Looking Into the Mobile Crystal Ball

By Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group — November 25, 2013

Almost a year ago, I lit the incense, got my crystal ball out, polished it up and hunched over and waving my hands around  and mystically staring into it once again to try and discern from its murky depths what would come to pass in the enterprise mobility landscape during the year.
 
Making these predictions, I had in the back of my mind the idea that we were on the precipice of a mobile applications gold-rush in the enterprise and that the ecosystem of solutions available were coalescing in a way to make this gold rush happen.
 
Looking back in review at these predictions, I both pat myself on the back, but also make the mental note as we soon go into 2014, that the precipice is still that — a precipice but not yet a gold rush.
 
In looking ahead, here’s why we should be excited by what next year has in store, but also why we should proceed with caution.
 
Steady Growth of BYO
At the start of the year I made the prediction that “80% of companies will adopt BYOD” by year end. A year ago it was clear that we had just passed somewhat of a threshold with regard to the philosophy of companies’ around consumerization.
 
Back in December 2011, 44% of companies broadly accepted it (measured as the proportion of companies allowing their employees to use consumer apps and devices at work, whether actually providing support for it or not).
 
Fast forward to the end of last year and this had grown to 53%. It has increased again to 63% by September this year. The prediction that the increase would grow to 80% acceptance by year end was clearly ambitious.
 
However, I am sure we will see this grow once more in a year’s time, but with almost 40% of enterprises still looking to lock down or discourage the trend and with only minor (but growing) evidence of really strategic leveraging of consumer technologies by those that are more permissive; this will be steady not explosive progress.
 
Big IT Jumps in Cautiously
I also predicted that “As EMM consolidates, a big IT shop will acquire smaller players”; Well, IBM’s acquisition of Fiberlink and Oracle’s of Bitzer Mobile are good examples of this having been realized, but these and the few other examples do not a deluge make.
 
They are signs that mobility is now considered a big enough deal for larger players to know that they have to have an in-house owned capability and that they can’t just wait for the market to settle before they get their wallets out.
 
However neither of Fiberlink nor Bitzer make a mobile enterprise solution as such, and should rather be seen as examples of service acquisitions in the build out of more comprehensive enablement portfolios, which of course won’t manifest over night.
 
Simplified, but Still “Technology Soup”
Another of my predictions was “Mobile service marketing will get simpler as messaging shifts to strategy enablement.” This is coming to pass (kind of), but there is, unsurprisingly, little agreement among vendors and service providers on where the center of gravity lies in enterprises’ mobile strategy.
 
Does it just mean having a strategy playbook document and an organizational center of excellence with oversight over projects? Does it mean being able to manage mobile assets using an EMM platform? Does it mean having a mobile application platform to scale the number of apps being developed and deployed? Of course it means all of these, but vendors providing only one of a few of these capabilities are not going to admit to it.
 
Everyone seems to have an “end-to-end platform,” and of course all of the rest of the competition is miles behind. However what we are slowly seeing is the doing away of complicated seven-stage service lifecycles and the diminution of the idea that “mobile (insert any random word here) management” services have any kind of long-term, stand-alone longevity as they currently are.
 
Technology soup — words I used last year to describe the levels of complexity from increasing mobility and the complicated mix of solutions — will (probably always) continue but with enough enterprises’ having been burned over the past few years by ineffective MEAPs and clunky and restrictive MDM services, they are not as tricked by befuddling marketing and are becoming savvier in looking for the ROI.
 
Strategy Consulting Gains Respect
Another of my predictions was that “Small integrator boutiques will proliferate by offering affordable mobile strategy consulting.” There hasn’t quite been the excitable emergence of smaller boutique integrators as I had anticipated, although the better of those that are in existence have continued to hoover up business, and the better application development houses have begun to provide paid-for advice bordering on strategy consulting.
 
This is a good thing. Yankee Group’s surveys show just how much the complexity of integrating mobility into business processes has exploded for enterprises as smart mobile devices and cloud-based applications cascade downwards and outwards across the workforce and become a norm amongst customers.
The fact that “strategy consulting” no longer has to be akin to the analogy: “you-take-my-watch-and-charge-me-millions-to-tell-me-the-time-and-proceed-to-break-the-watch-in-the-process,” and that rather affordable advice is available to help companies lay a foundation for a much more strategic posture around mobility, is a good sign that companies don’t need to break the bank to know what mobile innovation looks like.
 
These were just a few of the predictions I made, some clearly having been more accurate than others, but looking back in review there is a consistent theme which enterprises should bear in mind as they now look into 2014.
 
This market is evolving with growing confidence, but it will take some time for all of the pieces to be in place for widespread internal and customer-facing enterprise mobility to become a mass reality.
 
It only seems decent at this stage to make another prediction — I predict that it will be 2017 not 2014 when we see a full-blown mobile enterprise applications gold rush; 2014 will be the time to get in the game if you haven’t already, get a foundational strategy in place, think about how to measure your Return on Mobility and scale your projects as you go through into 2015 and beyond.

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