The demand for access to business information and applications through mobile technologies such as the Apple iPhone and iPad, devices running Google Android or using RIM Blackberry is surging as consumer preferences and behavior spill over into the business workforce. The massive growth of adoption for these technologies around the world as consumers seek instant access to information has many business managers wondering how to benefit from the trend.
The drive for mobility is part of the 2010 business technology agenda (See: “Using Innovative and Disruptive Technology in 2010”) as a source of innovation inside the enterprise and in interactions with consumers and customers. Of course, in a business rather than personal context, more types and complexity of information are needed, ranging from access to documents and presentations to status on initiatives and processes for specific application needs and to performance in business intelligence.
Against this background it is clear that just having mobile access to email is insufficient for increasing productivity and producing better-informed employees at any level of responsibility. The challenge for IT departments is to progress beyond insisting on a single device as the corporate standard or limiting personal devices to email access. It’s obvious that individuals are using dual devices, keeping their favorite device in one pocket and the company tool in the other. The result is a battle for the attention of business users to help them focus on work-related tasks; to win it, companies will have to let employees use their device of choice.
But the diversity of technologies and providers poses great challenges for the enterprise in providing secure access that works for varying types of devices. At the same time the range of applications available for the workforce has expanded as the technology to assemble and deploy applications has become simpler and business tools like BI are easier to manage and use.
Our recent benchmark research on information applications found advances in organizations’ support for more mobile device usage with these applications. The most commonly cited was the RIM BlackBerry (important to 65 percent of participants), followed by the Apple iPhone (37 percent), Microsoft Windows Mobile (33 percent) and devices using the Google Android operating system (20 percent). This is a significant shift in the balance of mobile device platforms; the market that used to be dominated by RIM and Microsoft is opening up to others as the major telecommunications service providers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are involved in promoting them and the broader usage plans for which they make considerable profit.
Our research shows that RIM BlackBerry is still most important in the finance, insurance and real estate category (used by 44 percent) while other industries, coming to mobility later, are more diverse in their choices. Accessing applications and information via a mobile device is not yet a top end-user capability for information applications, but it is a very important one in almost one-fifth of organizations; on the downside, one-fourth of participants said the technology for providing such access is inadequate.
Integrating analytics and metrics to meet the information needs of business and the workforce is another pertinent issue found not just as part of information applications but also in BI. Our recent benchmark research on business intelligence (BI) and performance management found that executives most often demand access to their business metrics while it is not a priority for IT. This is a critical finding that counters the assertions of many analysts, press and consultants that mobile BI is not important; those commentators solely focus on the IT organizations without understanding the business need for simpler access to process and performance metrics. These are important to organizations that are already mobile like sales and field service and are becoming so to the growing virtualized workforce that works from home or travels from location to location in operations, supply chain and management. According to our BI research, access to data through mobile devices is important in more than one-fourth of organizations.
It also finds that while only 13 percent of organizations have deployed some type of mobile-based BI, 30 percent are in the process of deploying or plan to deploy, and another 27 percent are hoping to deploy in the near future – that’s a total of 70 percent seriously interested in mobile BI. In practical terms, however, the technology from BI vendors needs to improve; almost one-fourth of participants in our research said that the usability of existing technologies is inadequate. On the positive side, the vendors in the market seem to have realized that just accessing Web pages on a mobile device will not be sufficient. I have seen this year, for example, a strong movement in native support for the iPhone and iPad from vendors that I have written about including Actuate, BusinessObjects by SAP, MicroStrategy and QlikView. There surely will be more to come in the near future.
Organizations that embrace mobility for business purposes likely will become not just more efficient but places where more people want to work. This could be an edge for employers in the increasing competitive challenges of recruiting and retaining talent in the coming decade. The opportunity to apply BI and analytics in mobilely accessible applications is one of the fastest-growing aspects of the market. I have been spending significant time assessing mobility within the context of BI and information applications, as the best way to know its relevance is to compare it to existing approaches. Doing research on mobility divorced from what an organization has today and how it will transition will fail to help them move efficiently to the next level of business. The technology has become simpler for organizations to adopt, but now suppliers need to align their products to the business demand and not wait for IT to come around to the idea. The opportunity is clear as businesses look to the new generation of computing to help them improve productivity and results.
Mark also blogs at VentanaResearch.com/blog.