A recent study indicated that only 14% of tablet experiences and 13% of smartphone experiences are personalized. Why are these numbers so low? The concept of personalization has been in play for quite a while, and some mobile websites do a great job of tracking interests and making recommendations, with Amazon probably being the best example. Although in fairness, they are in a nearly perfect position to drive personalization. They have a vast product offering and tons of data to work from; most of their recommendations are driven by a collaborative filtering engine (people like you bought stuff like this) that is continuously being refined via billions of transactions. They are arguably the market leader at addressing the “what” of marketing, perhaps less so at the more critical question: “why?”, which is what drives deep personalization. If they are the market leader for “what” personalization technology, and they’re struggling with “why”, you can well imagine what little has been done by other sites. What’s up with Why?
The “why” of mobile personalization requires a more nuanced interpretation of consumer behavior, and one of the potential benefits of mobility is that it can add that layer of nuance. Why? Because unlike desktops, the mobile device (specifically a smartphone) is always with the consumer, and always on. As mobile devices become more powerful and useful, we’ve come to rely on them almost continuously, and that heavy usage is where the subtleties that can address “why” come into play. I may shop at Amazon once or twice per week, but I am on my phone pretty much non-stop in one form or another.
So what is holding back personalization on a mobile device? Everyone (correctly) expects a rich and relevant experience when surfing from a desktop, but what happens when you move to that cool gadget in your pocket? There are several antecedent questions:
First, what kind of device? Tablet or smartphone? Which operating system and which release? Which browser and which release? What’s the screen size? Are your email messages and associated landing pages optimized for a mobile experience, or do you cram a PC site onto a mobile device (you’d be surprised how often this happens)?
Second, what data can you capture? Do you have a history of the user’ interaction with your brand? Have they opted in to having personal data collected? Have they bought from you before or are they a newbie? Are you able to track their movement through the funnel and map your messages to match their stage of interest?
Third, what do you do with the data? Are you able to tease out attribution? Assuming a multi-touch campaign (which applies to all non-impulse purchases), how do you know which ad exposure was the tipping point? Or does the last touch get all the credit? Knowing exactly what worked is incredibly valuable information for future initiatives designed to create those moments of serendipity that can delight your customers.
Fourth, how do you manage the complete customer lifecycle? Regardless of what you’re selling, customers will buy more that one of your product (exception: caskets). Marketing is not a process with a beginning and end, it’s a continuous loop of replacements and upgrades. Knowing how to cultivate a long term relationship can add multiple zeros to your bottom line.
So the why of mobility is not just about the device, it’s about the contextual use of the device, the contextual framework of underlying data and what is done with it that can lead to as rich an experience as you’d expect on a desktop, translated to a mobile device. It is the confluence of mobility and social media where “why” will really come into its own; consumers pouring the minutia of their lives online, then accessing it via an always on device. It is, as you can see, complex, subject to rapidly changing dynamics, and requires skills that are still beyond the grasp of most companies (particularly SMBs). However, the first company to figure out how to address “why” at scale is where the next crop of billionaires is likely come from.
One of the challenges of working in the technology industry is being enveloped in the skewed perspective that everyone takes your technology as seriously as you do. I’ve spent years working with (among other things) mobile technology, and its use is so pervasive within that sub-domain, that the assumption is every other company in every other domain is taking it as seriously.
The truth is that mobile technology is still in a state of relative youth (not infancy, but not yet pubescent). As you would expect, some sectors have adopted and deployed very rapidly, some are being cautious, and others are clueless or indifferent. So here is the problem; even in those sectors with rapid adoption, the actual deployment is still not driven by the right perspective. There is so much noise in the media on mobile technology that is creates a sense of urgency without a clear understanding of the motivations—“Quick! Act now before it’s too late!” – Everyone jumps, but no one ask how exactly, or more importantly, why?
There is a rush in the B2C space to move to all things mobile (App or HTML5? Geo-location data? What about Behavioral Targeting? Which browser? etc.). The fundamental question should be “How will this technology accelerate our existing business initiatives?” Assuming a big, well-run company to begin with, how does the extension of a mobile channel affect the core business model? One of the challenges with this is there is not much historical or anecdotal evidence to fall back on, everyone is figuring this out as they go along. This is not necessarily bad, we did the same thing a few years earlier when the world wide web suddenly became friendly thanks to Mosaic, and eventually things settled and new ecosystems sprung up. It did take about 10-12 years for the market to stabilize, and that is likely to be the case here.
While mobile technology has been around for quite a while, mobile data (as in smart phones) is a lot more recent, so the expectation that current mobile technology will have an immediate and positive impact on business operations is misplaced. It will have some positive effect, as people exploit the convenience of mobility, but to leverage the truly transformation aspects of mobility will take time, since it requires a fundamental and long-term shift in underlying business models. This is not something that happens quickly in larger companies, regardless of adoption rates or media hype. It is, however, a given that this technology is now permanent and embedded, so it will require all business to rethink the fundamental nature of how they work day to day; mobility is not a strategic imperative anymore, it is, in fact, quite tactical, which makes it far more important.
