By Matt Carrier, Principal Systems Consultant at Sybase
The drive for mobility and the consumerisation of corporate IT is reshaping the corporate IT landscape and changing the way businesses engage with their staff, and how their staff engage with them. Passion for mobile computing is not just changing the way IT must think about corporate data delivery, it is changing the profile of the global workforce and the information ecosystem that supports it. Enterprises must adapt every aspect of their corporate policies to not just keep up, but to anticipate their employees and customer’s needs.
There is a broad, fundamental, and permanent transformation moving across our global information ecosystem, which will get even vaster over the next 18 months. Smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the information workers’ most valuable tools. While no-one is predicting they will replace desktops and laptops yet, a survey conducted by Yankee Group in 2011 showed that business leaders believe 57 percent of employees will use a smartphone for work by the end of the year. The report also showed that tablet deployment will double in two years, especially as devices become smarter, faster, slimmer and lighter.
Mobilising a workgroup will permanently change the way a workflow executes. As this continues to expand it will touch every aspect of the corporate world, and then go beyond to include supply chains and distribution channels. This is the transformative nature of mobility, and the process is well underway.
The worldwide mobile worker population will reach 1.2 billion in 2013, which, according to a 2009 report from IDC, is 35 percent of the global workforce. Young professionals or “digital natives” are entering the workforce as fully indoctrinated mobile device multi-taskers. In fact, mobile internet usage will surpass PC internet usage in the next few years. Companies can’t expect their staff to work without a smartphone or tablet and these employees will assume that access to corporate resources from a mobile device is a given, and rightly so. According to a recent study by IDC, 65 percent of organisations that allow employees to use personal mobile devices for business said they experienced greater productivity. Regardless of industry or size, a mobile enterprise is a fertile field for business innovation, competitive growth and profitability.
Once you understand the tremendous potential of a mobile enterprise, deciding to empower your employees with technology is easy. The difficulty is in creating a roadmap that maximises the return on investment. Fortunately, the biggest efficiency opportunities are universal. All companies have sales, service, supply chain, and other divisions that can be mobilised. A well designed mobile framework is easy to extend and modify, making it possible to improve on your initial ROI by orders of magnitude, with very low ongoing costs.
A sales team is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of mobilisation efforts. Enterprises want their teams to be in front of the customer, on-site, and prepared. Arming your salespeople with real-time information from enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain, and inventory systems from a mobile device will provide better customer service, a trusted customer relationship, and higher margins because better decisions are made.
While CRM is likely to be the place to start, it isn’t the only application that sales teams can use. Salespeople are often enthusiastic users of social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, which they use to engage with customers. In the near future, sales teams will leverage tools with uniquely mobile capabilities, such as on-device cameras for augmented reality applications or GPS for enhanced geospatial sensitivity.
Workflow applications are also very useful in human resource departments where approval bottlenecks often impede processes and paperwork. Allowing employees to fill out and submit time sheets, vacation requests, and expense reimbursements from their mobile devices speeds the process. Letting managers provide approvals the same way frees them to use their time more effectively. In some cases, this faster pace can lower costs.
More than half of US and European businesses already allow personally owned devices to access a secure corporate network, according to a 2010 report from Forrester Research. Nicknamed “superphones,” the latest smartphones are just too powerful – and popular – to keep out of the enterprise. In other words, even more information workers will be carrying even more powerful phones – and using them on the job, with or without encouragement.
Twenty-three percent of workers who use smartphones at work claim their device was personally selected and purchased, and is not on their company’s list of IT-supported devices. Either way, it is imperative that enterprises protect the information on the devices by having a bullet-proof strategy in place including mobile security policies and functions, security-aware employees, and a comprehensive set of mobile device management tools. Such investments will have an immediate impact on the mobile operations of the business in question – businesses simply can’t procrastinate on mobility any more.
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