An inconvenient truth: Enterprise mobility is all about the end user

An inconvenient truth: Enterprise mobility is all about the end user
After 20 years in the wireless data industry, of which 16 years are with Retriever, Mary Brittain-White has established herself as a thought leader in the area of wireless field automation. Prior to founding Retriever, she worked for a Silicon Valley based Motorola subsidiary, RadioMail, which pioneered wireless email. From University, she joined IBM and over a 14 year career there held Sales and Marketing executive management roles. She has a Bachelor of Economics from Sydney University and a post graduate Executive Development program from Melbourne University.

Picture credit: "IMG_4317", by "FotoBIB", used under CC BY NC SA / Modified from original

The enterprise mobility market isn’t getting easier for CIOs. Actually, quite the opposite is occurring, as the IT industry proactively segments the environment so that many correct decisions are needed instead of just one. Worse still, the industry is promoting approaches that are convenient to vendors but often inadequate to the mobile environment.

The latest mobile solution detour is called mobile backend as a service, or MBaaS, which separates the mobile platform approach between the mobile app and the middleware infrastructure required. Using this approach, businesses can have a myriad of developers creating mobile apps using any method, as long as that method aligns with the services of their chosen MBaaS supplier.

The approach is an attempt to split between the corporate IT requirements of integration and security, and the creative world of a mobile app. Ideal in principle but hardly practical as programmers must, for example, understand the MBaaS approach to data transfer and in-field recovery, as well as how data flows both to and from systems of record. It is hardly a simple attachment process but rather an architectural compliance requirement.

So why promote this segmentation?

As advocated by Gartner, in rare vernacular:

“Integration is an often underestimated thorn in the backside of most business-oriented mobile app projects.”

This elevation of integration to being central in an enterprise mobile project allows a classic SI approach to come into play, one that resurrects fears regarding complexity of integration and the threat of security breaches. This is in stark contrast to the current enterprise mobility landscape where traditional IT juggernauts have not found fertile ground. Their lack of agility and creativity has made them understandably unattractive for mobile projects.

The other market conflict arising is that every back office vendor has a mobile app, or will shortly. These apps remain in the paradigm of their owners and present the information of their parent systems. Unfortunately, this creates headaches for the line-of-business worker, by example a technician, driver or inspector, who often requires or collects information from multiple back office systems.

To demonstrate, a field inspector may need asset information from an EAM like Maximo, complete safety documentation specific to the site and to submit timesheets for this activity to their corporate HR system. Each function has its own app extension from the corporate system; they are not combined to reflect the end user’s workflow.

Euphemistically they are often described as a mobile workbench, the field worker needing to decide when to use each one and what combinations are required between the apps. Not to say that this approach doesn’t work. If each activity is independent, for example a personal holiday request or an expense submission, the system works. However, it’s entirely inadequate if there is a workflow requirement and where end-user compliance adds value to the organisation. 

Finally, the oldest chestnut is coverage. Coverage is not ubiquitous, and yet the IT industry pretends that it is. Coverage is questionable in underground car parks, homes, mountainous areas, on rainy days when, in downtown Toronto and even on Highway 85 in Silicon Valley.

Questionable coverage is something we encounter every week, and yet it is an emperor has no clothes syndrome and not spoken aloud. IT simply states that coverage is grand. This myth allows decisions to be made for application construction in HTML5 or hybrid solutions, all with constrained data capacity. Reassurances are made that yes, you can work offline, and, no, this will not affect in-field productivity. The reality is starkly different, with end-user acceptance and the expected productivity gains suffering badly.

And yet these solutions are actively deployed for line of business mobile projects.

So why is IT introducing solutions into industrial mobile arenas that are simply inadequate to the task and meant for simpler administration style functions?

Well, because it’s convenient, reassuringly familiar and requires less effort.

The inconvenient truth however is that enterprise mobility is all about helping the employee in the field. The IT industry needs to step up and present them with applications that reflect their workflow at a holistic level, rather than presenting them with a plethora of unrelated apps. Solutions must be robust and not coverage dependent. Likewise, integration to systems of record must serve as part of the story, not the dominant theme.

What is important?

Line-of-business mobile apps are normally used to complete the most important activities of an organisation. That is, where the company is delivering a service or product, where customer interaction is common and/or where quality and transparency of an activity is paramount. Enterprise mobility can have an enormous and positive impact on these interactions. But unless an employee is engaged and supported in their delivery by the mobile solution, the opportunity is lost.

For this reason – the end user rules in enterprise mobility. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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