It’s interesting to note that Microsoft has FINALLY stepped into the tablet space with a product that could in theory compete against the iPad juggernaut. It’s particularly interesting that they are offering two flavors of “Surface” (the current brand for the tablet entry), one is an ARM-based machine with a form factor very similar to an iPad (small, thin, and consumption oriented, although oddly enough, it includes the Office Suite), and a second slightly heavier machine that is closer to a MacBook Air.
Will they succeed? Probably, but not at the expense of Apple. Any gains made by these machines will come out of Android’s hide. Why? Because Apple has always aimed at the high end of the market, they never have been/never will be interested in the mass market, where Android is running wild. If you go by the hype, you’d think Apple is completely dominating the mobile device market. They’re not. Android in all it’s permutations has taken over that space by a significant margin, and Apple has once again painted itself into a gilded corner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s hard to argue with one of the richest, most successful companies on the planet.
Microsoft’s strength has always been in the office, their dominance there makes Apple look like a distant spec on the horizon, the “consumerization of IT” notwithstanding. This product rollout is a good extension for them, a lot of people were moving to iPads because there wasn’t a viable alternative, and while the iPad is cool and fun, it is not something I would use for work, aside from checking e-mail. Android as an alternative is simply too fragmented and the market too chaotic. Businesses thrive in a market with predictable rules, and Android does not offer anything like that. However, Microsoft does, and that alone is likely to tip the market solidly in their favor. This could be similar to what happened when IE entered the market late, and in the long run it made zero difference. The fact that Microsoft has re-entered the hardware space and is now competing against it’s old buds like HP and Samsung will probably not matter much in the long run either. The compelling event is always software driven, so the success of this foray is just a matter of entering the market with an integrated stack that plays to their strengths, which this clearly does.
I was recently working on a long range planning exercise, and one of the issues I was asked to address was where the market for mobility was likely to be by the year 2020? Given my normal hard-core focus on getting product out the door ASAP, asking where the market is going to be almost a decade away made me shake my head and say “huh?” I sat back and started thinking about this, and the more I thought about it the more interesting the process became. Maybe the first step in deciding where we’ll be in ten years is to compare where we are now relative to ten years ago.
The Mobile Communications Phase
For the sake of convenience, let’s call it the year 2000. Everyone had cell phones, but they were feature phones, not smartphones. People were adjusting to being able to make phone calls at any time, from nearly any location (and at the time, that was pretty cool). RIM was making pagers, not phones, and the iPhone/iPad juggernaut was still seven years away from breaking the surface. This was very much the Mobile Communications Phase. A lot has obviously happened since then; RIM introduced the Blackberry, and suddenly phones became far more useful, Apple eventually rolled out the iPhone, and mobile phones went from useful to way cool almost overnight. It also ushered in the next phase, which is where we are now.
The Mobile Information Phase
Now that were into the second decade of the 21st century, we have clearly evolved from the Mobile Communications Phase to the Mobile Information Phase. We now go through life surrounded by infinite knowledge, and all we need to do to access it is swipe our finger on a small piece of glass. There are lots of vendors pushing into this space, with the most serious traction going to Apple and Samsung. People are still getting used to the idea of instant knowledge, regardless of where they are, and it is fundamentally changing our cultural epistemology. So given where we are, where are we headed?
The number of smartphones in active use is not likely to increase much beyond where it is, this is simply a function of how many people there are to buy/use a smartphone (which is to say, mobile device growth at some point will start to correlate more closely to population growth). We are currently at around 7 billion humans, and somewhere around 6 billion + mobile devices. By 2020 there will be around 7.6 billion of us, and so the number of devices in use is not going to increase that much, but there will be lots of upgrades as new devices continue to roll out, (I mean, who won’t want the iPhone15 or iPad10?).
The number of tablets will increase considerably, of course tablets are coming off a much smaller base than smartphones, so the upside is more significant. What could be more interesting is the development of a smartphone/tablet hybrid; what if you can change the size of your smartphone to accommodate specific business or entertainment needs? When you open up a laptop now, you effectively double the surface area you’re working with, what if you could do that twice on a smartphone (that is, 4X the surface area)? Unfold your smartphone twice, and you’re holding a tablet. There’s lot of hardware based permutations possible, and I expect people will tire of carrying around two devices when one hybrid can do the trick. But the real growth area, the real future of mobility is something else entirely.
The Mobile Environment Phase
If the first phase was Mobile Communications, and the second phase is Mobile Information, the next phase will be the Mobile Environment. By environment I mean anything you can touch, see, sense on any level will become an enabler of the mobile life. This will be driven by the integration of a much more massive ecosystem which already has over a trillion elements in play; specifically wireless devices, including sensors, RFID chips, grid networks, etc. The machine to machine space is a much bigger opportunity in the long run, and is also part of the mobile ecosystem. If you can stick a chip in it, you can give it an IP address, and you can mobilize it and analyze it. This can literally be applied to nearly anything, as well as to the component elements of anything; examples could include:
Transportation: you don’t just track a rail car, you track the pressure on the spring assembly, you separately track wear and tear on ball bearings, rail line wear, etc. Your automobile will be riddled with sensors which speak to each other on a continuous basis as you drive around, with the express intention of protecting you. They will also speak to other cars to avoid hazardous conditions, e.g water pooled on third lane of 280 southbound by Page Mill Road—cars approaching this location will automatically slow down, in fact BMW is already testing prototypes of this.
