In Enterprise mobility – where do we go from here? I grappled with issues around mobile cost of ownership that were lingering after the Mobile World Congress. To recap the event and extract the enterprise content from the consumer gadget lovefest, Kevin Benedict of Cognizant was good enough to join me for two videos, both taped on Google Hangout from his Idaho batcave:
What was missing from the last piece was the mobile trends we can expect in 2015. With Windows devices rising in prominence, I also wanted to revisit that HTML5 versus native apps debate. At Cognizant, Benedict has been able to combine his ridiculous global travel schedule with a deeper research agenda. Here’s the mobile trends Benedict singled out from his travels.
1. Mobile application platforms, make way for MBaaS. Benedict is seeing a decline in investment in mobile app platforms:
You’re seeing adaption of the model around mobile back end as a service, or “MBaaS.” MBaaS is basically mobile middleware and a cloud you can subscribe. That’s really the direction the industry seems to be settling on. There’s a trend away from mobile application development platforms. Most of the big boys within the mobile application platforms development space have actually changed focus or gone away.
2. Security concerns are not holding back the move to the mobile cloud. As companies get a better handle on mobile security in general, they aren’t holding back from the cloud middleware push:
Mobile security, data security and application security is a big continuing trend. There’s now a more consistent way of monitoring who actually downloads the company app, and who’s actually using it. We’re used to virtual networks, but we’re starting to recognize that we can have our mobile middleware in the cloud as well. We really just want mobile apps utilit, and we don’t actually need to have all that on-premise.
3. Marketing glitch: customers didn’t want end-to-end mobile solutions after all. Past years brought us plenty of “end-to-end solutions” hype. Well, it’s time to revise those marketing slide decks, because customers aren’t buying in:
Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk on converging mobile solutions, where you think everything is coming together. I don’t see that. If anything, the trend seems to be towards breaking these solutions up. Mobile application development platforms used to be “end to end solutions” – they thought that was the way everybody wanted it. Companies rejected that.
They said, ‘You know what? We want to use our own preferred tools to build user experiences in the mobile app themselves. We want to pick the best kind of mobile middleware. We’ll subscribe to that in the cloud because we don’t want to be betting our entire enterprise IT environment on one vendor.’ You’re actually seeing a break up to a best-of-breed environment. Companies seem to prefer that, because they recognize how incredibly important supporting mobility is to their company’s future success. They are not willing to bet the future of their company on a startup; they are going to hedge their bets.
4. Building a real-time mobile architecture means re-evaluating legacy solutions. One of Benedict’s main research areas for 2015 is inspired by the limitations companies ran into after building their first mobile apps:
What we’re learning is that creating the world’s coolest mobile app isn’t going to do any good if your infrastructure can’t support real time interactions with your ERP, and other business solutions and processes on the back end. Mobile applications are driving this digital transformation back into the enterprise. Companies are saying, “More and more of our business is being transacted through our mobile applications. In order to be competitive, we have to support a real time mobile environment and real time mobile interactions with our customers, and that requires a lot of changes in the back end.” It’s fascinating to see how much has to be transformed within a legacy IT environment to actually support this new world of mobility.
5. Localization and personalization are driving consumer mobile behavior. Benedict’s other 2015 research area examines the impact of geo-locational and personalization features on consumer behavior:
What we’re looking at is: what you’re engaged in when you’re using your mobile applications, and then finding the patterns. Let’s say the patterns reflect that after every soccer game, you take the soccer team to pizza. If you’ve done that five times in a row, that’s a pattern. Perhaps it’s time to offer you a pizza, or bring the pizza to the soccer field next time to ensure you get the business. Rather than roll the dice, let’s go to them.
You’re going to see this location context: what time of the day are consumers doing particular things: are they shopping? Are they doing research? Are they buying? What times of the week, month, year, and on what holidays? And how can you better support that behavior, based on the data gathered from sensors, and from mobile applications via swipes, clicks and preferences. Mobile consumer behavior is very important not only for vendors, but for you as the user. Because once you chose a preferred vendor, you want that vendor to give you more and more personal service that’s different from somebody else.
Benedict cited a few more mobile trends that we didn’t dig into, including: increased interest in building mobile apps store, using analytics and usage metrics to monitor usage levels and improve user experience, and, of course, no mobile story would be complete without a nod to the
Internet of Things hype festival. As Kevin put it, mobile middleware doesn’t care if the data is coming from a smart phone or a sensor; new use cases are emerging.
HTML5 versus native app development – some clarity emerging
Some of you are probably sick of the never-ending, and potentially unresolvable, HTML5-versus-native apps debate. But as Benedict sees it, some pretty clear guidelines are emerging, which boil down to the mobile use case you have in mind. Productivity apps benefit from cheaper one-site-fits-all HTML5, whereas native apps are ideal for high stakes apps where the competition is steep and consumer-grade look and feel is essential:
Where your brand is associated with an app, and that app is out there for your customer base and prospects in the consumer market, you need to use whatever advantage you can. You’re going to see people using native apps in those cases, and I don’t see any end to that. They want that extra 10, 20% of functionality.
Now, looking at productivity apps – I call them utility apps – these are all the internal apps you want your employees to have, so they can take care of their payroll information, or their retirement programs. For most of that, HTML5 gives you all and that you need, and the total cost of ownership is quite a bit less, because with one build, you can support tablets, you can support laptops, and you can support all the different platforms within the mobile device space.
I often find myself on the skeptical side of personalization trends, worried about the “creep factor” of companies revealing how much they know about you in order to make a few (more) bucks. But Benedict had an interesting way of talking about personalization, in terms of “code halos” that constantly hover around us, and we choose to opt-in from there:
At the Cognizant center for the future of work, we talk a lot about the concept of code halos. We all have a halo around our their head that’s really all the data about us, our clicks, our swipes, our likes, our dislikes, our transaction histories, our shopping histories, our location information. All of this information flows out there around us. We want to keep some of that private from vendors we don’t like or don’t want to do business with. Those vendors that we want to enhance our relationship with, we want them to have more and more of our personal code, so they can treat us different and better.
That’s a far more optimistic take than my view that we are now exposed in ways that we either never opted into, or we opted into without realizing the implications. But I like how Benedict expressed this, and if vendors can succeed in this kind of opt-in data sharing, some neat possibilities emerge (Den’s recent positive experience with Nespresso might fit in here somewhere).
I also challenged Benedict on whether companies can actually learn to build great enterprise apps that aren’t just reproducing tedious desktop screens. Here, Benedict almost talked me into the virtues of gamification. His point? Transparent app ratings and internal Yelp-like review systems could help companies face the music with crummy apps while getting a social reward for building something people actually like. That reward, in turn, could bring greater (if painful) IT design accountability. It’s not often I get talked into gamified concepts, but this made sense. Let’s see where 2015 takes us from here.
If you want to hear more on those topics, you can check out our Enterprise mobility podcast – where do we go from here? , or, alternately, listen to the podcast (which includes the content of both videos) here:
Image credits: Photos by Jon Reed; Feature photo: binoculars © olly – Fotolia.com
Disclosure: diginomica has no financial ties to Kevin’s employer, Cognizant. I was able to attend Mobile World Congress based on SAP funding my air travel and hotel expense, however, I set my own editorial agenda for most of the conference.