Office for iPad is Not Enough

By Erik Rucker, Director of Mobile at Smartsheet — August 10, 2014

Do you know anybody who works more efficiently when they're not seated at a desk in an office? 
 
The mobile workforce revolution is upon us and enterprises had better be ready. According to a recent report from IDC, the world’s mobile workforce population is expected to reach 1.3 billion in less than a year. This trend, combined with the continued growth of cloud-based tools for business, has positioned the emerging enterprise mobile and cloud-hosted productivity tools categories for tremendous growth.
 
It was both inevitable and surprising when Microsoft shipped Office for the iPad. Clearly, the move was required for Office to remain relevant in a mobile world; surprising because it was an admission that we no longer live in a Windows-only world.
 
While Office for iPad is a very solid first version (as evidenced by the 12 million downloads it saw in a week), it doesn’t move the needle significantly on mobile productivity. Microsoft's new release addresses only approximately 10% of the mobile market. 
 
Productivity Evaluation
Given that the mobile workforce is growing exponentially, here are some factors to consider when evaluating mobile productivity tools for your enterprise:
 
Does it take a mobile-first approach? Mobile productivity tools are large, complex applications that should work so smoothly that they fade from the user's consciousness and allow her to focus on the work.
 
It takes disciplined investment to rebuild the UI for touch-first interaction and keep the user's data front and center. In addition to nailing touch-first interaction, the applications have to be fast so they interact smoothly even on low-powered phones.
 
Does it streamline the entire user experience? "No app is an island" (apologies to John Donne) and the most elegant app experience can be destroyed if the user can't access the files or people needed to work.
 
The explosive growth of solutions like Google Apps, Box and Dropbox illustrate the pressure here, but the true scale of the opportunity for hosted solutions is found in the volume of email attachments. The value of a hosted collaborative work platform that fixes those problems is similarly large.
 
Is information security and manageability a priority? Of course authentication and access challenges are very real needs to keep private information private and to manage access. While web-based services get high marks for usability and cost effectiveness, they should absolutely be evaluated on their ability to meet the enterprise's needs for security and administration.
 
Selecting a single enterprise-wide solution (so long as it is a good one) also makes users' lives easier by providing a single place to go for everything and prevents users from having to remember which docs are where and deal with IT info you can only get inside the office, and so on. 
 
Does it enable deep collaboration and viral adoption? Lastly, an effective tool should spread like wildfire within organizations. Powerful solutions to real business problems that work end-to-end and can be adopted easily become indispensable with incredible speed.

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