Consumer Packaged Goods: You walk into a grocery store, your iPhone15 uses location based services to know exactly where you are (Safeway) and automatically sends a request to your refrigerator to ping the food inside (hey milk, are you fresh?). The milk carton has an RFID tag with a sensor that tracks date of packaging, and knows that it expired yesterday (why no, refrigerator, I’m not fresh at all). Orange juice, on the other hand, tells the fridge it’s okay. The refrigerator sends a message back to the iPhone telling you what exactly to buy based on what you need to update, you drop everything into a cart, and walk right out of the store, since all the groceries have RFID tags, no need to check out, it happens automatically as you exit past a scanner, and the information is sent through your iPhone, to your bank to debit your account.
Health Services: We have an aging boomer population, and (unfortunately) a statistically significant population that will be susceptible to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s that require close supervision. Bracelets with RFID chips that contain the users complete medical history, including up to the moment medication doses, will become a standard part of care protocol. Furthermore, location-based technology can be used to know exactly where grandma wandered off to, and perimeter alerts can be set up to keep her from straying too far. Doctors can do a much more efficient job of remote diagnostics by analyzing small fluid samples in portable devices that can transmit data into a patient database that correlates across a vast array of clinical, historical, and personal data and provides the optimal solution to the patients current care requirements.
These are, of course, quick examples, there is a vast adjacent set of opportunities in both collaboration and analytics which will be executed through the enterprise and their associated supply chain, which I will address in a future blog.
No sooner had Jeff Beezos publicly introduced the new Kindle Fire than commentators began dissecting it and making bold predictions.
Some insist that it is an iPad killer based on price point alone. Others believe it has carved out a new space and will succeed by enlarging the tablet market rather than cutting into iPad’s share.
Regardless of how the increasingly competitive tablet market plays out over the coming years, recent developments have revealed some interesting aspects of the tablet market that may be lessons for corporate IT decision makers. Consider that the prices of main-stream mobile devices are dropping. Although Kindle Fire has fewer features than the iPad, it has essential features for quickly viewing a wide range of image, video, and text based information. And at $199, the device is practically disposable.
This downward price trend is also true for high end smartphones. When iPhones first came to market four years ago, they sold for $599 (for the 8Gig of memory model). Within a few years the price point for high end phones settled in to the $200 to $300 range with a contract. However every new smartphone model comes with more computing power (including dual-core processors for the new generation), more memory, and other new features its predecessor did not have. This makes the new phones more serviceable devices for the same price.
Another interesting insight into pricing of mobile devices comes from HP as it lurches forward in search of a vision. When HP announced it was getting out of the tablet business and dropped the price its unpopular TouchPad from $379 to $99, it set off a mind boggling buying frenzy. Some observers noted that price matters.
Jeff Beezos suggests the success of tablet devices depends on the information services behind them (and in an earlier blog, I had made a similar observation, context can be a driving force). The iPad currently dominates the tablet market with a rich applications store and iTunes. Amazon’s Kindle Fire comes to market with books, streaming video, Android’s application marketplace, and a different kind of browsing technology that is supposed to accelerate access to internet based information. Other tablet makers have largely failed because information is not part of the offering. It is the information behind the device that matters perhaps more than the device itself, or as I have said in the past, the compelling event is the app.
One lesson here that is relevant to mobility in business is that the devices themselves are not so important. In fact devices are becoming so cheap and so functional that device adoption decisions are more like non-decisions. What makes these devices valuable is their relationship to corporate information. What applications will they run? What back-end data is available to workers? How can mobile workers use their devices to augment the data everyone on the organization depends upon? These are the real questions.
My mom always said, “It’s really worth getting along with your neighbors”. And my father would counter, “Good fences make good neighbors”. As valuable as these two conflicting bits of advice are relative to life in general, they are equally trenchant when it comes to a problem that nearly all enterprise mobile device ecosystems are going to face. In an enterprise mobile ecosystem of user supplied devices, enterprise apps and data will very likely be sharing space and resources with various kinds of personal content.
Initially, the concerns that arise from this consideration will have to do with availability of device resources, and it could be something as simple as “Will the device owner take so many pictures or videos with the onboard camera that there won’t be enough memory left for mobile business apps to function effectively?”. While introducing elements of uncertainty and the possibility that exceptional conditions will arise, these types of constraints are things app designers can work around if they are aware the potential for problems exists. Today, however, we are on the threshold of some dramatically more complex issues. Softpedia News reports that 87% of Wi-Fi Smartphones will support 802.11n in 2014.
