Inside Track: Mobility – consumerised, commoditised, more important than ever
Growing user expectations, increasing reliance and security concerns are driving rapid development, reports ALEX MEEHANPrint
20 October 2017 | 0
Mobility is now an accepted enterprise strategy, and there are hardly any medium or large-sized companies in Ireland that do not make extensive use of mobile. But once you get past e-mail and scheduling—and taking the odd phone call—there is massive variety in what is being done with this particular type of technology.
“When we first started at the end of 2010, companies were mainly using Blackberry devices, and iPhones were only really starting to appear,” said Phillip Harrison, chief technology officer of CWSI. “Initially companies were trying to figure out how to prevent iOS devices ending up in enterprise, but there came a time when they realised that they had to allow them, and that is where the market for mobility management came from.”
Today, CWSI’s customers use mobile technology for a vast array of applications, ranging from e-mail and scheduling management to bespoke enterprise applications.
“It’s a mix really,” said Harrison. “The vast majority are using it for basic email contacts and calendars, and then there are others such as an airline we work with that uses its mobile devices to manage electronic flight bags, or a company that has a fleet of trucks all managed remotely.”
Harrison believes that the sector is likely to grow in Ireland through the commoditisation of mobile services.
“Organisations realise that they are going to have mobile applications for the long haul. When we first started applying mobile solutions, companies thought they’d try it for a year or two to see how it worked out and to see what standards would emerge,” he said. “Now they know it’s here for good, and they are looking to outsource the management and support of those solutions. As a result, we’re doing a lot of work in that managed service space.”
This de-risks mobility for some organisations, and many companies have sprung up to service this need as a result.
“Mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) are the obvious services that will continue to become commoditised, and that is what there is most demand for right now,” Harrison said. “It’s a very fast-moving space and it is actually quite hard for organisations to have a huge amount of experience there.”
Mobile threat prevention is also a growing area, operating as an equivalent to anti-virus software for mobile devices.
“It doesn’t work in the same way—it looks for apps doing things that you wouldn’t want them doing on mobile devices. That is something that is beginning to take off, along with single sign on, as people start to do more on mobile devices,” said Harrison. “People want to just download their four or five apps that they need and be logged in immediately with their enterprise credentials. That’s being driven by the explosion in use of Office 365 and InTune.”
According to Harrison, security is a major concern for all customers. Facilitating mobile is all well and good, but if it is not secure than there can be major problems.
“Our speciality is working with those enterprises who are concerned about security. At the same time, there is a perceived view that Apple devices in particular are quite secure out of the box. It’s a bit like that old story that you will never get fired for buying IBM—there is definitely a feeling of that when it comes to Apple IOS devices.”
CWSI reports that up to 90% of the smart phones and tablets it supports for customers are made by Apple, largely because of this perception. Elsewhere in the market, security remains a key concern for mobility companies.
“We have a very strong presence focusing on mid-sized and large enterprises,” said Ojas Rege, chief strategy officer for Mobile Iron.
“Over 70% of our business is with companies that have more than 1000 employees. While we do also work with smaller companies, much of our business is with larger firms, and over half of our business is in the regulated markets—healthcare, financial services, government and so forth. As you can imagine, if you’re spending a lot of time with those type of companies and institutions of the size that we deal with, security and application-led transformation tend to be crucial.”
Mobile Iron is based in California but is a global company, and according to Rege, half of its business is outside the United States.
“What we do is deliver applications and services to the mobile device—we’re the enterprise app store on the mobile device that the user uses to download their business applications. Companies use us just like they would use Apple’s App Store, or Google Play for their personal applications,” he said.
“We deliver the applications to the device and then secure that application data, both on the device and across the network into whatever back end cloud or data centre service they might have. We start where the data centre ends—we’re that security and delivery layer that allows CIOs to actually deliver a mobile strategy to their users and make sure that the data is secure.”
According to Rege, the evolution of the mobile device in the 10 years Mobile Iron has been in business has been hugely important in the range of services on offer.
“Our first product launched in 2009 and that summer, the very first encrypted iPhone launched. The reason that was so important for businesses is up until then IT could just say ‘we’re never going to support that, because it’s not even encrypted’. There was an easy way out,” he said.
“But once the iPhone was encrypted it wasn’t as easy anymore, and then Android started following a similar path. So what’s interesting about the evolution of mobile is that the changes that we’re seeing in the enterprise are actually less to do with the computing power of the device, but more the availability of newer applications and better designed applications for business,” he said.
Today in 2017, Rege argues, there isn’t a single software company that sells to the enterprise that doesn’t have a mobile offering—either a mobile application that users can use to access data, or a mobile optimised web site.
“It’s become part of software development. You can’t be an enterprise software company anymore without that, just like you can’t be a consumer organisation and not have a mobile offering,” he said.
According to Rege, an interesting development in this area is that companies have started changing their workflow because of mobile.
“For example, there is a retailer in our local shopping mall now without cash registers because every employee has a mobile device into which they can swipe your credit card. That is a fundamental business transformation that changes the way people buy and the way you sell, it increases your dollars per square foot, and so forth,” he said.
“Another good example of business transformation is field service organisations. The guy delivering stuff to your door has always been mobile but think about manufacturing floors, for example, or hospitals and all the information that’s important for people to have in those environments. Historically the nurse in the hospital or the line worker in a manufacturing facility had to go to a computer to access that information and take action, and now they don’t.”
In this way, mobility is offering not just convenience but is also changing workflows.
Airwatch is one of the most popular enterprise mobility software offerings in Ireland. Bought out by VMware in 2014, it started out as a mobile device management package and has since evolved into what VMware calls an enterprise and built-in management platform which allows users to manage a plethora of devices.
“The key thing to bear in mind is that mobile no longer just means phones. Instead it can mean laptops, tablets, watches and so on, so companies need a single unified framework to manage the end point,” said Charles Barratt, digital workspace domain architect at VMware.
“This is regardless of operating system and rugged android, iOS, OSX, Windows—whatever. We treat them as a single device framework at the back end. It should be easy for users, secure for companies and should just work.”
According to Barratt, the single biggest driver of mobility in the enterprise environment has been the consumerisation of IT, and the trend for high street technology to influence expectations in the workplace.
“When was the last time you downloaded the Facebook App and needed a manual to understand how it worked? It is intuitive and it just works. Probably the company which opened the door to all this was Apple years ago,” he said.
“And that is the problem with enterprise IT—historically it was shackled to legacy windows applications upon which businesses were built. When you join the organisation you ended up having to do an induction process for a week.”
Barrett said that there has been consumerisation of multiple aspects of the mobile experience, from assets to software, devices and experience. “People expect the same experience at work as they have at home with their own tech. They don’t want to be coming into work, firing up a laptop or a PC that takes ten minutes to log-on. They want it quick, fast and secure,” he said.