Today’s fast evolving technological storm has forced large organizations to realize the need to adapt to the concept of enterprise mobility. These organizations are looking at mobility to give them a strategic edge in a highly competitive business environment. Since enterprise mobility can provide businesses with tangible benefits by making critical information easily accessible, organizations are looking at it as a direct factor to lead them towards a profitable business. Mobile solutions not only bring convenience to the user, but also play an integral role in delivering key enhancements to the business processes in a broader perspective . General benefits associated with enterprise mobility are found to be end-user convenience, efficiency, productivity, faster decision making capability and process improvement . However, these benefits do not come to the organizations without certain challenges, which will be further discussed later on.
Growth of Enterprise Mobility
The rapid increase in enterprise mobility is directly proportional to the number of mobile workers worldwide. The world mobile statistics show that 6.8 billion people own mobile phones around the world. Most lucrative top 10 mobile markets are China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Germany and Nigeria. According to IDC, Total shipments in 2012 for smartphones were 712.6 million units, up 44.1 percent from 2011 . IDC (August 2012) estimates that China’s share of the global smartphone market in 2012 was 26.5 percent. Strategy Analytics (October, 2012) calculates that at the end of Q3, 2012 the number of smartphones in use worldwide reached 1.038 billion units. This time last year there were 708 million smartphones in use worldwide. That’s an immense growth rate of 46.6 percent in a single year. According to a study conducted by VDC depicted in the chart below , there has been an evident stagnation observed in notebook sales in comparison with sales of tablets and smartphones, which has been forecasted in foreseeable future as well, leading to an assumption that the next wave of innovation is taking place in the realm of mobility.
Complementing this forecast is the bar chart below depicting research by Eric Lai showing a forecast for sales of iPad and other tablets based on the average of analysts’ forecasts.
Emergence of Enterprise Mobility Through Mobile Applications
In this technological swarm, mobile applications are being designed to be more sophisticated, enabling corporate users to perform a variety of tasks in real time with minimal effort. These features, in addition with the backing of strong connectivity to internet, smart devices are becoming a true alternative to desktop computers and notebooks. Mobility is delivered through 3 layers of DNA (devices, network / infrastructure and applications), all of which have been a subject of a robust technological revolution in recent years. With wireless networks providing ubiquitous connectivity to smart devices and the capability to handle higher data throughout, enterprises are moving towards development of value added mobile applications.
These mobile applications are powerful enough to act as gateways between the device and cloud platforms through seamless connectivity, allowing the employee to stay connected with the enterprise systems and perform a variety of tasks on the go. Developers are focusing on designing context-aware applications since field workers, who are the major users of mobility applications, use these apps in variable environments. These apps are aimed at features that would take into account user’s location, time and proximities, using these factors for integration with relevant services to facilitate them in managing and performing tasks. Where Enterprise Mobility opens door to limitless opportunities and benefits for corporations, helping them reshape business models, empowering workers, improving collaborations and helping them manage customer relationships more effectively, it brings challenges equivalent to these benefits, including major issues like provisioning, security and ongoing management of these devices.
Challenges of BYOD Model, Native and Hybrid Apps
The first and foremost challenge to enterprise mobility is to develop and execute an effective enterprise mobility strategy. This strategy must encompass issues like managing BYOD model, security concerns and decide between native and hybrid apps. Bring-your-own-device model is gaining rapid popularity among corporations, particularly the ones with a huge employee workforce. In spite of its popularity, companies must make sure to equip themselves with a strategy to cope with some of the challenges it comes with. Corporations must understand employee behavior and the kind of tasks they perform at work, the necessary IT support they may require and the level of data access they need to perform their tasks in order to implement a successful BYOD strategy. Providing relevant support is also a tough challenge for corporations since employees need access to system and data at all times, wherever they are, due to which IT departments have to make sure their devices are compatible and in sync with company systems at all times. The most important issue that comes with BYOD is security.