Ubiquitous Wi-Fi in smartphones means that mobile devices will take a primary role in serving interactive content like multiplayer online gaming, streaming video and audio, and providing users with personal access to web-based assets like email and social media. Given this, it is very likely that some of the next generation mobile app neighbors will prove rambunctious. Because users own devices, and in many cases, pay for connectivity themselves, enterprise mobile apps that piggy back on these platforms have to toe a blurry line in terms of how much control they can exercise over a device and how many of its resources they can permanently co-opt. On the one hand it would be unreasonable to deny a user access to her own device or its feature set; On the other hand, enterprise mobile apps have to be able to:
• Operate with enough security to protect the privacy of sensitive data
• Operate robustly enough to ensure transactions are complete and validated
• Maintain sufficient contact with enterprise back end data repositories so they present the mobile worker with timely and accurate business intelligence
And not only do they have to be able to accomplish all of these objectives, they have to do so in a consistent fashion across a variety of mobile device hosts. Enterprise ready mobile strategy for a diverse population of Wi-Fi capable user devices demands a safe and durable sandbox in which enterprise mobile apps can live and function, without either unnecessarily impinging on their neighbors or being trampled by them.
I just spent several days in Las Vegas at TechWave, and was fortunate to be able to spend some time with some of our early adopter mobility customers. The fact that they are on the leading edge of mobility adoption means these are customers who have already show the foresight to be thinking strategically. One of the areas that came up consistently was how to find new and more effective ways to accumulate data that profiles customers, buying patterns, and up-selling/cross-selling opportunities, particularly for enterprises that have a B2C emphasis. Many savvy marketing thinkers are already at work developing best practices for mobile marketing and associated metrics. However, what may be missing from many enterprise plans for developing tactical and strategic business intelligence based on mobile device data is an appreciation of the subtle opportunities implicit in mobile user diversity.
Customer facing mobile apps are more than just a way to reach consumers in the right place and at the right time with buying incentives. They are also a tool for finding out what is happening in a given brand’s community right now.
Think of it in these terms; there will never be an opportunity to see a fresher view of customer sentiment and motivation than the one harvested from mobile device users engaged with your brand, because unlike desktop and laptop users, mobile device users have an implicit context in location and time. The immediacy of this context goes a long way toward bridging the gap between marketing data and business intelligence. The distinction is significant, because while data is useful, intelligence is something I can use to make decisions.
However, because it is based on dynamic data, business intelligence that is location or temporally driven tends to have a very short shelf-life. This is why it is crucial to architect mobile solutions that integrate well with existing business intelligence infrastructure. As an example, if an IT architect is trying to build out mobile business process support, what they absolutely don’t want to see in their enterprise mobile solution portfolio is a collection of standalone mobile apps that are captive in line-of-business silos. Mobile apps should be able to readily move their data to backend systems that aggregate and propagate information to additional business areas that could or should respond to changing conditions. Like mobility, analytics is endemic to an enterprise ecosystem and should be leveraged across all functions and processes.
An enterprise ready mobile strategy should integrate cleanly and securely with existing data management infrastructure, be able to operate across traditional lines of responsibility and enhance customer engagement opportunities. In essence, this is one of the defining qualities of a mobile enterprise application platform. Like enterprise apps and devices, developing and managing business intelligence is a job that demands holistic business process architectures.
This also begs the broader question, how expansive a definition of mobility and associated analytics should be factored into your planning? There are over 6 billion mobile devices in play globally, which is a pretty big number by any standards, but there are over 1 trillion wireless devices out there, all gathering data on a continuous basis. If you can stick a chip in it, you can give it an IP address, so this is not just about the consumer, it is about everything the consumer interacts with, all of which ties into gaining a more nuanced and actionable perspective of how to anticipate customer requirements. While the confluence of mobility and analytics offers a vast confluence of opportunity, we are barely seeing the tip of the iceberg.
A recent article appearing on the Forbes online magazine web site (Google Buys Motorola Mobility…And So Begins The Dark Ages) suggests that Google’s gobbling of Motorola Mobility is one more sign that the Microsoft Empire, which has so dominated client computing over the past 20 years, is disintegrating. The “Pax Microsoft” is being done in by barbarians who are aligning their mobile software and hardware strategies to create competing camps with devices and applications that are incompatible. Instead of managing a monolithic device infrastructure dominated by one operating system (Windows), businesses will need to contend with a range that includes Android, iOS, RIM and Symbian, which account for nearly 90% of the mobility market (although that market makeup is also shifting with incredible speed). According to the view put forward by the Forbes article, this will be bad for businesses who rely on software for their operations, and it will be bad for software innovation.
The article argues that although Google claims to be only interested in Motorola’s patent portfolio, it is just a matter of time before they start favoring Motorola devices over all others. This argument ignores that fact that Google’s highly profitable business is based on ad revenue, not hardware and software sales (indeed, the Android operating system software is free). One might further question why Google would shift its attention from its highly profitable ad revenue (which is made possible by Android being on as many different mobile devices from as many different phone manufacturers as possible) to very low margin phone sales. Given Google’s relentless focus on profits, they are not likely to make that kind of trade. In fact, there is considerable incentive for them to keep their new hardware business completely separate from their search and advertising business (at least that’s the theory).
