Michael Eldridge reviews why you can't afford not to consider a mobile strategy.
The figures are astonishing and can only provide an indication of both the demand for, and the opportunity to improve performance by, properly supporting your workforce when they are outside of a conventional office environment.
1 billion workers spending more than 10 hours per week working away from the office
U.S. businesses are expected to spend $11.6 billion on mobile applications by 2012
Customer care and customer service are the #1 priority for CEOs and CIOs
Mobile apps other than email is becoming normal with downloads expected to reach 20 billion by 2014
IT departments will support more mobile phones than desk phones by 2014
Smartphone based applications are already playing an important part in attracting and retaining white collar staff
Above are just some of the predictions and statistics I've read over the last couple of months. I've also had a number of discussions with CIOs acknowledging the wave of demand for home technology at work i.e. the exciting applications people are using at home which they'd like available in the workplace.
I believe there is a lot of latent demand which will need to be addressed in the next few years and conventional approaches to the mobilising business processes will leave something to be desired.
The Piecemeal Approach
Historically, most approaches to mobilising business processes have been piecemeal and typically the demand, other than for mobile email and calendar has been to support a relatively small number of processes typically undertaken by blue collar workers e.g. service, proof of delivery etc. The key was to choose a robust and proven point solution which met the requirement in hand. This works as a strategy where:
There aren't that many different processes to mobilise and consequently proliferation of different technologies isn't a major concern
The hardware and operating system platform can be mandated across the user base
But now these paradigms are challenged because of:
Technology proliferation: As more disparate processes are mobilised supporting a proliferation of different technologies becomes unworkable.
Disparate platforms: As the user base becomes more diverse so does the requirement to support multiple technology and operating system platforms, often in the white collar world, the users own.
A More Strategic View
It is important for organisations to consider mobile requirements as a whole, not just current and perceived future demand, when looking at mobilising business processes.
You need to consider and understand the dangers of technology proliferation. Look at the needs of the business going forward and weigh up the advantages offered by a strong platform which can be used to develop multiple applications against the desire for an application that meets the needs of a single requirement.
Understand the future requirements and considerations not just in terms of the ability to mobilise processes but the wider implications of data security and protection, as well as how to manage a plethora of different devices out in the field.
Ultimately each organisation will have to weigh up what is important to it. Where a requirement is particularly specialist and functionally rich the benefits offered by a fully featured application will often be of paramount importance. In many cases however if organisations look to the future they will place emphasis in finding a platform on which they can build a mobile strategy rather than finding a single application that meets an immediate need.