The Rise, And Continued Rise, Of Mobile Enterprise

Add bookmark

Mike McEnaney

For those of us in enterprise that are over the age of 40, we can recall a time when out of office essentially meant out of contact. Once you ventured off premises in the days prior to email and cell phones, the work day had essentially ended. That is most certainly not the case today as mobile technology has provided the workforce with constant and immediate connectivity to both colleagues and enterprise data/systems, no matter their location.

As desktop email programs hit critical mass in the late 1990’s and then gave way to RIM’s Blackberry device, it was becoming clear that 24/7 access to the business world would soon be the norm. Apple’s first iPhone soon followed, and though those original models were not intended for enterprise use, the notion of being constantly connected throughout the day, in both our professional and personal lives, was beginning to take flight.

In a recent interview with ars technica, HP's Mobility Business GM Pierre Mirlesse, estimated that "there are 1.3 billion workers already mobilised using some form of laptop, tablet or phone."

The incredible global surge of smart devices has clearly and profoundly changed the way people communicate, making both consumers and those in the business world far more collaborative in their efforts as well as increasingly more productive and efficient.

“The pace of mobile usage in businesses has been primarily driven by the consumer experience employees are enjoying on their mobile devices and the rapid pace of cloud based applications and IT services hosted in the cloud, explained Mark Bowker, Senior Analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Progressive companies are using the opportunity to change employee behavior and improve productivity. This has created an ongoing challenge of how to protect and secure data, applications and user identity on personal and corporate owned devices.”

 The breakneck pace and continued growth of mobile technology has affected a multitude of business sectors in a variety of different ways, presenting some unique and unusual challenges for each.

In higher education, we see a turnover of about 20% of our user base each year. At the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, we have closer to 35% of the users turn over each year,” said Kevin Baradet, CTO at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School. “During the school day, the students are on the move every 50 to 75 minutes as the day progresses. This translates to peaks in excess of 38,000 WLAN mobile devices. The yearly daily averages range from about 12,900 to 18,900 WLAN devices that are connected to our campus infrastructure.”

As a result of all this mobile traffic, Cornell has had to make a few adjustments over the years, as Baradet explains, “We started small in 1999 with one access point and about six WLAN cards loaned out by the Management Library. Within two years, almost none of the 1,000 wired Ethernet ports in Sage Hall were being used by students and the connectivity had shifted to the WLAN. We chased the demand curve for WLAN bandwidth for another generation or two, but gave up when 802.11a rolled out.”

When it comes to the transformation mobile has had on enterprise as a whole over the last several years, many feel the ability to communicate more effectively and with greater flexibility only scratches the surface of mobility’s affect.

“It is hard to overstate the transformation that mobile is having on business. Everyone focuses on the ability to have communications from anywhere, anytime—but it’s much deeper than that,” said Kurt Kokko, Chief Technology Officer at SignalSense. “For example, consider all the unique data generated by mobile, whether it’s a consumer placing an order, an employee using internal apps, or a field worker diagnosing equipment. What’s the time of day, the environment, the location? What looks typical versus an outlier that might indicate a threat? The benefit is huge of course, with all this enriched data allowing businesses to anticipate, manage, and analyze customers and commerce like never before—but there are inherent risks accompanying productivity and profitability gains.”

A recent report compiled by mobile workspace solutions provider Citrix highlights a few of the eye-popping numbers with regard to the dramatic changes the mobile enterprise is experiencing.

• 61% of workers report working outside the office at least part of the time

• 3+ devices are used daily by an employee for work activities

 • The number of devices managed in the enterprise increased 72% from 2014 to 2015

• iOS dominates the enterprise market and is the leading mobile platform in nearly every vertical industry

• Device diversity is greatest in EMEA, where mobile devices used for work are typically corporate-issued

• 90% of organizations deploy passcode enforcement, the most common device level policy

“I believe that going forward we will see businesses put technology in the hands of employees that don’t have a dedicated device. This will allow companies to digitize more business processes. I also believe another trend will change the way employees interact with devices,” Bowker added. “I believe that we will see employees using voice commands more often and augmented reality will be built into business applications. Lastly I think you will see more mobile OS vendors enable employees to run fully functional mobile apps on a device with a keyboard and mouse so that they can be more productive with mobile applications.”

Work is no longer merely a place, it is something people do anywhere and anytime they choose to. While many will extol the virtues of the flexibility and freedom this has presented enterprise, others will point out the 24/7 nature their jobs now entail and enterprise IT may point a cautionary finger at the security concerns that business strategies such as BYOD have created.

No matter how you feel about this mobile enterprise revolution it will continue roll along with or without you and those that are on board will simply continue to adapt. For those organizations trying to keep pace with the concerns over security, SignalSense’s Kokko offered some sage advice.

“The capabilities of mobile devices keep growing and most come with embedded cloud services, so even permitting a little bit of corporate data to migrate to these devices in an unmanaged fashion can quickly get out of hand as the files get synchronized, streamed, and copied to locations well out of a business’ reach,” Kokko cautioned. “The common denominator here is to recognize mobile risk and opportunity together, so that you are only shouldering those risks you are willing to tolerate.”