However setting that question aside, is the larger point of the article valid? Will having multiple competing mobile operating systems and devices herald a new “dark ages” for business software development?
Short version? Nope.
The FUD here is that the cost of supporting four or more operating systems will be so expensive that companies will either standardize around one (which risks making them incompatible with their partners or tying their fortunes to technology that could become obsolete), or they will need to support apps across a range of operating systems and be forced to limit their new software investments to small, low-function applications. Either way, innovation is stifled.
This would seem to be a logical conclusion. However it is based on the assumption that the cost of software development remains the same, and building an application to run on four different devices is four times more expensive than building it once. That, however, is not the case. New enterprise application development platforms (like the Sybase Unwired Platform, or SUP) are simplifying mobile application development. By delivering a standards based framework for creating mobile enterprise applications, platforms such as SUP make it easier and less expensive to build rich applications with a native look and feel, while tapping in to the vast ecosystem of web development talent, and at the same time breathe new life into existing server-based business applications. The fact is, the cost of building applications and managing complex device environments is dropping fast, which is one reason there is so much demand for business mobility these days.
It’s hard to predict the future, but here’s another way to look at recent trends in mobility: breaking the Microsoft virtual monopoly on client business systems could be a huge breath of fresh air for the industry.
Frankly, the flood of mobile devices and applications that are coming into the work place, and the efficiencies they are providing to business operations, is looking more like the start of a new golden age rather than an entire industry slouching toward the dark ages. To be successful in this new age, businesses need to adopt a mobility strategy that is device agnostic. Devices are commodities, software is what makes them useful (I mean, nobody buys an iPhone just to make phone calls, right?). Businesses should focus on a mobility strategy that enables them to build software they can easily port to whatever device is most suitable to the task at hand (or if nothing else, the latest shiny object). That way they can take full advantage of the latest commodity hardware while investing in deeper software functionality.
Another interesting bit of news hit the wires this morning, with the announcement that Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility for a cool $12.5 billion. The surface level reasoning seems to revolve around Google getting their hands on Motorola’s extensive IP portfolio (17,000+ issued patents, plus another 7000+ pending patents). Since Google “controls” Android as a mobility OS, it’s become embroiled in an endless series of patent disputes with Apple and others of their ilk. Rolling in 17K worth of IP is a nice little ammo upgrade, but this clearly seems like a defensive move on Google’s part.
The far more interesting slant on this, however, is that the acquisition moves Google (with zero ambiguity) directly into the hardware business. So does this mean that the big brains at Google see hardware as a potential growth market? By controlling Android and buying Motorola Mobility, they now enter that exclusive club of companies that not only license an OS, but are also an OEM. This has to be significantly disruptive to their existing ecosystem, how could it not be? The commentary from Android licensees such as Samsung and HTC was polite, but it was likely delivered through gritted teeth.
The real question is how is Google going to keep bias from entering the system? There are over 500,000 Android phones being activated every day, but this blistering activation rate is spread out across 39 manufacturers. Since every OEM does their own little permutation of Android, the end user experience varies widely, which is pretty much the exact opposite of Apples tightly controlled gilded ecosystem. Google will continue to claim an agnostic approach (of course), but for 12.5 billion it is not unreasonable to assume that Motorola will get to cut in line when new shiny objects come out of the Google pipe. Where does this leave the big Android OEMs, specifically Samsung and HTC? It is now highly likely they will give Windows Phone a much finer scrutiny, since Microsoft is now pretty much the only hardware agnostic player left.
From an enterprise mobility perspective this is interesting, but probably won’t have much impact on the transformative drivers for adoption; the devices that are broadly used are limited in terms of the number of suppliers, and we work very closely with all of them. In addition, the contextual framework is becoming very apps centric (and we have a strong story for that as well), and the impact of the acquisition on that is likely to be limited as well.
I just spotted an interesting article that says a lot about where mobility is headed in the enterprise; “CEO Jeffrey Immelt Adds Technology Jobs in U.S. as Outsourcing Is Shaved” - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-08/immelt-adds-technology-jobs-in-u-s-as-ge-shaves-outsourcing.html).
The article points out that large companies like GE and GM, which were leaders in outsourcing technology jobs, are now reversing the trend and bringing those jobs back in house. GE is specifically cited as adding 1,100 new IT jobs at technology center near Detroit. What’s driving this change? As Charlene Begley (CIO of GE) tells it, “With iPads and whatever mobile devices people want to use, the need for better user experiences is essential to competitiveness. So we’ve got a team that’s really good at writing user applications that are sexy, impressive, and quick.”
It seems that application development, and particularly the ability to quickly create compelling mobile applications that respond to technology changes and business needs, is becoming a core competency for GE’s competitiveness. Although business mobility is not the focus of the article, it seems to me what GE and others are doing underscores how far mobility has come in a few short years. Just a few years ago we were debating the risks and cost benefits. Now for GE and many others, today’s reality is defined by these points:
• For these companies, mobility is becoming strategically critical inside the enterprise;
• Mobile apps are increasingly driving operations that constitute the enterprise’s unique competitive advantages;
• These companies now see these apps as too critical and proprietary to outsource;
• These companies are putting a premium on quick in-house development of new mobile apps.
