The floodgates have opened. The device era is now. What modern enterprise mobility looks like today, what its challenges are, and where it’s heading — according to recent surveys, research, and interviews with leading mobility experts. Before you deploy your next mobile workflow, here’s what you need to know.
Introduction: Better productivity trumps device management.
A lot has changed since the “bring-your-own-device-to-work” phenomenon (a.k.a. “BYOD” or “IT consumerization”) was first observed nearly a decade ago. For one thing, an estimated 95 percent of workers now bring at least one personal device to work with them, according to a recent Pew Research report. And to help realize full global maturity, high growth markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are quickly following suit.
Consequently, “Enterprises are rapidly becoming more and more mobile, particularly among traveling salesforces, implementation consultants, middle-management, and strategic executives,” says Akhil Chugh, mobility analyst at Adobe Document Cloud. As you can imagine, most people read or respond to emails today on mobile, he adds, so it only makes sense that the majority of related work will soon follow.
The good news is the industry is more than ready to favorably respond. “Enterprise mobility has evolved far beyond its pure device management roots,” says Adam Holtby, senior researcher of enterprise mobility at Ovum. “It’s no longer just an IT initiative — it has become a key competitive factor for organizations and an important enterprise competency.”
But as it often does elsewhere, success will require a change of thinking.
Mobility today: Anytime consumption, limited creation.
We’re halfway there. At least that’s what the latest research and expertise suggest. In other words, we’ve gotten really good in recent years at consuming information and corresponding with coworkers, clients, and stakeholders at any time and from anywhere on our mobile devices.
For instance, 77 percent of companies say that they’re using even more mobile apps than they were just two years ago, according to a 2017 Adobe Study of 1500 enterprise executives. Nearly 70 percent of those are using between two and five enterprise apps to get the job done, particularly in training and communication.
Furthermore, over half of those surveyed cited the “need for instant communication” and an even greater “mobile workforce” as the primary justification for enterprise mobility today. And 61 percent believe that if a company hasn’t deployed enterprise mobile apps, they will be at a competitive disadvantage — which explains why 66 percent are increasing their investment in mobile technology over the next three years.
“The first wave of enterprise mobility was very much centered around enabling people to work untethered from traditional devices such as desktop PCs and laptops,” explains Holtby. “In organizations, mobile devices were often only utilized by senior figures, whereas now employees have greater choice, and mobile technologies are more democratized within organizations.”
In that sense, we’ve arrived.
But old habits are hard to break. “Even though a lot of email and other productivity apps are now available on mobile, end users still restrict their critical or time-intensive document efforts to the desktop,” says Chugh. “Tasks such as commenting on a document, making edits, and drafting still largely happen from nine to five. This behavior frustrates document turnaround times and so far hasn’t been resolved as well as it should have.”
“We are still not used to a mobile first environment,” says Pareekh Jain, mobile analyst at HfS Research. “Mobile is still regarded as an information consumption and communication medium rather than a creation medium. Partly out of habit, we are used to editing documents, spread sheets, presentations in desktop mode rather than on mobile.”
But Chugh and company argue that the latest technologies are surprisingly capable and powerful enough to fully replace what many of us are accustomed to doing exclusively on desktops and laptops. For example, Just Press Record lets users record interview and auto transcribe them — something that was never possible on desktop. Media-rich bulletin boards and group organizational tools such as Evernote and Trello dramatically improve not just mobile collaboration, but collaboration in general. On top of that, more powerful email apps from Outlook, Gmail and others have popularized features such as scheduled emails and shipping features that hasten email management.
People-first creation: How mobility should work.
Even with our collective reticence toward creating full-blown documents and workflows from our phones, the many benefits of enterprise mobility are readily apparent.
To name a few — better worker productivity, availability, and response times. No more having to wait until someone returns to the office. Faster access to information to make quicker decisions. Better rapport with customers and stakeholders. Lower cost. Speedier supply to meet quicker demand. All combined, many companies have even observed higher employee morale with the proliferation of generous Bring your own device
For both workers and employers, that’s encouraging news. “Mobile today is enabling what laptops did 20 years ago in terms of better engagement with customers and a faster enterprise,” says Chugh. “But to achieve this, executives must think about worker mobility with a combined focus on mobile, cloud, and ubiquitous connectivity.”
For example, customer and employee onboarding from the field can now be a paperless process, Chugh says. With the help of tablet or phone camera, crucial information can be uploaded to the cloud to accomplish in two minutes what would have taken two days before.
