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What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Enterprise Data: The Final Frontier?

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry

The enterprise mobility market is seeing a gold rush

Mobilising the enterprise wasn’t one of the big themes at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But maybe it should have been.

In the consumer market, particularly in Europe, mobile operators are experiencing price deflation and intense downward pressure on the top line. But they may find some salvation in the enterprise market: There were clear signs at the Congress that businesses are now spending significant sums mobilising their IT systems, as they go in hot pursuit of big data.

Enterprise mobility management provider AirWatch had one of the largest stands at the show, perhaps reflecting the fact that the decade-old Atlanta firm has just raised $200 million in Series A funding led by Insight Venture Partners.

And AirWatch isn’t the only player in a bullish mood. “Things have moved on quite rapidly over [the past] 12 months,” said Nick McQuire, VP, mobile enterprise strategies EMEA at research firm IDC, in a conference session, entitled Can mobility transform the business? “Most significantly we have seen a mindset shift [in enterprises] around mobile technology.” Whereas corporate IT departments used to have a “defensive posture” to mobile devices, McQuire believes CIOs have woken up to the fact that mobile technologies can “enable and transform the business.” Instead of obsessing about “mobile data leakage”, CIOs now want to use mobile technologies to get new valuable data – the gold rush is on.

Stewards and guardians
Jose Luis Gamo, CEO Telefonica Multinational Solutions, argued that the role of corporate IT departments is shifting from that of “an architect and a designer for every device and every platform and every architecture …..to a kind of steward or guardian whose role is to ensure the full security, interoperability and availability of the IT platform.” He claimed this transition is in full swing in many enterprises. “It has already happened, so wake up,” Gamo said. “My personal view of BYOD (bring your own device) is it is an ever-increasing, unstoppable trend. We will have to live with it…end users are emotionally attached to their devices…and they are more productive.” 

Advocating the use of mobile technologies to redesign core business processes or find new business models, Gamo noted how ABB has used a remotely-controlled irrigation service in Spain to save 30% on employee costs. Building on this theme, John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, outlined how United Airlines has equipped its pilots with iPads, containing maps, charts and other flight info, in place of the 45lb bags they used to carry on board the plane.  Marshall also described bow AirWatch is “extending BYOD to theme park operators,” which can now use mobile apps to inform staff about where they are needed each day, “as opposed to 40,000 people calling in when its inclement weather, and saying do I come to work today?”  

SAP's Nick Brown - focus on the user
Taking a different angle, Nick Brown, SVP, mobile strategy & solution management at SAP, contended that the momentum in the enterprise mobility market is being driven by IT departments’ desire to broaden the reach of the enterprise systems they have deployed over their past 20 years.

However, Brown said it is crucial that enterprise mobile apps are designed first and foremost for the end-user (rather than the IT department). “Focus on the user…. that is the only thing you really need to do to drive mobility to the next level in your enterprise,” he said.

Fellow speaker Tarun Nimmagadda, co-founder & COO of Mutual Mobile, echoed Brown’s call for usability. He described how Audi has deployed iPads, which can be used by both customers and sales reps, in their car dealerships across the U.S.  Nimmagadda said such apps need a “beautifully” simple front-end to encourage “non-technical sales people to give up their PC and switch over to an iPad.”

Toe-to-toe with SAP
Behind each and every clean simple user interface, there may well be a messy and complex value chain. As the enterprise mobility market expands, business software gorillas, such as SAP, cloud specialists, such as VMWare, and big telcos, such as Telefonica, and their partners are piling in.  Jim Somers, CMO of Antenna Software, noted the “ecosystem is one of co-opetition….we will go out and go toe-to-toe with SAP on any given day, but we also actually extend SAP software. We work with all the carriers and we work with AirWatch as well and a lot of agencies,” he said.

Describing it “as race to the middle”, Somer said the value lies in providing the solutions that connect an enterprise’s data to its employees’ devices. In the next few years, mobility may well be taken for granted and subsumed into the big data phenomena. “We are not going to be talking about mobile for much longer here, we will be talking about data,” Somer concluded.

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry

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