The Enterprise Mobility Problem

by Brian Katz on June 5, 2014 · 1 comment

Apple upgraded itself on Monday, or so the papers say. They had their big yearly developer conference and announced a lot of interesting things. In some corners people cheered wildly, in other corners people booed and hissed, finding fault with every new feature, and then in the far corner, the enterprise folks just went about their business. It wasn’t that some of them weren’t interested, since many companies use iOS, they were interested, but only the geeky of them really cared. The rest turned away when a new device wasn’t announced. Google I/O will be in a few weeks and the scene will be repeated with only the corners changing.

shiny new smartphonesThe question needs to be asked whether these enterprises should care. The BYOD (Bring your own device) faithful will insist that the enterprises must care, as employees will use any device they fancy and they must be ready. Security will insist on it, as the new features are always new things to be blocked until the din reaches the crescendo of caring, forcing them to truly examine if an issue exists, most often it doesn’t. Yet, we let it go unsaid, in almost every corner enterprises are looking at mobility wrong, except for the few in that rarified air.

You see, mobility is this bell that all are ringing, loud and clear. They have seen the drummer and are marching to his beat, handing out smartphones and tablets left and right. Apple is cleaning up in the enterprise and Samsung is starting to make some headway for Android. It’s like an episode of Oprah, you walk into work one day and look beneath your seat and there’s a tablet or smartphone waiting. If you are really lucky there might even be a few apps preloaded or the companies that really get it have an app store already setup and ready to go, filled with apps that fit your needs.

The funny thing is, 6 months later, they all start asking where all the new productivity is that they read about in every Wall Street Journal or even the New York Times. They thought that all they had to do was hand the devices out. They setup basic PIM functionality. Everyone can get their email, contacts and calendaring on their devices. According to IBM they should be getting an extra hour a day of productivity from each person. Some think that if they give their users smartphones and tablets they should get two extra hours each day.

Along the way, these companies forgot what they were doing in the first place. They built their business and created a strategy for growth and profit. They hired good people and gave them the tools they needed to get their jobs done. Then these shiny little objects that came with stories of unheard of productivity and efficiency distracted them. It caused them to stray from the basics that made them good companies in the first place. There was no strategy when these mobile devices were rolled out, other than they would work. They forgot that mobility is just another tool in the arsenal of their workers. These tools required jobs that could be done with them. The jobs couldn’t be done exactly the same way they had been in the past because those tools already existed. They had to be suited for a new way of working. They had to be fit to their workers wants and needs. They necessitated a loosening of the old ways of doing things and needed to give heed to new apps and devices that allowed more flexibility and agility.

Mobile devices, in and of themselves, are pointless. They aren’t tools. It’s only when you combine the mobile devices with the right apps, that they become tools fit to the right need. It’s when they take an old business process and turn it on its head because they enable a new, better way for it to be performed that they are successful. It’s when it allows someone to enter information in a system instantaneously after it is acquired versus the old way of writing it down, walking back to their desk and inputting it that it becomes efficient. When a pilot no longer has to carry 20 pounds of manuals for a flight and then leaf through to find the right page, but instead just types in the search box of their tablet to find the right procedure that it becomes successful. When approvals that required an email, a web browser, a SharePoint session, and a complete approval flow taking 30 minutes in total and a PC become a mobile app where the manager reviews the case and clicks approve in 2 minutes, then you’ve become successful.

An enterprise can ignore the goings on in mobile or throw themselves whole hog into giving their workers devices, but until they integrate mobile into their business strategy, processes and procedures, all they’ve done is spend a lot of money on some really shiny toys.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

abnerg July 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm

YES. To put this another way: If your mobile strategy is BYOD, you are only playing defense and cost reduction at best. If your mobile strategy is to figure out how to upend your relationships and capabilities, then you are onto something.

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