IDC Research shares Top Trends in Organisational Mobile Strategies

Niamh Madigan

Mobility going back five years ago was largely a tactical and functional technology within certain branches of the workforce, whether that's the field mobility business or whether that's the executive and international traveller base of the organisation.

Over the last few years, that tactical and functional role has evolved to one that's far more strategic across the enterprise. Nick Mc Quire, (former) Research Director, IDC Research explains.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange (EME): What new trends are you seeing in enterprise mobility?

Nick McQuire: So the trends were seeing now is the wave of device adoption and penetration in the enterprise and that includes not only just smart phones, but certainly iPads and tablet PCs as well. The continued momentum in use of tablets was something that we probably didn't catch onto quick enough last year. We've seen quite a significant increase in Android adoption in the enterprise in Europe which we failed to predict.

Linked to that, is the amount of application development as well, both from a customer-facing point of view, but also from an internal process enablement capability as well, so many organisations now are really deploying and building and purchasing third party applications for their workforce. So I think the combined effect of device adoption - Android and iPad in particular - plus the amount of application development I think, although we did predict, I think, the pace at which it's moved has been very difficult and very different than what we would have thought 12 months ago.

EME: How do you see the progression of Android adoption and how do you think that people will manage security taking into account the fragmentation issue?

Nick: I think many organisations are looking at Android at the moment. Obviously there's a lot of benefits that Android can deliver certainly for users - it's robust and a fresh ecosystem in terms of applications and the maps capability that Google provides.

Obviously there are organisations that have gone down the route in terms of Google Mail and some of the Google Cloud services that down the road can be integrated with Android more effectively than, I think, enterprises are looking at and I think the big benefit as well is the cost model that Android provides. So, if you look at public sectors across Europe, I think many of them are really looking at Android, some of them have actually supported it, but of course the risks around Android are real and I think it's important that organisations do treat it differently and that's what some are doing.

They're looking at the version of Android and they're looking at the security features around the versioning of Android. They're looking at the hardware and the OEM capabilities in terms of investment in security features such as encryption and hardware, hardware encryption in particular, and more importantly I think also they're looking at the software community and device management, mobile security capabilities as well to supplement that capability set. Actually what we've seen is organisations tend to, in the early phases, want to containerise email and some specific apps on Android devices to protect themselves from some of the risks in and around Google Play and the marketplace itself and so that model requires specific investment and it's slightly treated differently than perhaps they would treat IOS devices or obviously BlackBerry devices as well, but the momentum is there and we're going to see Android and Google in particular and the OEM community address some of these concerns in time and hopefully enterprises will then have the ability to standardise more effectively on Android.

EME: Based on the difficulty of developing for Android given the different versions, how do you think the cost and difficulty is going to change in the next year or two years?

Nick: I think it's becoming more and more difficult for developers to develop for Android due to the fragmentation issue and we've seen this from our surveys. We do a global survey and we survey up to roughly about 1,000 mobile application developers worldwide and we do this quarterly and gradually we've seen quarter-on-quarter a decrease in Android interest and an increase in HTML5 increase at the same time. So there's almost a cross-over occurring from the developer community, I think indicating that developers are increasingly looking at the fragmentation challenges of Android and then turning to HTML5 capabilities to address that for Android, but also for other platforms as well. So I think that is certainly occurring and going to be a big challenge that Google has to address going forward.

EME: Do you feel that HTML5 adoption is going to combat that difficulty in developing for Android to a greater or lesser extent?

Nick: Yes, obviously there are a lot of benefits HTML5 can deliver application developers and also businesses that deploy apps. It's a quick way to plug security holes. You don't have to worry about releasing the release updates and getting users to accept the install of new applications in terms of doing bug fixes. Obviously the release management process for HTML5 is far easier in a Cloud model than it is in terms of a native application model and I think these are some of the benefits out of the gates.

Obviously entrepreneurs around HTML5 will need to concentrate on things like data caching, for example. They'll need to look at how these apps can integrate more effectively with social tools, with location capabilities as well and I think when we do that we'll get some of these gaps fixed around HTML5 to capabilities today, but that being said, in certain use cases HTML5 is certainly preferred now by developers indicating why we've seen 80% of developers in our latest survey saying that they're going to develop their applications in 2012 based on HTML5 tools.

EME: The fact that it's almost agnostic is obviously very important.

Nick: Yes, that's absolutely it. It's almost agnostic so it's very relevant for Android, but also very relevant within the wider ecosystem as well.

EME: Many companies have been through multiple generations of mobility, what are they doing differently this time to give their strategy more longevity?

Nick: Organisations that have had mobility within their organisation going back quite a significant number of years are now at a stage where they need to think perhaps a bit bigger than they've thought before around the role that mobility plays and the touch points that mobility impacts across the organisation.

Mobility going back five years ago was largely a tactical and functional technology within certain branches of the workforce, whether that's the field mobility business or whether that's the executive and international traveller base of the organisation, whereas we've seen that tactical and functional role evolve very quickly over the last 12 to 18 months to one that's far more strategic across the enterprise. So it touches on customers, it touches on the holistic enterprise - not just certain factions of the business, it's in the boardroom today, when perhaps it hasn't been in the past and equally the one that is not only just strategic, but also one that's highly personal and subjective as well. So users now have a far more influential opinion in terms of how this technology can impact their own specific productivity within the enterprise. So that transition to one that is far more strategic and personal is indicating that organisations who have had mobility in the beginning need to think a little bit bigger and wider about their mobility strategies as a whole.

It's no longer a siloed piece within an organisation, it actually impacts the entire organisation, so therefore IT departments need to be far more consultative across the business with all the various different lines of business regarding mobility strategy and regarding their role, in my mind, as a consultant and an orchestrator of the technology within the business and that is a big transition for organisations, say, to two years ago in that respect. So I think those are some of the big themes that are transitioning organisations today that have perhaps looked at mobility for over a decade.

EME: How has the consumerisation of IT affected how end user organisations choose devices for their workforce?

Nick: The consumerisation of IT is a broad umbrella trend that means many different things. Largely it[s the trend of leveraging consumer technology - whether it's mobile, whether it's cloud capabilities - for the benefit of the enterprise and, yes, there are aspects of bring your own devices. They are a subset of that trend, but more relevant to consumerisation is organisations actually opening up and embracing some of this technology and bringing it into the enterprise and managing it in a way that's relevant for their risk management capability and strategies, but also for their business enablement opportunities as well. So what we see more and more as part of organisations approach to consumerisation of IT is to become far more attentive to what users are asking for within the business and users are asking for specific devices and for specific applications and in the past it was very much, no, it's not in policy; today it's becoming more and more tolerated, but we're also seeing a tolerance transition to a formal and managed strategy around consumerisation of IT that perhaps we haven't seen in the past 12 months. So users are having more say, but IT are getting closer to users in understanding preferences, but also engineering applications in particular for their workforce that are consumer grade - so taking lessons learned in the consumer space in terms of the user design and interaction and applying those to enterprise-oriented tools as well for the enterprise and that's quite a significant move, but one that is actually necessary in this world because, if those tools aren't relevant and aren't consumer grade, users will go out and find other tools and potentially bypass IT. So it is quite a remarkable shift that is occurring, but that's fundamentally the heart of why organisations are really interested in embracing consumerisation of IT today.