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What's your mobility quotient?

In his keynote on the BlackBerry 10 launch, Thorsten Heins, the CEO of BlackBerry (or erstwhile RIM), talked about the transformation to mobile computing from a mere mobile communication. In this space of mobile computing, the mobile device is always on, connected simultaneously to personal and enterprise worlds and enables a seamless user experience reliably and securely. The BB 10 and its ecosystem of partners and developers is already moving in the direction of mobile computing and so are others among the wide gamut of stakeholders in enterprise mobility.
However, enterprises themselves seem to be a little out of step with the movements in enterprise mobility. The thinking within the enterprises seem to be traversing a whole spectrum of perspectives on what mobility means for them, what is the priority of being mobile and when do they start being mobile. Mobility quotient could be a term which can describe the appetite of enterprises to deploy and embrace mobility.
If one were to gauge the mobility quotient of enterprises at this point, one would stumble on the following clusters of enterprises:
    • Low quotient enterprises: Many such enterprises would have analyzed mobility but would have stopped short of implementing it because of a variety of reasons like budget constraints in a difficult business cycle or prioritization of other IT initiatives over mobility. Others would have felt that technology is still not mature enough to deploy mobility in a cost effective, predictable and timely manner. The rest could have perceived mobility not leading to significant productivity or competitive advantages. This cluster of enterprises are more or less in a wait and watch mode and quite unsure of mobility from multiple aspects.


    • Medium quotient enterprises: It would be interesting to look at what mobility means to some of these enterprises. The ability to access SAP screens or providing approvals from a tablet via VPN while sitting in a cafeteria, 200 km away from the office would seem to be an important step towards mobility for some organizations. Others may provide minimal provisioning of handled devices for managers who are able to approve leave requests or purchase orders on the go. The user interface may not be very important even if the screens on the handheld device needs frequent scrolling. Data security would be a paramount concern to many such enterprises. Many of these enterprises would have mastered the provision of access and transactions to employees and business partners over the Internet, where they can control identity management and data security with independence and without the need to control the devices being used to access. But with mobile devices and an "always on" access, its even important to control who is using the provisioned device and that the device cannot be used for anything else but for the access function to the enterprise. A lot of users belonging to such enterprises would carry an official as well as a private hand held device. 


    • High quotient enterprises: Enterprises in this cluster value the productivity of their employees or an anywhere anytime customer connect as critical for their competitive advantage. a lot of the business functions used in the ERPs of these enterprises are "applyfied" or mobilized as applications suitable for smartfone access. Salesmen can give realtime quotes to the customers for a customized product configuration , marketing coordinators can order a promotion event as soon as they negotiate prices with their supplier sitting in his office, accounting clerks can push the workflow forward by inserting missing invoice data as they travel in a subway, HR vice presidents can access the attrition report as they address an off-site meet or the customer can pay his EMI quite late in the night. The hand-helds simplify the tasks of employees, decrease training costs and boost productivity. Enterprises are beginning to move into this cluster as they become more sure about their costs, security and the benefits when they embrace mobility. Many employees in these enterprises are bringing their own devices as the enterprise becomes more device agnostic and the focus shifts on mobile application management rather than mobile device management. The employees device provides him or her the same level of experience in his professional and private worlds and he can easily switch between the two on the same device.

Enterprises could find themselves internally at different mobility quotients based on use cases which are prevalent across different parts of the enterprise. The challenge is to articulate a common minimum mobility strategy which finds resonance with organization wide objectives and needs. In the enterprise history when the ERP, e-business and Internet commerce was first embraced, the enterprise was ahead of its employees and customers, who took baby steps in learning and working with these systems. The tables are turned this time. The employees and customers already know how to leverage their smartfones to conduct personal transactions on apps, on the go, while the enterprise trails them.

More often than not, the CIO is pondering over his business context, tasking teams to explore mobility proof of concepts, getting consultations from product vendors, but still not able to state his mobility quotient. The viewpoint in these situations could be blinkered by a narrow set of parameters defined by IT based on past TCO experiences, but could discount important usage imperatives coming from the employees, customers and the business partners. A synthesis of perspectives on mobility can well determine how much mobility does the enterprise need and by when is it needed. Experienced consulting organizations like Infosys have enabled many an enterprise to build up their strategies and embrace mobility in a way which is best suited to the enterprise. 

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