The near ubiquity of smartphones and tablet computers holds much promise for enterprises the world over. Their appearance everywhere in the workplace from the mailroom to the boardroom and from the local café to an elite frequent flyer airport lounge highlights what an intimate role they play in people’s lives, both personally and at work.
With effective management, enterprises can leverage mobility for increased competitive advantage, keeping in mind several key areas executives to help move their companies towards a mobile future.
Security: According to respondents at medium and large enterprises in one survey, two-thirds of the applications they downloaded for work purposes are unknown to their companies’ IT groups.() That’s quite a bit of potential vulnerability in IT environments built over the years – and at great cost – to ensure the integrity and security of enterprise data, applications and networks.
Productivity: Most survey respondents said they use the social features of their mobile applications daily both for work and personal use.() While this further blurs the line between their work and personal time, the productivity impact can cut both ways: They can play Angry Birds while parked on a conference call or lead a conference call after putting their children to bed. One sure productivity drain occurs, however, when they multi-task using different devices. Skype, for example, can be used across laptops, smartphones and tablets, but users likely have different content or features they may need to access on each device during a Skype call.
Recruitment: Younger, tech-savvy job candidates, especially the “Millennials” born between 1976 and 2001, will make up more than a third of all U.S. workers by 2014 and almost half by 2020. For this generation, mobile devices and applications are simply part of their social fabric. Millennials switch between devices and forms of media (e.g., laptops, smartphones, tablets and TV) an average of 27 times per hour.() That’s a lot of hyper-connected, multi-tasking energy for companies to hire and harness, but the research suggests Millennials are seeking just the right company fit, not just a job or salary. It found that 64 percent ask about social media policies during job interviews with a third saying they would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer.()
So how can companies effectively integrate all the devices employees are bringing to their work, not to mention all the applications they’re downloading?
And how can companies meet the mobile social media expectations of the growing numbers of next-generation employees?
For starters, their C-suite executives should consider taking the following three steps toward building a truly mobile enterprise.
Step 1: Understand the key trends driving enterprise mobility
Specific mobile business functions like outside sales and service have always needed a way for employees to communicate and access information – same as for teleworkers. Fortunately, as broadband wireless and feature-rich mobile phones (and now tablets) have proliferated, connecting on-the-go and remote workers has become easier and less costly than ever.
But if anything, the evolution of enterprise mobility will only accelerate thanks to five key trends:
Consumerization: The “consumerization” of enterprise mobility has put users ahead of IT in driving new requirements for devices, device security and choice of applications. New devices and applications are emerging in the workplace from employee experimentation, not IT implementation. Skype and FaceTime, for example, have made video calls and conferencing so easy and cheap (if not free) that they’ve turned corporate videoconferencing rooms with all their expensive gear into virtual museums of obsolete technology.
Mobile Social Networking: Today, over half of Facebook’s users (425 million people) access it via mobile devices.() A recent survey showed that 70 percent of employees use LinkedIn for work, while 50 percent use a range of social media to stay in touch with contacts and colleagues.() Other research has shown more employees use the social features of mobile applications for both work and personal purposes than for either alone.
Wireless Broadband Ubiquity: Anyone with Wi-Fi notification on a smartphone knows that Wi-Fi hotspots are just about everywhere. Available at almost all consumer gathering spots, they often overlap each other. At the same time, public carriers are upgrading their cellular networks to 4G (fourth-generation) technologies, the most advanced of which are fast enough to enable high-definition, multi-party videoconferencing. Dual-mode devices with transparent switchover are already common, but devices will become increasingly application and content-sensitive. This way they can be set not only to use the lowest cost transmission mode automatically, but also to switch to the fastest mode for their users’ needs.
Cloud Services: The latest IT buzzword – the cloud – refers to services and data that are hosted away from a worker’s premise securely and reliably. If the employer’s data center is providing the service, it’s called a private cloud; if a third-party, it’s a public cloud. (A “hybrid cloud” can combine the best of both.) Amazon, Apple and Google are just a few of the marquee names among companies offering cloud services. These can be general applications ranging from music storage and playback to specific enterprise applications like Salesforce.com’s customer relationship management application. Even customer care centers, once known as call centers, can be provided via cloud.
Key benefits of cloud services are pay-as-you-go with no (or low) up-front costs and almost instant scalability for seasonal or event-driven spikes in business volumes.
HTML5: This latest version of the World Wide Web’s HyperText Markup Language (HTML) will help content and application developers support multiple device platforms as well as cloud services. This means developers no longer have to suffer the time and expense of developing for multiple operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Linux and Apple’s OS X for PCs, and for smartphones and tablets, Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and a handful of others. Freed of these time and cost constraints, developers will have all the more resources for releasing new and diverse applications faster, which will only add to what employees are so quick to download now.
Step 2: Consider how to integrate enterprise mobility into a unified communications strategy.
In the past decade, medium-to-large enterprises have deployed unified communications to reduce operational fragmentation, silos and barriers due to the multisite, multi-business, multi-time-zone, multilingual and highly mobile nature of their organizations.
This technology combines voice calling, unified messaging (voicemail, e-mail and text), audio/video conferencing, whiteboarding, document-sharing and many more capabilities, can be hosted in a data center and delivered over the corporate network or can be premise-based. It’s helped mobile employees break their tethers to an office, without sacrificing information access or collaborative opportunities. Companies have also saved enormous costs by reducing their real estate footprints.
While unified communications helps to boost collaboration and productivity while cutting costs, adding enterprise mobility can supercharge those benefits by providing all those tools – transparently – to almost any smartphone or tablet user who’s commuting, traveling or simply away from their desk. Collaborative sessions, like an audio or videoconference, can be transferred from one device to another with the swipe of a finger. A common mobile client can provide a consistent user experience across all endpoint devices.
In addition – and most germane – IT can use the unified communications platform to manage enterprise mobility, if that platform is of the latest generation to support the wide range of mobile devices available today. Centralized administration and data center hosting can provide easier management of devices and applications while providing IT with greater visibility into the same.
Step 3: Think about how to secure enterprise mobility without sacrificing user experience or flexibility.
“BYOD” is IT jargon for “Bring Your Own Device” to work, a burning issue these days especially with its support and security requirements. Nonetheless, 82 percent of enterprises are now allowing it, up from just 50 percent a few months ago() – an apparent concession to a fast-growing phenomenon that might be harder to fight than to accommodate.
In no way does that concession undermine the perennial need to secure the integrity of enterprise data and networks, although it certainly amplifies the scope and scale of the challenge. What companies need is a mobility management solution that provides mobile device authentication, application management and secure access to network assets.
To gain this critical capability, they can add secure enterprise mobility management to the latest unified communications technology with an on-premise solution, a cloud-based (SaaS) solution or it can also be purchased as a cloud-based managed service to keep up-front costs to a minimum, if any, and deploy it quickly.
In any case, secure enterprise mobility management properly deployed can enforce security policies, provide device authentication and privileges transparently to users, so they’re not constrained in using their devices and applications anytime and anywhere they need them.
Until recently, the mentality of enterprises – and application developers – has been to “add mobile.” That is, optimize a particular application first for desktop and laptop PCs, then adapt it to the various operating systems and screen sizes of mobile devices. Given that smartphone sales surpassed PCs last year, the thinking going forward must change from “add mobile” to “be mobile”, focusing first on the mobile experience, as the only difference between fixed and mobile devices will be their form factors, not their power and capabilities.
 June 2012 end-user IT study conducted by Satov, a Toronto-based consultancy
 Survey by Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council
 iPass- Rise of the Social Enterprise 1Q 2012
 ZK Research, July 2012
Edited by Braden Becker