is creating new workflows and connection patterns that enable workers within organizations to link in the most efficient way possible.
What’s more, “The technology allows all stakeholders—customers, employees, business partners and others—to interact,” Shey says, “and it unleashes capabilities that weren’t possible in the past.” This could include everything from routing a fleet of trucks more efficiently to allowing citizens to report potholes through a crowdsourcing app on a smartphone.
ABI Research reports that as many as 50 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will exist by 2020. For now, enterprises must navigate an increasingly chaotic mobile environment that requires new technologies, new IT skills and far more comprehensive governance policies than at any time in the past.
“Executives increasingly recognize that they must adopt a pervasive mobile strategy and navigate a complex and sometimes overwhelming marketplace and landscape,” Shey says. “They must sort through a huge number of products, solutions and vendors to find the right approach.”
It’s no simple task. PwC’s Eckert says a good starting point is to recognize that mobility is an extension of the digital enterprise. Building greater intelligence into systems, processes and interactions requires a tightly defined strategy and a fundamental understanding of how to fit all the pieces together. But it also demands an IT infrastructure—including clouds and other systems—that can support pervasive computing and match growing expectations about speed, performance and 24/7 availability and support.
“Workers now demand a consumer-like experience, and they become impatient and even upset when systems don’t perform up to their expectations,” Eckert explains.