The past, present and future of enterprise mobility

Bill McDermott Profile picture for user Bill_McD September 22, 2014
Bill McDermott envisions a future where enterprise mobility delivers contextually appropriate and useful information in a simple manner. To understand this we need to understand the past and present.

Feature pic © Nmedia -
As everyone who reads diginomica knows by now, last week SAP announced its intent to acquire Concur. As anyone who travels knows, mobility has fueled radical changes in the traveler experience and across the travel value chain. A few weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for a keynote during Super Mobility Week. Since the event, I’ve listened to many customers and partners who have only strengthened my views about mobility.

It’s always tempting at those big events to only talk about the future. As evidenced by the Apple announcements that took place less than 24 hours before my speech, the world’s tech audience loves new product like nothing else. But I’m constantly compelled by the necessity of looking back as we look forward. With the pace of innovation moving so fast, if you don’t learn from history you won’t unlock the full potential of the future.

Here’s the recap of what I told the audience:

The past: It wasn’t long ago that enterprise mobility was controlled by a small group of dominant players (think Blackberry and Motorola). But like any other industry, it didn’t take long for consumers to exert their influence. The BYOD device era put virtually every player into the space – including Blackberry, Android, Apple and others. The inclusion of BYO apps and content paved the way for what some call the era of BYOx.

Beyond the diversity of operating systems, the pace of change in mobility was stunning. By some estimates, consumers change their devices every 10-18 months. The result is wild shifts in market share (Android had 10% share in 2009, 45% in 2010 and has 80+% today). If the devices created complexity for enterprises, applications compounded it. In 2013 consumers downloaded 80B mobile applications. So for businesses looking to mobilize their workforce and engage their consumers, it’s a battle against Candy Crush and Facebook.

Many businesses were progressive. Despite the suggestion that enterprise mobile apps in Apple’s AppStore is a new concept, companies like Phillips 66 did it two years ago. They rolled out 2,000 iPhones to employees, enabling their team to connect to mission critical systems on an open, secure and scalable platform.

In short, devices and apps enabled simplicity for users but created complexity for the enterprise.

The present: The businesses that leaned into the mobile era are winning the game. Certain principles have proven central, including the concept of device agnosticism. Let’s be clear: the enterprise won’t set the marketplace for mobile devices. Consumers will – and betting against consumer choice is a fruitless gamble.

Beyond the significance of an agnostic, scalable and secure platform, the noteworthy successes can be found in businesses that are embracing the intersection of cloud, in-memory and mobility. These innovation areas are working together to fundamentally change business processes and reinvent business models.

In Vegas I was joined by NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk to showcase what innovation has done to transform the NFL Draft. A case study for complexity, the draft had long been dominated by stacks of paperwork, spreadsheets and unmanageable amounts of data. Today, Marshall has a competitive advantage in the broadcast booth because he uses an in-memory platform to crunch all the data and deliver it via the cloud to his tablet. He told me, “Bill, if I get the information first I get more air time. It’s that simple.”

The future: In a word, “context.”

We already know that devices and applications can take any shape. Apple’s product announcement underscored what Samsung and Fitbit had started. I think about a company like Under Armour at the forefront of performance apparel. The apparel itself has become the device, relaying real-time information to help make athletes better.

Beer taps are mobile devices. Medical devices are mobile devices. Commercial airliners too – the list goes on endlessly. We talk about this as the Internet of Things or the Networked Economy. I think about it as the era of context-aware applications, enabled by the Business Network.

When everything is connected – people, devices, businesses – entire business models can be radically transformed. But instead of transforming around a concept, we can transform around individuals.

Getting back to travel, for airlines this means the airplane communicating directly with the passengers and the maintenance crew as equal audiences. If the plane is headed to a different gate, the notification should be automatic – and it should stop the moment a GPS signal reflects that an individual passenger has already moved to the new gate area. If the plane lands with a mechanical issue, it should notify only the ground crew mechanics who have the part, tools or expertise to make the repair quickly.

This scales to every business in any industry. What information can we filter away from a mass audience and to an individual that reflects an intimate knowledge of who they are, where they are and what they want/need? This is true for consumers, who are aching to be recognized and respected however they choose to do business. It’s true for employees, who hate wasting time on mundane administrative work. It’s true for CEOs, who are looking for every angle to go cut out complexity and innovate for growth.

In the end, mobility is contemporaneous; it’s real time. The great promise of simplicity is for businesses to be context-aware so they can create engaging, seamless experiences for every individual – wherever they are.

Image credit: Feature pic © Nmedia -

A grey colored placeholder image