“You and I and the customer can really be anywhere now,” says Jacob Sharony, principal at Mobius Consulting and early pioneer of barcode inventory technology for UPS and Fedex. “We just need access to wireless, which on the whole is as ubiquitous as electricity and water — a utility instead of an amenity.”
But again, until we start creating important documents from the field, we’re leaving significant amounts of money and opportunity on the table. “Mobility should be embraced as a means to transform the way we work today, as opposed to being viewed as secondary technology that is layered on top of legacy processes and document workflows that we have been using for decades,” Holtby explains.
This can be done by taking an end-to-end view of how mobility might help to realize new operational and productivity efficiencies. “Up until recently, strategic enterprise mobility decisions mainly related to which type of device ownership and management model should be employed,” Holtby adds. “Now, however, enterprise mobility is a practice and set of supporting technologies that continues to advance the organization in a far more strategic fashion.”
Citing his own successes in helping organizations create more with mobile as opposed to solely consuming or communicating with it, Holtby seemingly favors user experience over any perceived or actual security risks, a controversial point we’ll revisit later. “The people-centric approach over a device-centric approach is vital,” he says, “Because the device will change, but the need for employees to work productively, aided by new technologies will be constant.”
This brings us to some of the latest tools of the trade, most notably Adobe Document Cloud, Adobe Sign, and Adobe Acrobat Mobile — the most widely downloaded and OS agnostic PDF app in the world.
“Our primary goal with these three tools is to make it easier for enterprises to empower their employees in terms of access, manipulation, reuse, and document workflows on any device or platform,” Chugh says. “Many of these workflow enhancements and capabilities have long been available in desktop versions of Acrobat and Sign. But these recently updated apps are a testament to our commitment in making mobile creation a first-class citizen for the modern enterprise.”
This is also why all three tools have enterprise mobility management (EMM) capabilities and app-friendly standards baked in. And depending on your company’s needs (or your reluctance to commit to something new), you can do important things like “fill and sign” and “scan” documents for free without a subscription to Document Cloud.
Scalability with security: How organizations can prepare.
Watch Kerri Strug’s leap to victory.
Whatever tools you feel are appropriate and suitable for your organization, there are some key challenges you’ll need to address before realizing a more creative mobile workforce.
First — security. According to a recent IDG survey, more than half of 1600 senior IT security officers reported security incidents and/or data breaches stemming from personal use of mobile devices.
“This is undoubtedly the main concern of enterprise IT departments in regards to mobility,” says Bryan Bassett, mobile research analyst at IDC. Often these two segments of mobility come to a head. “Install too strict a security policy, and productivity suffers,” he explains. “Too lax a security policy, and organizations open themselves up to an increased risk of a breach.”
Generally speaking, a positive employee experience is going to promote productivity, so the key is finding a balance between the wants of employees and their experience and the needs of the company. Unlike Holtby, however, Bassett believes that “security trumps user experience.” Nevertheless, he says enterprise IT leaders can draw their own conclusions while looking for ways to balance the needs of their workers with that of organizational security.
“Either way, it’s safe to say that all organizations can improve existing policies and work-flows to promote a better user experience for employees, especially if increased productivity is driving their mobile investments,” he says.
To that point, Chugh says executives must view creative mobility as an opportunity rather than annoyance or hindrance. “Current mobility management solutions do the basics in terms of getting apps to their employees, but going beyond this (in other words generating more documents from the field) is seen more as a restriction than productivity enabler. Thus, enterprise mobility should focus more on mobile productivity,” as opposed to just keeping the lights on.
Another important issue is scale. Simply put, many enterprises today lack the proper network infrastructure to handle the increased traffic and bottlenecks caused by the addition of substantially more devices, apps, and access points.
Not only that, but Bassett is quick to point out the pesky and complicated existence of multiple document instances. “Changing how we send, receive, and store electronic communications has been a hard habit to kick,” he says. “Mobility and near ubiquitous connectivity has made it very easy to transmit information on a whim.”
It’s so easy now, that we’re often left with multiple digital artifacts of the same or slightly revised documents in our email, on our desktop, or in the corporate cloud. “Granted, cloud storage, and enterprise mobility management software has helped to alleviate this issue to a degree,” Bassett says, “but it remains a persistent problem.”
On top of that, increasing mobile collaboration is a top goal. Whereas before the first wave of enterprise mobility empowered individuals to consume and communicate more, Sharony expects more creative teamwork now. “We need to focus more on collaborative tools, in addition to individual access and creation. Instead of just consuming and communicating 24/7, we should be producing collaborative assets.”