The term ‘enterprise mobility’ has leapt off the slides of CIO presentations into the everyday enterprise environment. And, in years to come, mobile applications will continue their relentless march towards the enterprises. Overlooking this trend is neither practical nor desirable—the benefits that come from untethering the enterprise with mobility solutions are too great to disregard.
Research agency IDC says that the enterprise mobility market is expected to touch $1.8 billion by 2017 as an increasing number of companies turn towards mobility applications to enhance productivity at the workplace, and strengthen business processes. The enterprise mobility market in India is forecast to grow at 63 percent CAGR—from $394.3 million in 2012 to $ 1.8 billion by 2017.
Not surprising then that enterprises are incorporating mobile technologies into their processes and workflows to make the most of their information infrastructure. And the transformative impact of mobility on different business functions has been pervasive.
Enterprise mobility expands office functionality beyond the brick-and-mortar boundaries of organizations by providing an increasingly mobile workforce with access to a company’s actionable information anytime, and from anywhere. Cementing enterprise engagement, enhancing customer satisfaction, compressing business processes, bolstering retention, and augmenting transparency are some of the goals of mobility.
Enterprise mobility is the new competitive imperative. It is changing the way in which customers want to connect with businesses. But the customers form only half of the value equation—employees are also driving mobility deployments to gain greater flexibility in the workplace.
The three drivers accelerating mobility deployments are a demand to access a company’s information assets by on-the-move executives, an increasingly mobile millennial workforce, and customers’ demand for real-time actionable information.
According to the State of the CIO 2014 survey 2014 (CIO magazine’s annual benchmark survey) mobility is perched on top of the IT agenda of CIOs this year. Mobility is on a roll. And it’s moving beyond rudimentary applications.
The mobility landscape is driven by consumer adoption and continuous innovation. The millennial generation is the cheerleader of the mobility revolution.
They use mobility extensively in their personal lives and are demanding it in their professional lives as well.
Their tech-savviness and propensity to collaborate are changing workplace dynamics as they become the vanguards of this disruptive technology.
CIOs from different industry verticals are putting their faith in enterprise mobility platforms. Take for example, Rajendra Deshpande, CIO, Serco Global Services, a business process outsourcing provider with over 60,000 employees in 100 delivery centers around the world.
Traditionally, software services haven’t been on the bleeding-edge when it comes to mobility. But that established perception didn’t stop Deshpande from plunging deep into a client-facing mobility initiative. Undaunted, he approached mobility with a comprehensive strategy.
With a meticulously planned mobile strategy, Deshpande proved that the advantages of providing mobile access to enterprise apps extend beyond employees to customers. When he started working with the customers based out of US and UK he realised that they wanted to see how they were performing. Traditionally, the performance was displayed on wall boards moved to operations PC. The information Serco shared with its customers was shared at an hourly, daily or weekly basis. There was still element of staticness in the information provided to customers. The clients wanted to transcend the geographical boundaries by gaining real time reports on their business processes.
“We have multi-location delivery centers and the client wanted to see how different parts of the world delivered their business processes. That motivated us to create a mobility solution. We built an app and allowed the clients a peek into the core processes that run and support their activities,” says Deshpande.
Serco’s clients were enthused to gain real time insights into their core business processes. They are now kept apprised of the significant issues relating to their business processes in real time.
The deployment has infused an air of transparency and accountability. Deshpande adopted a product approach rather than a tool approach. That did the trick for Serco.
Mobility is changing at a whirlwind pace. Managing this complex beast is quite a daunting task. Integration issues with legacy systems
But some CIOs see legacy as a great foundation to build on, not something to work around of. “Legacy can present some challenges initially, but a strong legacy is a good backbone to deploy mobility initiatives. Unless an organization has a backbone in place, and its backend system are well integrated, you cannot do anything with mobility. We are talking of real-time processing, giving information to customers or employees. Whether it’s B2E, B2C, B2S these cannot be sustained unless you have a robust backend in place,” says Kalpana Maniar, President and CIO, Edelweiss Financial Services.
Despite all the interest in mobility, for the most part, it’s still being used to fulfill fairly routine business processes. So what’s impeding the wider enterprise deployment of mobility? The cost of deployment, security concerns, a lack of skills, and integration issues are constraints inherent to mobility. If an organization has to wring the benefits out of this technology it should adopt a tiered approach that focuses application investment on use cases that create the most value, say CIOs
Maniar felt an increasing need to implement a collaboration suite. However, what came forth was that a host of peripheral security solutions are required for secure enterprise usage. “It does not make economic sense because if the cost of collaboration suite is X, the cost of security around it is 2X. However, we thought that there are value-adds in collaboration and that’s the way to go. Enterprise collaboration and mobility is not evolved enough. You should have a clear idea on how you secure your data,” she says. “Not many MDM solutions can boast of complete security across OSes and compatibility with collaboration suites. “We did many POCs with 8-10 products. It needs a lot of time, effort and research. There are no ready answers,” she says.
While starting off enabling their application portfolio for mobility, CIOs should focus on areas that have the biggest bang. Edelweiss realized that low hanging fruit could be found in transactions. “We went about implementing mobility around transactions for our retail capital markets. The customer response has been good. We think this is where we want to invest in the near future,”
Pratap Gharge, EVP and CIO, Bajaj Electrical, echoes Maniar’s sentiments about mobile security and governance. “Though there are software available for MDM and MAM (mobile application management), investments in such software is an additional cost. Managing security over wide platforms for these mobile devices as per IT security policies is another major challenge,” he says.
Manageability and cost are deterrents. The proliferation of low-cost smartphones with different OSes increases the complexity of managing and supporting corporate applications on those mobiles. “Entire business operations cannot be done on mobile devices, hence companies will anyway be required to provide laptop or desktops. Unless there is business case justification it becomes difficult for additional investment just to support all applications on mobile devices also,” he says.
Another speed bump that organizations hit while deploying mobility is the lack of skills to develop mobile applications. At Serco Global Services, Deshpande chose not to create the client application in-house. “There are a lot of small supplier communities which are creating an ecosystem to supply such applications. They have skills. We decided to go with suppliers and gave them the framework. We built the strategy and the blueprint. But coding and development was done externally,” says Deshpande.
Maniar says that partners can help enterprises by adopting a ‘solutions approach’ rather than a ‘product approach’. “The mobility enablers and service providers come to us to talk about their product and offerings. They should look at the landscape around their offerings and have collaborations that are ready. They should suggest an ecosystem and the partners that they have worked with. Such a consulting approach is better than a product approach because it reduces the learning curve that each one of us has for such implementations. Otherwise you are reinventing the wheel every time,” she says.
The game is on to fully reap the potential benefits of enterprise mobility. Vendor partners and CIOs need to address challenges and concerns that crop up in the road to deployment of a mobility strategy. A well thought-through approach to implementing mobility as an enterprise-wide strategy will produce applications that users and customers like and want to use. By doing so mobility can directly translate into ROI for the business.
Sneha Jha is special correspondent. Send feedback on this feature to email@example.com