Is 2012 the Year of the Mobile Enterprise? It Depends Who's Answering
Mobility for the enterprise is growing intensely in headlines and book titles. Consider a 2007 book "The Power of Mobility: How Your Business Can Compete and Win in the Next Technology Revolution," and "The Push is on to Mobilize Business Applications," "The Steep Ascent to Enterprise Mobility," headlines from a 2009 publication by InformationWeek. Before this was "Integrating Wireless Technology in the Enterprise," a book published in 2004 that promised a "world without wires" that is "almost here."
The key word is "almost"—from a book that is now five years old, you have to ask what does "almost" really mean? A dictionary will tell you it means very nearly but not exactly.
And that's exactly the question that many are asking. "What are the possibilities for real business models going forward?" is part of a question formulated by Fortune magazine organizers of a conference in July where they'll be asking a panel of visionaries to share what they see happening and what the future may hold.
The mobile Internet, the blogs, the social networking, the feeds, the wiki—all are working right now. The technologies are there for ubiquitous mobility. All that's missing, it seems, is the participation of more companies. According to yet another book—this one in 2008—titled "Groundswell," that's coming. "Within a few years, a company that doesn't engage in this sort (mobility) will look dated. What would you think of a company that had one static graphic and no links on its home page? In 1995, that was typical—now it's laughable. And in the same way, companies that aren't wired into the groundswell in 2012 will look very twentieth century—which is to say, out of touch," say the authors from Forrester Research.
Is 2012, the date the Forrester people name, the one in which the mobile industry will take its long-awaited great leap forward to ubiquitous mobility?
Seeking an answer to that and other questions, Sybase's Willie Jow, vice president of marketing, created its Mobility Thought Leadership Council that had its inaugural meeting on May 13, 2009. The council comprises key customers and partners, in some cases they're both. The idea is to create an ecosystem of thought leaders who will help Sybase, a market leader in the segment, to move the industry faster. The objective is to enhance strategic planning with direct customer and partner input. Sybase, in other words, used the first of three levels of learning: to listen. The two others are: to engage in an ongoing dialogue, and to employ its customers in its work.
One of the outcomes is that Sybase learned that mobile technology has probably overtaken market maturity. In other words, the ability to mobilize surpasses the business case. Slightly contradictory but allied to that is that while all enterprises want to mobilize, there are a lot of things to do to get there. Furthermore, the challenges in mobilizing applications—device management, device platform and security issues— are headaches as perceived by CIOs, but they are resolved by solutions that actually do exist today, including those from Sybase.
Sybase iAnywhere President, Terry Stepien, contradicts this, however. From his perspective, we're in a mobile enterprise tornado. Previously, companies would issue smartphones only to key employees. Today, however, workers in general are clamoring for corporate e-mail connectivity for their iPhones. That's one reason why Sybase is partnering with mobility shops to roll out smartphone clients for their apps.
The idea is to make it easier for businesses to create, deploy and maintain enterprise applications.
Think for a moment about the need to make it easier, and what that, eventually, will do to push mobility into the enterprise sooner rather than later.
The Bell telephone, Sony transistor radio, Xerox photocopier, Apple computer, the Kodak camera, Google, and eBay all have one thing in common. Each made it easier for people to do something that previously required deep knowledge or deep pockets.
That's the purpose behind Sybase's partnership, announced in March, to partner with SAP to deliver mobile solutions for SAP Business Suite, allowing it to run on the Apple iPhone, Microsoft Windows Mobile, BlackBerry smartphones and other mobile devices. It will be using Sybase's Unwired Platform (SUP).
Sybase followed that up in May by partnering with Samsung SDS to also use SUP to make it easier to deliver some of its cloud-based corporate software, which includes CRM and ERP programs. The partnership also includes joint services, and co-marketing and sales.
The thrust of these moves strengthens Sybase's position as the only "one-stop shop for anyone who wants to develop a mobile app," as Alexander Wolfe noted in InformationWeek in May.
“We are creating a mobility platform, called SUP, which will enable developers—both ISVs and developers inside the data center—to create their mobile apps, whether it be new mobile apps or extensions of their business processes," said Stepien.
SUP is a development and deployment vehicle, enabling the creation of mobile clients for back-end enterprise apps. SUP will also allow developers to push their apps out into today's heterogeneous smartphone environment. The significance of this is that anybody wanting to create a smartphone client faces the challenge of having to do multiple ports. Today, there are four main platforms—iPhone, Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile—and a fifth, Android, that is emerging.
Sybase's purpose is to extend its partnerships with SAP and Samsung SDS in the mobile area to work with other partners who have domain expertise in different verticals.
"'We would envision that, as applications are created, there would be a number of partners that bring domain expertise into a particular vertical where they are working," said Stepien. "Whether it be healthcare, manufacturing, or logistics. We are looking to partner with those different vendors to bring their solutions onto a unified platform that is easier to administer for the data center."
In addition, SUP is about ease of development and deployment for inhouse custom applications. This means mobile applications and business processes can be created by business analysts who understand the individual departments or groups best without having to wait for a package application vendor to provide a generic set of applications. This is no different than the early stages of an intranet, with huge uptake on inhouse development.
If only for that reason organizations still trying to define and understand the business benefits of mobility, Sybase would be a good place to start asking—before 2012.
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