Since corporations have sensitive data, allowing employees to access it from their own devices in a secure environment, is a challenge. User’s device may not be secured enough to protect corporate data. This could be tackled by implementing an MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution, enabling an end to end device management for different devices. In addition, device to server connection should be encrypted along with data in transit. A second challenge for BYOD model implementation is accommodating a diverse range of mobile devices with different operating systems. This can also be dealt with implementation of MDM solution. By controlling and securing the data configuration settings, support costs and risks can be minimized. In order to adopt BYOD model, corporations must develop a policy set addressing issues including defined criteria for data access based on user type and requirement. The big question for developers & organizations is the approach they need to make; native app approach or hybrid app approach. Before hybrid apps emerged on the scene, there were mainly two types of apps being developed; web and native applications. While web apps are preferred to be developed in HTML5, native apps are developed in specific languages for each platform like Objective C for iOS, Java for Android and C# for Windows based phones. In addition to the benefits native apps offer, they have their limitations as well. The main limitation developers face using the native app approach is the associated costs, time, effort and upgrades. Since native apps lack multiplatform support, this comes up as a serious challenge when developers are targeting multiple operating systems.
In this case, developers must have the knowledge of multiple languages, adequate resources and sufficient time. Costs associated with native apps are not only limited to the development stage but to maintenance as well. Whenever an update has to be made available, developers would need to code it on all platforms and resubmit it on the respective app stores. Another approach available for developers to take is the hybrid app approach. Hybrid apps were introduced in 2009. This approach is designed to provide a midway solution between native apps and web apps. While they provide a plethora of benefits, hybrid apps provide only limited access to a device’s hardware and system functionality, which are available using native API (Application Programming Interface) calls. Since hybrid apps have to render web pages and access data through multiple layers, their performance levels are slightly lower than that of native apps. Their inability to access complete system and hardware functionality results in limited user experience. Other than these major challenges, some of the general challenges organizations face in enterprise mobility implementation are mobility skill level of general staff, determining cost/ROI of mobile solutions and optimizing business applications, as evident from research below by CompTIA .
Benefits of BYOD Model, Native and Hybrid Apps
Benefits that come with BYOD model involve management flexibility, cost savings, maximized employee performance, greater employee contentment and simplified IT structure. Since employees bring their own devices and use telecom operators of their own choice, management doesn’t have to worry about selecting and managing a provider and a plan. Moreover, they don’t have to monitor employee telecom usage data. Cost saving is also another significant advantage of BYOD model. When employees bring their own devices and manage their own data and telecom plans, corporations save a considerable amount of money on mobile devices and cell service provider plans. Corporations can maximize employee performance and contentment by adopting the BYOD model. Employees are expected to feel more comfortable using their own device and not being forced to use a device or service provider assigned by the organization, eventually resulting in maximized performance levels and higher operational efficiency.
Finally, since employees are mainly responsible for purchasing, managing and upgrading their mobile devices, it reduces support cost and procurement on part of the IT departments. Considering the benefits a native app provides to corporate users, first and foremost, native apps provide the best user experience of all application architectures available. Since they are developed in specific languages for respective operating systems, they integrate directly with the operating systems without any mid level platform or a container as in the case of a hybrid app. A native app has complete access to a device’s hardware functionality, resulting in faster performance execution. An operating system’s seamless interfacing and integration capabilities with a native app allows the app to use UI components specific to that particular operating system, giving the user comfortable navigation and an enjoyable experience. Hybrid apps, on the other hand, provide a midway ground between a web based app and a native app, combining limited functionalities of the two.
Future Prospects of Enterprise Mobility
Enterprise mobility will change the paradigms of the corporate world in the future, directly affecting the way individuals perform tasks or teams collaborate. It will change the way companies create and manage business process flow, transforming business models as a whole. As can be seen from the research below, by CompTIA , the main drivers that are motivating enterprises to move towards mobility are productivity gains, employee flexibility, telecommuting and cost savings. When compared to the previous year’s research, it is clearly visible that employers are favoring a move towards this enterprise mobility adoption and this trend is only increasing.
Large corporations are already realizing the potential of enterprise mobility. Soon the effect is likely to trickle down to smaller corporations as well. Companies will need to set up systems that support mobility on multiple device platforms and operating systems. With rapid adoption of enterprise mobility, companies will need to minimize increased security threats and ensuring the flow of communication in a secure environment. If corporations want to grow their business, remain on the technological leading edge and dominate the rapidly growing market environment, enterprise mobility is the way forward.
By Fawad Ghauri
Head of Enterprise Mobility
NETSOL Technologies Inc.