Almost 60% of senior corporate executives expect mobile technology to provide the biggest boost to their businesses over the next five years, versus about 35% for business intelligence and cloud computing, and about 30% for social media. That's according to a recent global report, Digital Megatrends 2015, by Oxford Economics (download here) sponsored by 45 firms: AT&T, Cisco Systems, Citi, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and my parent company SAP AG.
Note: the percentages add up to more than 100% because survey respondents were asked to rank among six choices. Technologies that were ranked 1 or 2 by the 363 executives (whose employers represent $256 billion in annual revenue and a diverse set of industries) were included above.
As a social media practitioner, I'm dismayed. But as a mobile evangelist, I'm not surprised.
Enterprise mobility is on the minds of execs everywhere for one simple reason: "It seems just about every CEO of a Fortune 500 company got an iPad for Christmas and asked the IT department to make it secure for use on the corporate VPN," wrote mobile PR pro Kevin Taylor in a recent blog.
For executives formulating their near to medium-term strategy, mobile has crossed the chasm from a nice-to-have to a gotta-have. See the following chart, also from Oxford Economics' research:
Indeed, execs see location-based services - currently restricted to singles dating and checking in at bars - as being the next way to enhance their corporate mobile propositions and services. There are some issues first, they recognize.
60% of executives polled by Oxford rated mobile device security and management as their top risk.
Still, enterprise mobility is breaking through today in a way totally unlike the false dawn of post-dot-com 2002, when vendors first tried to push mobile apps and services on smartphones.
In the cover story 'Mobility Joins the Enterprise' of the just-published SAP Spectrum magazine, I detail why:
In retrospect, it’s obvious that it was far too early. The phones at the time were bulky and weak, the software, based on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) technology, was crude, and the networks were cripplingly slow. The time is now ripe for a variety of reasons. Equipped with dual-core processors, fast memory and storage, and surprisingly sharp displays, smartphones and tablets now outperform many PCs, especially when judged by performance per pound. Enterprises are embracing them as a way to augment, and sometimes even replace, desktop and laptop PCs...
The difference is not only in the number of devices now inside the firewall, but the variety. Several years ago, BlackBerry phones reigned inside the enterprise, their dominance only slightly challenged by Windows Mobile phones. But the rise of iPhones and Android smartphones – part of the greater “consumerization of IT” trend – has employees demanding to use their powerful personal devices for work...
Another difference is bandwidth. In 2001, Wi-Fi was a rarity, and WAP-enabled cellphones puttered along at 14.4 kilobits per second. Fast-forward a decade. Wireless bandwidth is now copious and ubiquitous. Wi-Fi hotspots abound, while fast (tens of megabits per second) 3G and even faster 4G fill in the gaps nearly everywhere else.
Of course, this is not hugely-original insight for anyone over 30 who lived through the lean years after the dot-bomb burst, like I did. What might be new to some of you, especially on the vendor side, are the lingering user complaints:
Specific complaints include: less-than-ideal user interfaces from custom-built apps; inability to integrate data and software from multiple vendors “at reasonable cost”; too many hardware and platform (operating system) upgrades for enterprises to deal with; ongoing security concerns; high bandwidth costs, as carriers drop flat-rate data plans.
As I ask rhetorically, though: "Are all of these legitimate pain points? Undeniably. But are they deep, throbbing hurts or temporary twinges? For enterprises, the latter."
Check out the entire SAP Spectrum 7 article package on mobility, which is a great read and beautifully-produced. It includes a Q&A with Sybase CEO John Chen, an interview with German academic Dr. Key Pousttchi on the evolution of the mobile market, and a mobile customer case study with manufacturer EMI Yoshi.