Fewer than half of all enterprises have clear mobile strategies in place, IBM research finds.
Few technologies have transformed human behavior as quickly as mobile. In fact, mobility is no longer just considered pervasive, it is now the first point of contact between individuals and organizations, with 91% of users keeping their mobile device within arm's reach 100% of the time.
But it's not just about the device. By 2020, the top five connected apps will be: the connected car, clinical (medical) remote monitoring, assisted living, home and building security, and pay-as-you-drive insurance.
Organizations looking to fully embrace mobility to better compete in 2014 are increasingly focused on developing mobile strategies to help engage, inform, and forge new opportunities with customers, partners, and employees. This commitment to mobility was reinforced by a recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value on the mobile enterprise that found 90% of global organizations are planning to sustain or increase their investment in mobile technologies during the next 12 to 18 months.
While investments in mobility are increasing, most organizations have work to do in order to become a mobile leader. In fact, the same IBM study found that less than half of organizations have well-defined mobile strategies in place. Following are three key business and IT areas that should be prioritized for "mobile first" organizations in 2014.
Turning data into insights Five petabytes of data are generated every day by mobile phone subscribers -- the equivalent of 100 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with paper. That's a renewable supply of valuable insights for businesses. However, the challenge of accessing data to gain usable analysis and insights isn't just about volume, it's also about harnessing the mobile-specific data integrated into existing systems and business processes, and, ultimately, about improving outcomes at every moment.
On the path to becoming a mobile leader, organizations must work to create interoperability with other systems, leverage APIs for external or cloud-provided data services, and share information among systems and devices. Insights from mobile data will become more accessible and more easily analyzed in the coming year in order to help organizations unlock new customer interactions and opportunities.
For executives and other key decision makers who frequently work outside the office, making it less complex to apply the underlying data gathered from mobile transactions and interactions paves the way to easing real-time decision making about things like inventory, supply chain, and more.
Beyond combining user preferences and contextual data to be able to better serve up real-time or next best offers to customers, retailers, and other services providers with more mature mobile strategies will be able to incorporate machine-to-machine and sensor-based data into their overall mobile strategies. These advanced capabilities can enable them to track shopping patterns and more effectively match staffing needs with customer demands. Ultimately, mobile device data and insights will not only improve customer experiences, but also enable retailers to identify new revenue streams and business models.
The art of designing for mobile Historically, designing for mobile simply meant modifying existing desktop applications or websites to be accessed on a mobile device. Mobile users expect more -- a more customized and constantly improving experience. For developers, that could range from the creation of role-specific apps and adapting the presentation of data based on interaction patterns, to incorporating touch and sound to further differentiate and define user experiences.
The new "art" of mobile app development not only needs to be rapid and iterative -- but also cognizant of design, functionality, and the user experience. This often begins with understanding the business processes required to engage and interact with customers. For example, consider that 27% of companies worldwide planned to implement location-based marketing in 2013. What does that mean from an app design and capability standpoint? Can you effectively utilize push notifications? Can you customize offers based on context? These are just a few of the considerations organizations need to take into account for their app development strategies in the coming year.
Travel and transportation is one industry that has embraced designing for mobile. For example, one airline developed an app that was designed to integrate front-end and back-end systems, allowing customers to check flight status, check-in early, and download their boarding pass. While many airlines offer this type of service, this airline has gone one step further by making information available in real-time to both customers and agents, making it easier for agents to help and direct passengers.
Focus on secure transactions We're already seeing mobility evolve from supporting interactions to driving transactions. In fact, mobile transactions are at the center of an ever-growing network of 1.9 billion Internet-connected devices. For organizations, that opens up great opportunities -- and risk. For example, with the rise of the mobile worker and bring your own device (BYOD) adoption, consider all the transactions an employee can complete using a mobile device. Those transactions can range from checking email, calendar, or accessing a sales force automation system, to enrolling in health benefits, submitting an expense report, or even sharing licensing details or intellectual property. Those transactions become more risky when they involve outside parties, like partners or customers.
By taking steps to protect at every layer -- devices, apps, data, and the network -- organizations better benefit from the productivity benefits of BYOD strategies, with greater confidence. One area to focus efforts is developing policies and guidelines, which can be reinforced by technology, to protect sensitive information by keeping personal data separate from enterprise data.
Organizations with more mature mobile strategies can take that privacy and security balance further by better customizing employees' mobile experiences. For example, some organizations have developed internal "app stores" that can be configured based on functions and job roles. Increasingly, mobile devices will also need to be managed more like other corporate assets, but with special considerations such as shorter replacement cycles and more frequent software updates.
2014 and beyond In order to become a mobile strategy leader, organizations must continue to evolve their mobile strategies to accommodate for new data, design and security requirements that extend beyond the device. And, to compete, they must learn to use the mobile data being generated by users, devices, networks and physical environments to transform existing processes and make them more intelligent.
Michael Gilfix, Director, Enterprise Mobile Platform & Analytics, IBM, has business and product management responsibility for mobile application, data, and analytics technology software products. He has played a wide range of roles in the past, including Integration Executive for the Worklight acquisition, Business Unit Executive for worldwide business development for Business Process Optimization solutions, and managing a product management team for Business Process Management & SOA integration
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