These points suggest a trend toward mobility in which companies increasingly rely on mobile applications to manage business critical operations. It also suggests how important it has become for them to be able to rapidly develop new apps to meet business needs. This is actually very consistent with the message we’ve been pushing with the Sybase Unwired Platform, particularly with the announcement in May of the Hybrid Web Container, which expands the mobile app development pool from device –specific talent to web talent for creating rich applications across a variety of mobile devices. This is a great example of market validation of a trend we’ve been working with for several years, and underscores the critical importance of mobility to competitive success.
We’re starting to see increasing clarity in the conceptual framework that is driving the transformational aspects of mobility. I am referring to the strategic arc of mobility that is triggered by the platform and applications components becoming more tightly integrated as adoption across the enabling ecosystem begins to accelerate and mature.
Sybase has always been the dominant presence in mobile device management, but we are quickly evolving towards a more comprehensive model that includes not only management of the device, but the applications that run on the device, including a rapidly expanding suite of mobile applications under development at SAP. The take up of mobility in the enterprise is moving so quickly, that we are now expanding our footprint to go beyond not only managing the device and the applications on it, but to actually provisioning and configuring the applications on the device through Afaria. Why move in this direction?
When you’re downloading a single app to a single device, it is generally not a terribly complex process, even if it’s a business application. The triggering event occurs when IT finds itself having to download dozens of applications to thousands of devices. This is not only an expansion in scale, it is also an expansion in scope. Rather than being a device based application, these applications are intended to access complex back-end data sources, and as such require a non-trivial amount of configuration before they can be used. This is, of course, beyond the abilities of non-technical end users (which is most of us), and before we moved to automate this process, it could take up to 30 minutes to set up one app on one device. What happens when there are 5000 devices that need configuration of a dozen apps? To address this need, we are now including libraries on the device that contain configuration instructions that are specific to the employee and the governance policies that apply to them. But then how do you actually get 5000 copies of an application out at once?
This leads to the next logical evolution that will accelerate the transformation of the enterprise; the rise of the corporate apps store. You can buy applications now for iOS devices through iTunes, you can buy Android apps through the Android store, carriers have their own apps stores, as do the device manufacturers, etc. This is actually fine for the end user as a consumer, since for the most part people have one type of smart phone and one type of tablet. It is not, however, fine from an IT perspective when dealing with the end-user as an employee. IT requires visibility, control, and transparency of use across a broad range of devices, particularly when the applications on the device are used to access high value back-end data sources. The concept of an enterprise specific apps store that recognizes the employee’s mobile information requirements and configuration parameters, offers them exactly what they need, and delivers it effortlessly to the device is the next logical step in the true mobilization of the enterprise.
Last week SAP hosted a 31 hour code-a-thon referred to as the SAP Mobility InnoJam. The event included 24 developers from 12 customers and partners, all of whom are front and center in moving their companies towards widespread adoption of mobility via the Sybase Unwired Platform. If you want the blow by blow detail, you can get the skinny from Stan Stadelman’s blog, found here. The point I want to make is not about the specific applications that were developed in a matter of hours (not months or weeks—hours), but more importantly, the scope of the participation and what it implies. Participation covered several industries, and included companies such as Nvidia, Hewlett Packard, eBay, Genentech, Intel, Applied Materials as well as several others. This event provided not only breadth of participation across a range of verticals, it was also populated by companies that are dominating their specific industries, and that dominance is about to go turbo.
The implications of what they just did. Applications development (whether waterfall or agile) is something that is traditionally measured by quarterly-based deliverables (in Q3 we will have this release(s), with these features, etc.). That whole model just got turned on its head by the introduction of the Hybrid Web Container (part of the Sybase Unwired Platform), which was the development framework for the InnoJam.
There are incremental technology improvements, then there are products that create an inflection point for an entire industry. One of the gating factors for mobile application development has been the need for device specific development skill sets. If you want to build apps on an iPhone, you need to know Objective C, as well as xCode. If you also want to develop on an Android device, you need to start completely over in terms of your development skill set. This is an adequate development model, but it puts steep limits on the available talent pool for mobile device development. On the other hand, you have this vast ecosystem of web developers (outnumbering device developers 10 to 1), who have been watching the mobility juggernaut pass them by.
Mobile technology, perhaps more than any other type of technology, is driven by the compelling nature of the application being accessed. As cool as iPhones are, people buy then to get access to the apps, not to make phone calls. The compelling event is the app, not the device. With this new capability, Sybase has not only shortened the development cycle by a huge margin, we’ve also opened the floodgates to a vast increase in mobilized applications, which will in turn drive broader and faster adoption of mobility across the enterprise and their associated supply chains.
