At the end of 2010, worldwide mobile subscribers reached over 5 billion, nearly 74% of the world's population. While smart phones and tablets are still in the minority of the mobile devices in use today worldwide, these products are changing both consumers' and enterprises' views of what can be accomplished with a mobile device. This rapid shift in mobile drives three trends that will forever change the business landscape.It's C2B, Not B2C
First, mobile-device and operating-system fragmentation is likely to continue unabated. Unlike Windows in the PC world, no single mobile OS will gain dominance within the next three years. Currently there are at least ten active mobile operating systems, with the major variants that include Android, Blackberry, iOS, Symbian, J2ME and Windows Mobile. While the number of operating systems will shrink over time, enterprises will be forced to manage multiple platforms, as well as a variety of constantly proliferating device types.
Second, employees are bringing their own devices into the workplace today. InformationWeek reported last fall that over 30% of the employees are using personal mobile devices in the office. The use of personal devices makes employees happier and more productive as workdays lengthen and encroach on personal time. As a result, IT organizations must revise mobile policies and deploy a set of management and security tools to support multiple platforms.
Consumer applications are built from the ground up to be mobile, and employees expect business apps to be the same. Extending desktop applications to smart phones and tablets is a retrofit and the results are less than ideal. Mobile application strategies are not about the device, nor are they about the app itself. Successful mobile initiatives focus on leveraging the benefits of mobility to improve business processes, create competitive advantage, touch a customer when they're ready to transact and enhance customer satisfaction. Mobile device users will expect the same two to three click results on business apps as they get on their consumer apps.Prescription for Success in the Mobilized World
- IT organizations need to align with line-of-business leaders and delineate the business processes that provide the greatest returns post-mobilization, the applications associated with those processes, and how the apps will function when disconnected from a network. For example, will a mobile app improve cash flow, accelerate sales, or improve customer satisfaction?
- Businesses next need to decide whether to build native or mobile Web applications. This is a complicated decision and most companies will need a combination of both. Native applications are specific to a particular mobile device and only run on that platform. Mobile web applications on the other hand are designed to run on a Browser and can therefore run on any web enabled mobile device. There are significant differences in time-to-market and each should be considered carefully.
- Before choosing an approach, enterprises should consider the pros and cons of each. Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms offer pre-built applications in areas such as field service and sales automation and typically include security and management. Mobile Development Frameworks offer an open platform that typically requires less-expensive, more readily available developers. Both product types deliver cross-platform support.
- Last, companies will need to update their Enterprise Mobility Management tools. These tools will enable organizations to manage increasingly complex mobile deployments.
2011 IS the year when more business is being conducted over mobile devices. Businesses need to recognize that C2B trends are pervasive and roll out plans that take advantage of the trends to compete in the fast-paced, mobilized market place.
About the author: James Hogan is the former CEO of SView, a provider of cloud-based services that enable enterprises to develop, integrate, deliver and manage mobile applications. Information about James can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jahogan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.