The early days of mobile access to corporate e-mail is littered with now-defunct platforms, including Danger, HandSpring, Palm and others. It was Research in Motion (RIM) that launched the first wave of true enterprise mobility. With its well-designed Blackberry handset, robust operating system and highly secure network, RIM revolutionized the space, for better or worse, turning the mundane task of checking e-mail into a must-do activity at dinner, social gatherings and any other time. Some of you may remember this as the “CrackBerry” era.
Apple heralded the second wave of mobility with the introduction of the iPhone and iPad, and the Apple App Store. While the devices themselves were never intended to be corporate workhorses, people’s love affairs with “Designed by Apple in California” has fueled an entire software development industry, churning out apps to appeal to every user’s needs or desires. As of this month, Apple is approaching 50 billion app downloads, with a run rate approaching 2.5 billion per month – and accelerating.
While the iPad has spawned an entire me-too tablet industry, the second wave has also thrown down the gauntlet to IT, forcing organizations to radically alter what they consider to be “corporate” devices. People simply cannot get enough of their app-rich devices, are not willing to leave them at the company gates.
Initial efforts to squash the BYOD revolution have given way to acceptance that these devices offer too many benefits to be excluded from the corporate roster of computers. Plus, banning them only creates another shadow technology world, where workers copy content off the corporate networks, store it in cloud file shares, and sync it back to their iPads or Android devices.
Now we are entering the third wave of mobility, the era of mobile productivity. Beyond e-mail access, beyond viewing and sharing files on an iPad, organizations are looking to enrich existing business processes and boost productivity. The benefits of a mobile workforce have already been established, and the value of the 3.5+ mobile devices that most knowledge workers carry is beyond question.
But there is an increasing recognition that existing enterprise resources and infrastructure, including SharePoint repositories and other enterprise content management systems, also offer significant benefits to the organization – the equivalent of the solid concrete foundation underpinning a new and airy corporate office. The conversation has shifted away from the polarized, philosophical questions – “Should we allow personal mobile devices?” and “How can we block access to cloud file sharing services?” – to a more inclusive, action-oriented focus: “How do we use mobile devices securely to expand the boundaries around how, when, and where employees are productive?”
Is your organization ready for this next wave of mobility?