There is a lot more noise in the press recently about hacker groups such as Lulzsec and Anonymous breaking into sites such as PBS, the CIA, and most recently the Arizona Department of Public Safety. One of the upsides of this increased noise level is that a lot of companies are talking a longer, harder look at their site security, and one of the offshoots of that is focusing on the potential security risks associated with mobile devices. Why? Because more often than not, websites are being accessed from a mobile device, rather than a fixed point device. So this triggers a couple of unsettling questions. Are mobile devices more susceptible to hacking? Are tablets a more attractive target than smartphones? Is this even an issue, or is this more media hype? If it’s not hype, who’s at risk?
First, this is not hype. While the overall incidence of attacks has not gone up much, the hacker groups are noisier (braggier) so it seems like more is going on. However, in addition, the pattern seems to be expanding to include smartphones and tablets. People have historically understood the need for security on their PC; most of the time some sort of security software is actually included when you buy your PC, and this has been going on long enough that it’s become part of the background noise of the technology landscape. However, people look at their iPhone, or Android device, and see a phone. So here is the problem: those are not phones. Referring to them as smartphones is a misnomer, they are not phones, they are computers that happen to be able to make phone calls, and conveniently fit in your pocket, just like a phone. People are making a huge mistake if they think they don’t need to secure the device in their pocket. This also applied to tablets. Why? Same operating system. There are slight variants between the iOS on an iPhone and an iPad, but its basically the same OS. Same thing with Android devices from manufacturers that offer a range of form factors, smartphones to tablets-all running effectively the same version of Android OS. If you want to exploit a computer, go in through an application (usually assisted by the user clicking on a suspect link), which provides access to the OS, and start hacking away. Same exact process works on a mobile device, the main difference being that the majority of PCs are secured, and the majority of smartphones and tablets are not. Think this will be a problem?
So who is more at risk, the consumer, or the enterprise? It depends on the intention of the hacker. If it a denial of service type of thing, then the enterprise is a tempting target; look at Sony’s month-long spank-a-thon. This is effectively macho posturing by the hackers, who target high profile sites to show their “prowess”. If it’s a straightforward identity theft type of thing, then the devices themselves provide a nice gateway to the goodies normally found in sites accessed by a mobile device, such as on-line banking or Facebook (which is now more frequently accessed by mobile devices than by PCs). Given the strategic arc of access to on-line information resources (6 billion mobile devices in play, and counting), this will become a significant issue, and we would be well served to get ahead of it as quickly as we can. If you are an enterprise, and you provide your employees mobile access to company information resources, you HAVE to secure those devices, and I mean right now. If you are a consumer, it is very much in your interest to talk to your carrier about what options they offer for securing the device. You wouldn’t leave your house or car unlocked, right? And yet, its highly likely that your mobile device, which can provide access to all sorts of things that would be of interest to a hacker, is sitting there, wide open.
The pervasive trends of mobile computing and data analytics are rapidly approaching a point of singularity, and when combined, these technologies will prove to be transformative on an unprecedented scale.
Analytics is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the reanimating effect of mobile computing. Accessing complex data sets on a pocket-sized device forces an extreme prioritization of information, creating a layer of abstraction and haiku-like interpretation that is permanently redefining how we interact with information resources. Because this new framework is particularly compelling for data visualization, we can expect massive,game-changing shifts in the presentation of analytic data in the near future.
For example, sales managers will have access to real-time performance data— in a succinct, mobilized roll-up — that can help them optimize sales and marketing strategies on the fly. Organizations that understand the mechanics of this transformation and that act quickly to leverage the rising tide of mobile analytics will wield a severe and effective weapon.
Changing the Face of Data
With so much media emphasis on the growth of mobile computing, it would be easy to miss the even faster growth occurring in the analytics space. Analytics is driven by data, and the amount of data available for analysis is increasing at a staggering rate. For example, RFID tags that once tracked the number of pallets in a container now track each unit of product individually. Meanwhile, 500 million Facebook users upload a daily barrage of personal minutiae that is subsequently forwarded and re-forwarded ad infinitum. Fueled by trends like these, massive increases in data volume are providing unlimited fodder for analytic applications.
Mobile technology isn’t just changing the presentation side of data; it is changing the lifecycle of enterprise data as well. If automating a process changes it, mobilizing it changes it even more. Mobilizing a workflow improves the operation of that workflow, making it faster and more efficient. Thousands of workflows are within every enterprise and hundreds more are within every supply chain and distribution channel. The raw potential for transformation would be difficult to overestimate.
Raising the Value of Business Processes
Over the long term, advances in mobile analytics will provide much better visibility and transparency into how an enterprise is performing in realtime. Mobile access will mean managers will access key performance indicators (KPIs) more frequently. But more importantly, advances in data display will mean the KPIs will provide better performance insight. In the short term, there are likely to be some complexities as the back-end systems that hold the data are integrated into the middleware and front-end where access to the information is controlled, but in the long run, this is clearly a rising-tide effect.
While improved data quality is the real objective of these mobilized analytic applications, speed will be another benefit. Making BI metrics available to workers at virtually any moment of the day will increase performance efficiency across the organization and improve response time for downstream processes. Moreover, providing critical performance data at the point of decision vastly increases the value of the process to the enterprise.
