Enterprises are struggling with how best to drive mobile transformation across all lines of business. At the same time, so are technology providers, where no one can claim the crown as the king of the mobile enterprise. The latest technology provider offering, called workspaces, creates an end-to-end enterprise mobile solution that provides access and supports the network, apps, data, storage and cloud—across all mobile (and non-mobile) devices. The real effort is to address the user experience across mobile devices and enterprises have yet to fully embrace these offerings.
Mobile worskspace definitions are like opinions—everyone has one. Introduced by Citrix in 2014 [Disclosure: I worked for Citrix in 2014] and soon followed by rival VMware, a mobile workspace is often defined as a location, an experience, a technology or a solution. The bottom line: users just want access to their data, no matter where they are or what device they are using. But something that sounds so simple, is actually very complicated when you bring in security, user experience, multiple devices, networks and application delivery methods into the picture.
Enterprise IT is struggling today with the load of technology initiatives around digital transformation: workforce mobilization, application delivery (from on-premises to cloud), data security to name a few. Each year, research firm Gartner, Inc. asks CIOs what’s top of mind and this year’s report was no different. End user computing is in a transition as companies look at how data on applications runs on different devices. This is what the mobile “workspace” is really about. Data needs to be available on any device across any network. Imagine if you had all your contacts instantly synchronized and available wherever you logged in or device you used (even offline)? Scale that to your presentations and other work files or corporate servers.
Today, most data systems run on a disparate, point solution both on the device and on legacy, back-end infrastructure as companies grew. Each device runs a local application to retrieve data on a specific system to view it. The challenge to IT and end users is supporting the number of systems, devices and locations (corporate, public, home) that people want, to access their data. Add the fact that an application that was designed for a big screen, keyboard and mouse, will not work well at all on a 4 inch touchscreen display. So now, fast forward to mobile workspaces. Technology providers hve come up with offerings to address this adaptable apps and OS like Microsoft Continuum, app virtualization like Citrix XenApp or full mobile VDI like VMware’s Horizon enterprise suite.
Today’s definition of workforce mobilization for the average company is mostly around email and web browsing. Besides industry-specific solutions (like a manufacturing, logistics or warehousing app) or role-specific apps (sales and supply chain, for example) many enterprises are struggling on how to securely support user access to data. Most organizations still don’t even have good document management system that works across devices and domains (corporate, partner etc.). An investment in mobile workspaces can provide a secure, end-to-end solution, but is still no guarantee of a great user experience. Running virtualized apps on touchscreen devices is still relatively new and any lag in responsiveness degrades the experience. Resizing the interface to fit on any screen only works so well and users may still need to carry a mouse, keyboard and find a bigger screen with which to work. Companies have yet to adopt mobile workspaces as they figure out how to integrate them with legacy investments across multiple providers—and enterprise software suites certainly are not cheap, so many companies are being strategic with their purchases.
Companies should experiment with these options, but in the end, just like there is not one device to choose, there won’t be one option that suits all companies and users. As companies continue their transition to the cloud, storing data and running apps remotely, they’ll find easier methods to remote access and the ability to deliver data securely.