5 'game-changers' for mobility

Tablet-based business content and service delivery, virtual desktops and "socialytic" apps, among others, transforming mobility landscape, says IDC analyst, who notes more C-level execs turning to such offerings to up productivity and customer loyalty.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--As more decision-makers look to improve customer-centricity and expansion, as well as operational productivity and efficiency, they are spending most on mobility-focused strategies to achieve the desired results.

Sandra Ng, group vice president of ICT practice at IDC Asia-Pacific, said the leading business concern among C-level executives today is "escalating cost of operations and expansion". As a result, their top three IT priorities are: customer-centricity and expansion; business process transformation; and operational efficiency and productivity.

These findings were gathered in IDC's Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, C-suite Barometer Survey February 2011, which canvassed the views of 501 CIOs and CTOs as well as 506 line-of-business managers and CFOs, Ng said during the research firm's Mobile Everything conference held here Thursday.

Elaborating on the survey findings, the analyst said the top two technologies decision-makers today look at to gain competitive advantage in the market are business intelligence and analytics as well as collaboration, which includes video and mobility.

In fact, she noted that in another survey the research firm conducted, most in the CEO community stated they would spend most on mobility.

Mobility landscape's "game-changers"
Within the enterprise mobility arena, Ng highlighted five "game-changers" that she said would transform the industry: delivering business outcomes with tablets; virtual desktops; pervasive video; "socialytic" applications; and cloud computing.

She explained that companies were turning to tablets such as Apple's iPad to drive customer loyalty and productivity. Citing the example of an unnamed Asia-Pacific airline, she said the company recently issued cabin crew servicing first and business class passengers with iPads installed with apps that revealed customers' profiles, preferences and online social behavior.

This, she noted, helped "create intimacy" with customers and went one step above top airlines such as Singapore Airlines, which still used the "manual approach" of paper and pencil to note down passengers' profiles.

As for virtual desktops, Ng said the deployment of such technology would not, and should not be about cost optimization--"at least not initially", she added. For industries such as banking and financial services, for example, desktop virtualization can actually help these markets achieve compliance across multiple mobile devices, she noted.

She went on to state that at least 20 percent of desktops in the Asia-Pacific region were expected to be virtualized by 2020, citing findings in IDC's Asia-Pacific CIO innovation research survey conducted in May this year.

Socialytic apps, which should comprise at least 3 out of 4 components--social media, business intelligence and analytics, collaboration, and unified communications--were also growing in prominence to impact how businesses operated and related to employees and customers, Ng stated, pointing to Salesforce.com's Chatter as an example of such an app.

To support her observation, she cited Summet Vaid, founder and managing director of India's Freedom Financial Planners, to say: "Salesforce Chatter has allowed us to be a learning organization as the combination of social media, CRM (customer relationship management) and collaboration is very powerful. It also enables us to do dashboarding, lead-generation analytics and see opportunities better. Next step [for us] is to extend this to our entire workforce and support our mobile employees and devices. [This step] will be key as part of our enablement model."

In a previous report, IDC's Asia-Pacific associate vice president of end user and mobility research, Tim Dillon, stated that the region's IT chiefs viewed deploying mobile-focused initiatives as their primary focus to helping them achieve IT and business alignment and boosting IT infrastructure productivity.

Need for IT re-prioritization
In terms of how the five game-changers will impact a company's IT priorities, Ng said organizations will generally fall into four categories. The first will be focused on cost saving outcomes, in which companies will simply consolidate employees' existing mobile phone contracts with their telcos to drive a harder collective bargain to reduce overall billing.

She noted that while such companies, on average, will look to gain at least 30 percent of savings through such measures, the realistic savings seen so far hover around the 20 percent to 25 percent mark.

The next category will comprise companies that look to boost productivity, Ng said, noting that this group will be the main proponents for enhancing business processes and the "space where tons of new apps" will be generated from. These apps will be built mainly to increase the efficiency of their field and sales employees and, as a trickle-down effect, improve employee retention too, she added.

The third group will include companies looking to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, where their focus will be on business process transformation, the analyst explained. One example of this is customer profiling, in which analytics and real-time insights will help derive user information to drive revenue and margin growth.

The final group will encompass organizations that initiate top-down changes for what Ng described as "perks at work outcome". She cited the example of Malaysia Employee Provident Fund's CEO, who issued the directive that all its management-level executives were to be issued iPads.

Ng recounted: "So, even though some of the executives were still pen-and-paper users and struggled with the device, the CEO said they needed to adapt and learn how to use it."

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