Part 1 of 4

Mobile normal hits the workforce

This is the first post in our sponsored series with Samsung Business. In this series, we will be looking at some of the key areas in mobile today and into the future. This includes:

  • How businesses are simultaneously adopting mobile technology and adapting to a mobile-normal world.
  • How the internet of things is poised (perhaps) to disrupt everything, and certainly to disrupt some important industries.
  • Some of the key enabling capabilities behind these shifts, including security, data storage and display technologies.

I am starting by looking at some of the areas that Samsung discussed at the Gartner Symposium earlier this month: how enterprises can most effectively move to a mobile first strategy and some of the security and other challenges that presents.

Not mobile first, mobile normal

It’s hard to argue with a mobile-first strategy in 2015, but isn’t it time to go further? The word “mobile” is soon going to be one of the words in the famous Fresh Fish Sold Here story. A product named something like “Secure Mobile Enterprise System” from vendor X has the same problem in 2015. Of course your product is secure, it’s for a business, it’s some sort of system, and – because it is today – how could it exist if it is not mobile?

We have often talked about “mobile normal” as a new way for companies to think about their communications strategy. In a world where consumer apps, even thoseSamsung work chart which are not “mobile-only,” are routinely seeing more than 70% usage on mobile devices, it is increasingly clear that mobile is the way information is consumed, and content created. It has been exciting to watch the introduction of mobile into the workforce at scale – from the first Windows Mobile devices, Blackberries delivering mobile email to initial BYOD strategies (driven in many cases by workers wanting to use their personal smartphones for work email), and the introduction of tablets into the work force. Perhaps reflecting this, we are close to 50% of employees working outside a traditional “head office” even during the 8 hour work day, never mind how much work happens outside that time.

This needs to come with an important mind shift. Mobile, when part of a secure cloud environment- pushing data and intelligent capabilities to workers wherever they are- is not a for-purpose tool, it’s the everything tool. It used to be that you could think of a mobile solution as solving a point problem, now it is the default experience. This comes at several costs, and one, that of security, is starting to loom larger in mobility strategies.

Security and management

Enterprise mobile security has come a long way from a time when Blackberry essentially ran the world’s mobile email from nuclear bunker-level secure data centers in Waterloo, Canada. As Galaxy S2s and iPhones started appearing in businesses, BYOD was the next challenge, but these were still essentially seen as device level challenges. As a full suite of enterprise capabilities hits the mobile how does a CSO manage multi-end point Sign-On and Access Control, what happens if you need to integrate with a third party mobile app on multiple different devices and mobile platforms? Nothing is calculated to more quickly disrupt the beauty and elegance of the mobile experience (well described here by a former colleague from Nokia) than a clumsy, after-the-fact security layer.

While most won’t get to a perfect world, starting from the point of building secure into applications, rather than trying to secure after the fact has a higher likelihood of success. That comes from having a well thought through BYOD, device strategy, and ideally the right application development platform and partners in place.

If we can secure this, what are the applications delivering the mobile-normal experiences?

How are we moving beyond dashboards?

It has been a little frustrating watching enterprise mobility to see how far we have not come in terms of delivering real “applications,” rather than dashboards and visualizations. For far too long the typical demo of a mobile system was some sort of sales dashboard. That’s great as far as it goes, but doesn’t integrate mobile into work flow, it makes it a display at the end of that.

In a recent Gigaom discussion, Larry Hawes made a very relevant set of observations:

“The current mobile experience made up of numerous, functionally-focused applications … works well for consumers. In some cases, it can also be highly beneficial to workers who want to quickly accomplish a well-defined task in isolation. The challenge in the work environment (that makes it different from consumer computing) is in getting information to flow between applications.

“We typically use workflow technology to accomplish that … Yes [for example], Slack can use IFTTT to push information between integrated applications, but IFTTT isn’t considered an enterprise-ready technology by most IT professionals. Unfortunately, there is not [yet] an equivalent, lightweight enterprise workflow tool, so the IFTTT style of rules-based information flow can’t be easily replicated, with added enterprise features, in organizations today.”

The work that Samsung discussed with Red Hat at Symposium is focused on this challenge. One example is by focusing on APIs to allow businesses to think in terms of assembling apps in days vs engineering them in months. While there is still some way to go to get beyond visualizations, Salesforce’s mobile platform announcements at their Dreamforce in September point in the same direction.

As a closing thought in this initial post, the world has moved very quickly past PC-centric digitization to ubiquitous mobility, which assumes and requires secure data and connectivity. There is still a way to make sure businesses maximize their opportunity here. Increasingly the tools are available, and leading businesses are enabling their workforces to be as productive and connected as possible no matter where or when they chose to work.