These changes will be felt not only inside the organization but by customers as well. A well-informed worker or workgroup is in a better position to provide timely and relevant customer support, which can only have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.
Changing the State of the Art
Current mobile analytic offerings are simple extensions of desktop BI platforms, which enable a user to consume an existing desktop report or dashboard on a mobile device. These first-generation mobile analytic products are a step in the right direction, but they fail to seize the opportunities that mobilized enterprise data creates. They offer the same old reports on a small form factor.
The next generation of business intelligence applications will attempt to optimize the visualization of complex data in a limited space. Brevity will be essential; between the increasing amounts of data available for analysis and the smaller display space to visualize the data, we should see some interesting and innovative shifts in interpretation.
Once they hit the business mainstream, these second-generation mobile analytic tools will have the effect of democratizing business intelligence; making precise, real-time data available to a wide variety of business users at any given moment. Organizations that move quickly (and we mean right now) will enjoy a competitive advantage that could take their entire enterprise to a whole new level of performance.
To earn the first-mover advantage, enterprises need to prime their IT infrastructures today so that future mobile application deployments can happen swiftly and securely. Business and IT leaders need to envision a fully mobilized future, including a clear understanding of how internal processes are likely to change when mobilized. They must decide how they will secure their mission-critical enterprise data, and set their governance policies accordingly.
A mobile enterprise application platform is a proactive IT strategy that can help enterprises reap the full potential of mobilized data. Because it fully integrates with existing enterprise applications and data, a platform will enable the next generation of mobile analytics to blur the lines between transactions, analytics and collaboration. Organizations that adopt this strategy will be well positioned to provide the mobile workforce with context-aware decision-support capabilities that provide insight to judicious action — all done in real time, and from anywhere.
The next step will be to undertake a strict prioritization of data. Looking at business intelligence data on a four-inch screen moves visualization to the top of the queue. IT and business analysts must focus on the crux of the data and know which data sets will provide the most value once mobilized.
The corporations our children will work in will be unrecognizable compared to the ones we know today. Business as we know it will move much faster, with pervasive group dynamics that adjust in real time to massive, dynamic information flows. It is our privilege to experience the origin of this exciting future as it emerges from the alchemy of mobile communication and staid, unsexy mobile analytics.
1) Mobility is already in your enterprise, you need to manage and direct it. This may seem obvious, but then again, perhaps it isn’t. Look around your company, and see if you can find one person who doesn’t have a smartphone. While you’re at it, check out how many folks have bellied up to the mobile bar and ordered themselves a tablet. Mobile devices are all over your enterprise, whether you realize it or not. If you don’t get ahead of this now, you’ll never catch up. Time to start managing.
2) A mobile workforce is far more responsive and productive than a static workforce. Workers who have instant access to the information they need, regardless of where they are, are by definition more responsive (and therefore more productive), whether it’s dealing with their peers, management, partners, etc.
3) A mobilized workforce can provide a stronger customer experience. Do you like having your calls returned quickly? Of course you do, who doesn’t? Making your employees mobile (and informed) makes them far more responsive to customer needs, and happy customers are always a good thing.
4) Mobilizing workers will increase their output. Because your employees will have more convenient access to work they need to do anyway, they’re also more likely to keep up. This creates higher output without adding more stress.
5) Mobilizing workgroups will exponentially increase output. See #4 above. If one worker becomes (e.g.) twice as productive, how about the workgroup he’s a part of? Mobilizing workgroups starts adding terms like “exponential” to your output gains.
6) Mobilizing workflows will streamline and accelerate your business operations. Applying any technology to a workflow will change it (hopefully for the better). This is particularly the case for mobility, since it can be applied to nearly any workflow, in any enterprise process, in any industry.
7) Adopting mobility early will provide a significant competitive advantage. Enterprise mobility is in a land-grab state right now. Mobilizing ahead of your competition is very similar to what happened fifteen years ago when companies that were quick to set up a web presence had a huge advantage over those who didn’t. Technology-driven competitive differentiators on this scale this don’t come along that often, you should exploit this while you can.
8) Adopting mobility will increase the ROI on current enterprise applications. Most enterprise applications are designed to be accessed from a fixed point device (your PC on a LAN). Once you provide the capability to access those same apps from a mobile device, you’ve just extended the life and reach of your applications.
9) Mobility enables instant, informed decision making and action. We are entering the age of the instant expert. We are surrounded by information all the time, regardless of where we are, and any time we want it, all we need to do is swipe our finger on a relatively small piece of metal and glass (and how cool is that?). Having the right information, at the right time, enables a vast expansion of decision points (including, for example, buying your products or services).
10) You have no choice. I mean, what, you’re not going to mobilize? This isn’t even a viable alternative anymore. Everyone is already moving in this direction (and when I say everyone, I mean billions of users with billions of devices, resulting in trillions of decision points—and that’s happening right now, while you’re reading this). You can ride the mobility wave with style and elegance, or be crushed by it, those are pretty much your options.
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