I’ve been reading Wired since Issue 1 in 1993 and while that may date me, I’m not ashamed to say it since it also means I’ve been around long enough to witness many IT trends in the workplace. The most significant is today’s surge in mobile and social adoption in the enterprise.
In my time at Genentech, we deployed over thirty internal productivity apps. Over nearly a decade, I watched as an employee’s mobile device became an integral part of their workflows and as a result deals closed and business grew. Today, as the mobile workforce grows to staggering numbers (1/3 of the total global workforce by 2015 according to IDC), the enterprise is struggling with strategy, control, education, security and more.
As Gartner said in their enterprise apps report last summer, “Given that user attention is a scarce commodity, businesses can capitalize on the additional time the tablet screen can offer.” The same is true across devices — these mobile solutions can be drivers of increased business and a baked-in social layer can transform their use cases as well.
Here are a few common Qs I get while talking to CMOs, CIOs, and others about integrating social and mobile strategies into every facet of their stack:
Do we build or buy?
This question plagues many enterprise execs that want to use consumer-inspired apps internally. If off-the-shelf apps are available and affordable, why undertake a massive project internally? We find ourselves talking speed to implementation, cost, expertise, and maintenance when asked this question.
Buying seems to win out as the recent vendor consolidation is making it possible to offer customers advantageous new pricing models with bundled packages. Partnering with a person or group with domain expertise also allows you to deploy solutions faster (read: faster than your competition). As the goal is gaining a competitive advantage it’s arguably smarter to hire vendors who have tackled the unique challenges of mobility before they can also maintain their products more effectively.
If you think about it, development of a native app in-house can take say six months to a year, while using a vendor to build it can reduce that cycle to say two months for a cross-platform version. With off-the-shelf apps that time can be further reduced to about a two-week implementation cycle post-approvals. We’ve seen cases where the internal review process takes longer than implementation!
With more sophisticated apps hitting the market all the time and millions available across platforms already – the real question is what existing mobile solutions already are in the market that fit your needs (and can be customized if need be)?
What platforms do we really need to support?
We’re happy to talk device support – it’s a good sign we’re moving away from the BYOD anxiety of even just a year ago. So your employees want to bring their own devices – many people have come to terms with that fact – but you still want to offer them solutions that benefit you even on their own devices.
It’s critical to support iOS first, in my opinion. As Vanity Fair writer Kurt Eichenwald put it in his article, “Microsoft’s Lost Decade,” in the current issue, “Cool is what tech consumers want. Exhibit A: today the iPhone brings in more revenue than the entirety of Microsoft. No really.” That staggering fact alone is reason enough to make sure your support for the iOS platform is at the ready. Android is important as well, especially as its own app market matures, however, it’s particularly critical for large-scale companies that have operations in emerging markets as Android sees higher adoption in those areas. As Kevin Kelleher over at Fortune said just last month in his piece, “Has Google’s Android Peaked,” “According to app-analytics firm Flurry, developers build two iOS apps for every Android app they create. In return, they make four times as much revenue from iPhone users than from Android users.” Many analysts and pundits speculate about where the smartphone market will be in 5 or 10 years (and the potential rise of Windows in the market) but as IDC and Appcelerator reported in their recent Q2 Mobile Developer Report, “Apple opened a dramatic lead over Android as far as which OS will win in the enterprise with 53.2% of developers say iOS will win vs. 37.5% saying Android will win.” Favoring iOS with a healthy dose of Android is a good prescription.
Are apps safe for my data and my employees’ information?
The elephant in the room is often security. These issues can sometimes be expedited when a company has a designated mobility team with a separate budget that has a use it or lose it amount to spend on solutions but oftentimes security reviews slows a process down. Apps that don’t connect with popular cloud-based solutions like Salesforce are not able to quickly navigate the security issues. They should be (and are) tested vigorously so as to prevent a public gaffe with lost information.
Many companies are shifting to direct authentication approaches so that the same credentials that are used on their other enterprise solutions allow them access to advanced mobile and social tools as well. This approach allows for faster approvals, more internal comfort with the decision overall as well as quicker time to market.
Is mobile/social a distraction?
Many senior level executives we talk to are still worried about incorporating social and mobile technologies into workflows as the productivity and bottom-line benefits have yet to be truly measured and reported. We encourage listening to end-users as they are the best judge of their own attention spans, interests and needs, however, it’s also important to self-educate. KPMG recently issued a very interesting report called, “Mobilizing Innovation: The changing landscape of disruptive technologies” and it found that, in the enterprise market, cloud and mobile adoption benefits over the next three years will include improved business efficiencies, cost reductions and faster innovation cycles leading to new business opportunities and revenue streams not to mention increased profitability and accelerated time to market.
These are good things, don’t wait. The important thing to keep in mind is that these tools are ones that you can track the adoption of and get a general feel for the ROI around – as they can be quick, inexpensive and easy to deploy (see point 1) the risk is lower then to adjust, limit or turn off their use if you aren’t seeing the value you expected.
Hard numbers seem to carry the most weight with executives who are putting a toe or a whole foot in the water of integrating social and mobile technologies into their enterprise. Perhaps understandably then, we are seeing the greatest adoption with businesses over $ 1B in revenues and between 15-50K employees. This to us evidences that the employee demand is high – perhaps so high it can’t be ignored. As a result larger companies are becoming some of the first to move in this space. This first mover status will only serve to increase their marketshare.