The three remaining obstacles to ubiquitous workforce mobility

(c)iStock.com/RapidEye

There is no longer any argument about the need for enterprise mobility: the traditional office has changed forever. According to Citrix, “61% of workers report working outside the office at least part of the time.” In the United States, IDC estimates that the mobile worker population will surpass 105 million by 2020. While some industries, such as healthcare, supply chain and hospitality are more mature in how they invest to meet the demands or their mobile workforce; every industry is increasing its commitment to mobilisation. In fact, spending on enterprise mobility is anticipated to exceed $1.85 trillion by 2019.

The enterprise mobility movement can be traced back to the early 2000s with the first generation of mobile devices that used applications and operating systems that were limited. At the time, many organisations adopted remote access policies with the advent of mobile desktop virtualisation.  While novel and convenient for the time, the user experience was untenable and application navigation burdensome at best on touch-based interfaces.

Since then, there’s been no shortage of enterprise mobility technologies and startups building products to fulfill any number of trendy categories coined by industry analysts. From mobile application development platforms (MADP) to mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) and enterprise mobility management (EMM), to the recently emerging rapid mobile application development (RMAD) and platform as a service (PaaS): the quest to innovate for the mobile workforce is anything but boring. One can even argue the problem is that most organisations have had too many point products to address this problem.

While there are inherent differences to the technologies that fall within these categories, the one consistency for enterprise mobility decision makers is the extensive learning curve that transcends both IT and Line of Business. According to a Tech.co article on the top challenges to enterprise mobility, “understanding this complicated landscape with a small internal team is very difficult.”

In recent years, large international conferences like VMworld, Citrix Synergy, the IDC Enterprise Mobility Conference and Mobile World Congress have shaped their programming to educate enterprise mobility buyers on everything from app transformation and security to EMM, end user computing, cloud management and much more. One can infer from the record attendance at these events that enterprises – at least the majority of them – genuinely view mobilisation as a necessity and a competitive advantage, and not business as usual.

Enterprise mobility’s persistent challenges

Yet no tradeshow or new technology – on its own - can solve the biggest challenges to ubiquitous workforce mobility. These persistent obstacles include:

Battery life: There are now more mobile devices then people in the world. Unfortunately, however, while the phone form factors, built in sensors and optics have improved dramatically, battery life still remains a challenge. By 2020, mobile devices will exceed 4 per person, according to Strategy Analytics. Yet today, the battery life of a fully charged mobile phone or tablet ranges from 3-6 hours, depending on the specifics of usage and temperature.

While this is an improvement, insufficient battery life continues to be the number one complaint of consumers and workers worldwide. Yes, with each new product release and operating system update comes the promise of added battery power; but these upgrades add only minutes on average. Innovation in battery charging technology is also making it easier for mobile users to stay connected, but those devices require charging themselves.

Looking forward into the future, a truly digital workforce, in which some workers are constantly ‘on the go,’ will require mobile devices powered to survive intensive usage for much longer periods of time then they current can. This becomes particularly important for wearables and other business accessories for the size of the battery prevents ubiquitous usage from both size and practicality.

Poor user experience: Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S, with 55 million actively participating in the workforce. Ironically, many of the legacy apps that remain critical to business efficiency and productivity are built over the last two decades before millennials reached college. Most of these business applications where developed in a “monolithic” one size fits all to user experience, with no intuitive user interfaces and dozens, of fields, tabs and drop downs.

This dichotomy has, in some circumstances, unintentionally created work environments that disenfranchise millennial workers, rather than inspire or motivate them. The problem is so widespread that a recent study by Oxford Economics found that77% of millennials felt that "sub-optimal application performance affected their productivity. Respondents also reported that they ceased using an application because it ran too slowly, while 78% said when using business software they "occasionally or constantly experienced delays."

Enterprises won’t be able to compete globally, if businesses cannot attract, retain and develop the millennial talent needed to lead organisations through the next 3 to 4 decades of business. Creating a better user experience, although complicated, is imperative to creating this experience.

Transformation/modernisation of legacy apps: Friction-less, digital processes powered by smart apps and smart devices provide efficiency, productivity and sustainable competitive advantage. Yet many organisations suffer from legacy applications that are not suited for the cloud+mobile paradigm that hinders productivity and limits innovation.

Organisations must transform their applications and workflows to leverage modern technologies. App transformation is defined bySearchCIO.com as an “umbrella term that encompasses everything from reducing the number of applications within an enterprise to moving applications to the cloud+mobile paradigm to ensuring that apps meet updated compliance and governance requirements.” This process doesn’t sound easy, nor is it, as success is dependent upon an organisation’s culture, finances, hierarchy, and demands on employees. Also hindering app transformation, according to IT Business Edge are impractical application processes, lack of solution reliability and robustness, and inadequate mobility training.

For organisations to mitigate the challenges of app transformation, they must build and embrace a mobile-first work culture in which user experience, workflows, and security are prioritised above all else. If companies can set these, and other parameters important to their type of work, then app transformation can become less cumbersome.

The physical office will never be the same. Thankfully, enterprises finally realise that an epic shift has occurred. But for true mobilisation to occur, smart people must continue to develop innovative solutions to mitigate the complex challenges that have persisted from organisation to organisation for the past several years. 

Read more: PowWow Mobile becomes latest AppConfig member, announces VMware collaboration

 

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