Businesses have flirted for years with making their employees more mobile, but for most companies, these good intentions have stalled at giving out BlackBerrys to executives and laptops to sales people.
In short, going mobile meant having a phone and access to email, contacts and web browsing, but little else. For laptop users, mobility has often required a virtual private network connection just to get at email or data held back at the office.
But the good news is that things are changing.
According to Forrester Research, 29 percent of the global workforce are now “anytime, anywhere information workers” who use three or more devices, while Gartner predicts that mobile app projects will outnumber PC-focused app projects by a ratio of 4:1 by 2015.
Starting this year, I believe we’ll see a rapid acceleration in the development and use of custom enterprise mobile apps, transforming the way in which organizations work. This trend will be fueled by the following key factors.
- Off-the-shelf apps will become commonplace.
- CRM and ERP vendors already offer off-the-shelf mobile apps as standard – soon, sales force automation apps will be as common as e-mail on mobile devices. This signals the maturity of packaged mobile apps, and increasingly they are gaining acceptance and credibility by delivering real improvements in business efficiency.
- The mobile ecosystem will encourage custom app development.
In parallel, more companies will develop custom mobile apps that are tailored to the specific needs of the organization, and can integrate with many types of back-end systems. This is possible because software companies are delivering powerful mobile infrastructure platforms with integrated security capabilities, such as remote wiping of data from lost devices and the ability to keep sensitive data on back-end servers.
For example, Invesco Canada quickly developed a mobile app that gives financial advisors secure access to data from a back-end client data system, and allows them to send clients marketing collateral. First Solar has built multiple enterprise mobile apps, including one that enables users to document their daily plant-floor “walk arounds” to determine what areas need improvement. For these apps to be successful; they need to both connect with multiple data sources and keep corporate information secure.
Personal infrastructure will drive corporate success With the availability and rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, especially by knowledge workers, businesses are increasingly putting BYOD policy at the heart of their mobile strategy. Companies recognize that BYOD presents a security risk and can make things harder for the IT team, but if executed correctly, these challenges can be addressed. Ultimately, the benefits of being able to work with your employees in such a deep and intimate manner – with a device that they keep by their side at nearly all times – far outweighs the costs involved.
So what does this mean for businesses?
Never before have businesses had the opportunity to interact so closely with their employees. The rise in personal infrastructure through the adoption of smartphones and tablets, along with improvements in mobile technologies and the growing availability of business apps, are creating new ways for businesses to empower their workforce.
One thing’s for sure: organizations can no longer procrastinate about mobilizing the enterprise. Taking charge of their mobile initiatives can significantly enhance productivity and positively impact the bottom-line.