Enterprise Mobility – Haven’t we always been ‘Mobile’?

Industry surveys, analyst commentary, our client and partner conversations all suggest that “Mobility” is the hottest concept in enterprise IT, possibly surpassing “cloud” which has dominated the IT agenda in recent years.  But haven’t we always been mobile?

We may be in danger of speaking about ‘Mobility’ as if its a new concept even though we’ve had mobile work styles and solutions for at least the past 20 years!  What is changing, and what we need to focus on is how technology, user demands and innovation are driving solutions that in turn drive a whole new value proposition around mobility and its application potential across a much broader area.  In doing so, we need to reset our definition of “Enterprise Mobility”

Our Mobile Journey

A mobile worker was once a “road warrior”, based from the company car, armed with only a work diary they would conduct the majority of their working week away from the office – meeting clients, taking orders and writing up notes that they would then have to process on their return  to the office and “got connected”.  This was how you achieved customer intimacy, but with glaring inefficiencies and challenges that seem so alien to us now.

True, IT mobility started in the laptop era. As hardware became more cost effective businesses could unshackle key users from a fixed office location.  Dial up RAS was the first mobile solution, as long as you were near a telephone line!  It was better, but still not efficient or flexible.  With the emergence of broadband technology and WiFi, mobile working joined the mainstream and with the prevalence of mobile phones users could be connected and contactable.  Suddenly users became mobile, productive and contactable!  The really important people were also given a Blackberry, the epitome of mobility.  

It would be difficult to say that we weren’t mobile, albeit in the early days it could be an inefficient and frustrating experience

Consumerisation: Redefining Mobility

The mobile workforce was contented, technology was enhancing and connectivity was improving as we moved into the 3G area.  Then came an explosion of consumer led technology – devices and cloud services. This moved “mobility” to the next level, and before we knew it, this technology found its way into the corporate world.

Device platforms and form factors changed, but more importantly the technology was  much simpler to operate and fashionable, and with strong connectivity it all started to come together:

We can work anywhere, on any device, and at any time

 The only lingering problem was that this was starting to occur under the radar; users were driving this trend rather than the IT department.  The term “shadow IT” was coined to define the trend, and is now explains the significant challenges facing the IT department.

Challenges and the Future

 The future mobile world is a complex mix of all of the things we’ve discussed – devices, connectivity, services, applications and data.  We want to be able to work from multiple device types, at any time, in any location and for it to be consistent and at/for our convenience.  The nature of work has also changed significantly, competition in the market, globalisation and the demands it places on employees and the strive for home/life balance and key examples where we as users have had to look towards new technology to help us “keep up” and achieve the right balance

 The demands are unprecedented, and require we architect and think about mobility in a whole new way:

  • Abstract the user and their services from the devices that they use
  • To support a much broader range of device platforms and form factors
  • Mobilise applications and data content
  • Govern, manage and secure the services to protect the company
  • Put the user needs and experience at the forefront of the design

 Those are the guiding principles by which we’re developing our Mobility and Workplace services; Mobility isn’t new, but the challenges and opportunities it now offers businesses are bigger than ever before.

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About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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