Enterprise Connect Day 3: Think Mobile, Not Portable
I believe we're on the verge of true mobility becoming a reality, but for this to happen, we all must think mobile first.
(Editor's Note: This was originally posted erroneously under Eric Krapf's byline. It was written by Zeus Kerravala.)
Day three at Enterprise Connect began for me with an analyst breakfast held by Siemens Enterprise Communications, where we had a lively discussion on the topic of enterprise mobility. I also gave a speech at a Sprint customer event on Tuesday night where I shared my vision on how we really haven't had true enterprise mobility yet. Rather, what we thought was mobility was really nothing more than portability. I know the differences may seem subtle, so let me explain.
Consider what we have historically thought of as mobility. A corporate worker receives a corporate-issued laptop from their company, and the device comes pre-loaded with every possible application the worker may need. The worker then adds more and more content to this device and carries it with them wherever they go. The worker attaches to the network periodically to download email and update the occasional document.
Getting documents or other information onto a personal or even corporate-issued mobile device usually requires some sort of user-based integration such as emailing a document to oneself or copying information onto a USB stick. This seems to work pretty well--take a laptop, plug in and everything works.
However, what happens if the user loses the device? Most workers are facing an awful situation as that often means lost files, content and work. This is the basis of my first principle of true mobility: Workers need to have the ability to work from anywhere but then be able to switch devices on the fly. Send an email from one device? Shows up in sent mail on the other. Create a document on your laptop? Open it on your tablet. Miss a call on your desk phone? Have it show up on your missed call log on your mobile phone.
For this to work, the cloud must be used more effectively. Users and companies must commit to it. This situation actually happened at my house over the weekend. My 16-year-old had the hard drive on his MacBook Air die. I told him that it was unlikely that we would recover any of the content and I asked him what files he had stored on it. He looked at me quizzically and said that all of his content was "in the cloud" and asked why he would save anything to the local drive? He then asked me if I had stuff on my laptop and I felt a little foolish saying I did. Anyway, he had some homework to finish so he went over to the iMac and finished it there. Broken device, and it was a mere shrug of the shoulders.
The second principle of the true mobility is to have developers create applications that are uniquely mobile. I think the industry has spent a tremendous amount of energy and time rewriting desktop applications so they fit onto a mobile device. They work OK, but they're inherently the same application, just with a different front end.
A mobile application is one that takes advantage of the fact that mobile devices have accelerometers, GPSs, location information, presence and other features to change the nature of the application. If I'm a sales person and I'm in a customer's lobby and I go to look up that persons record, shouldn't the system pre-populate the company information based on where I am? Mobile applications should be able to predict much better what information I need based on context, and in some cases take action. If my flight is late in landing, then automatically send an email to my first meeting to inform them that I will be late.
This shift is similar to the trend we went through when the industry went from mainframes to Windows. If you remember back, one of the first Windows applications was a mainframe emulator. Other applications were written so the F keys could be used to do things like underline and bold words. In fact, application vendors used to supply users with F key templates so users could avoid using a mouse. It seems ridiculous now, but it certainly wasn't back then. Eventually applications were optimized for Windows and the mouse, and the industry took off like a rocket.
We'll have a similar trend in the world of mobility where applications will be created that are uniquely mobile, and all a sudden the mobile device will not only be the preferred device but the only way workers can do their job. This will bring in more and more ISVs and we'll see the world of corporate mobile applications explode as well. I believe we're on the verge of true mobility becoming a reality, but for this to happen, we all must think mobile first.