February 21, 2017

6 ideas for sifting the mobility chaos

For about 20 years (sad to say I was a journalist for even longer than that) it seemed that every white paper that crossed my desk began with some variant of this sentence:

“As the world becomes more global and interconnected, businesses need a way to see through the complexity. [Hire us.]”

But now the ubiquitous opening sentence seems to be:

“Businesses are awash [drowned, buried, you get the idea] in data. In this increasingly global and interconnected world [hey, we can’t deny the past, right?] of data overload from social media and mobile phones, businesses are looking for a way out. [Hire us.]”

Last week, I went looking for some good ideas on mobility. My destination? New Jersey.

Turns out they’re doing some good thinking about mobility down there. See if these ideas do anything for you. [This is cross-posted on the SAP Services blog]:

Mobile applications are a little like vacation snapshots: They are informative, sometimes fun—beautiful, even—but they don’t tell a full story on their own. As I discovered during a panel discussion on mobile for the enterprise last Thursday sponsored by the New Jersey Society for Information Management, the state of mobility so far is that developers are running around like Japanese tourists, snapping away at every little slice of life and business activity they see and stuffing it all into app stores without thinking about the bigger picture.

Of course, that’s not to say that the unprecedented level of connectedness we are getting with enterprise mobility is a waste. Far from it. Connectedness equals productivity, as we discovered (eventually) with PCs and laptops in earlier times that began just as chaotically as mobile has. My colleague JP Finnell, Senior Director of Mobile Strategy for SAP Services North America, pushed his panelists to offer concrete ways to get past the chaos. I heard six:

Mobility changes business models. When customers can take a picture of a check with their phones at home and banks can make the deposit based on the photo, suddenly the models of banking customer service, cost (ATMs and branches), and profitability comes into question—and must be rethought, said Vinod Kachroo, a senior IT executive who has spent decades managing corporate infrastructures in financial services companies.

Mobility isn’t about applications; it’s about an integrated experience. PCs and laptops have always been about the applications they enable rather than an overall experience that they create for users and customers. Not so with an iPad, said Bob Egan, VP of Mobile Strategy for Mobiquity, Inc., who is a veteran of corporate networking (he helped develop the first devices for connecting PCs on the corporate network). Now companies can show off their brands and their wares in demos that are immersive, and repair people can find their way around a ship to a broken part (and a 3-D rendering of how to repair it) without help from anyone on board. But you can’t do this with one app. It requires thinking through the entire experience.

Forget about “big data,” focus on “right data.” Big data is nothing new, said Egan. Companies have had big data since the first mainframe. The problem is that this data sits in silos—and everybody’s silo says something different—sales’ is different from marketing’s, which is different from finance’s. The challenge to create a single source of the truth is no less relevant today than it was 20 years ago—except that now many more people could make advantage of that integration through their mobile devices.

Make mobility “fit the purpose.” Many employees have mobile devices who shouldn’t, said Kachroo. There’s no way that call center employees can be as productive and deliver as high quality service from a mobile phone while in their PJs at home as they can when they are at the screen of a PC delivering them carefully chosen scripts and real-time advice. Companies need to examine the usage patterns of the people who get mobile devices and apps. Without following employees through “a day in the life,” as consumer product goods companies do, you won’t enable the right people with the right devices and apps.

Mobility should be corporate owned, personally enabled. BYOD is overrated, says Egan. When BYOD came along (because companies were slow to allow anything but Blackberries), companies lost important advantages, such as corporate discounts for devices and line fees, security controls, app deployment, and network integration. Now that it’s possible to bring other devices in, we should. Users simply want to use the device they like best; they care less about who owns it (indeed, many would be happy to have the company buy it for them).

Stop securing devices and start securing data in motion. The era of securing your company by locking down a PC on a secure corporate network is over, says Egan. Now we have to figure out how to secure data while it is being passed literally around the world.

What do you think? How would you end the enterprise mobility chaos?

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