Mobile First or Mobile Only? What’s Next for the Enterprise?

Observations from Venture Beat Mobile Summit

I recently had the pleasure of attending Venture Beat’s Mobile Summit and co-chairing two sessions on mobile’s effect on the enterprise with Gaurav Tewari, Director at SAP Ventures, and moderated by Dylan Tweney, Venture Beat Executive Editor. The sessions were roundtable discussions and focused on surfacing how mobile is impacting the enterprise and what issues and concerns are on executives’ minds. These were very engaging conversations that resonated strongly with me and I wanted to share some of the highlights and perspectives with a wider audience.

Security in a BYOD world was certainly a hot topic with varying perspectives. There was a surprisingly heated debate on the level of threat and vulnerability with mobile platforms. It was commonly agreed that the bulk of publicized attacks have been on corporate and cloud infrastructures, as well as Windows PCs. It was also agreed that newer platforms have better built-in hardening. The actual mobile platform threat was a hot topic of discussion. Some folks felt the risk was overblown and others touted imminent disaster due to out-of-date firmware and unpatched vulnerabilities, particularly calling out Android platforms. However, it was certainly agreed that as we move to mobile devices connected over Wi-Fi/the public internet and connecting to public cloud-based services, traditional corporate LANs become much less of a safeguard and end to end protection over an uncontrolled and potentially insecure communication path is becoming the norm.

The growing sophistication of attacks was also brought up. There was a clear consensus that security needs to be designed in by experts and applied at a fine granularity (app or data level) while still delivering a great native user experience. With a varied and heterogeneous mix of devices, diverse application frameworks and more insidious attacks, an overarching security framework for applications was a key agreed upon and as yet unmet need.

BYOD is considered table stakes today, although several folks expressed that the pendulum may swing back to corporate-owned devices. With BYOD plans, the perception is that it doesn’t really save money, but it does provide flexibility, enhance productivity and user satisfaction. 80% of companies are doing it, but only 10% actually have well thought out policies. Of particular interesting concern were MDM style device management ramifications coming as unwelcome surprises for users and the impact on their personal device and content. Here is an interesting viewpoint from Cesare Garlati, who spoke about a personal experience where his child was trying to unlock and play a game on his tablet without supervision. He tried the wrong password too many times and triggered a full remote wipe via IT policy, deleting family photos and music. It was a clear point of consensus that for BYOD use cases, fine grained policy and controls that are limited to business applications and content is required.

It was very clear that mobile is here to stay and is at the forefront of enterprise thinking. A comment was made and corroborated that the best IT departments, spur and enable mobile applications and encourage rapid innovation/iteration for business ROI. It’s not a hyperbole – mobile really enables us to not just automate physical world processes, but to create new and improved valuable workflows and operations. Enterprises are starting to use the full range of capabilities available – cameras for augmented reality, GPS location awareness as integral parts of advancing enterprise processes and backed by powerful cloud services. Attendees cited examples – looking at units of various types in the field by cameras and pulling up maintenance records. Another example was tablets used for factory inventory on forklifts. In this case, expensive hardened PCs being replaced by iPads – disposable, more functional, stateless devices.

It was also brought up that IT in many companies has a history of providing cumbersome user interfaces for applications resulting in lack of use and lower productivity. Mobile gives a fresh start and can and should be used to really improve employee lives and foster use. One company was cited as having turned this cycle around by providing a “loss leader” mobile application to pre-order lunch from the cafeteria and placing it in an enterprise apps store alongside other business apps. The use exploded and encouraged use of the new business apps as well. This example illustrates a common tenant – good mobile reduces friction in the system and saves time.

There was also an interesting discussion around the role of the CIO and how some companies are experiencing a move towards CMO/BU driven IT budgets because business is moving faster than ever. We have seen a similar phenomenon play out before during the transition to the PC era. CIOs need to encourage and enable mobile applications and innovations or get rolled over. The business health requires it!

These observations all resonated strongly with me and are very well aligned with where VMware is headed with Horizon Workspace. To recap, it’s becoming a mobile world and mobile solutions are transforming the enterprise landscape. IT needs to embrace these trends and it is rapidly becoming a prerogative to manage users’ business identities, their business applications and data, not their physical devices. This content must be delivered with native user experience to the device(s) of choice safely, securely and in a compliant manner while not precluding independent personal use. Security needs to be driven end to end – applications to cloud services over insecure public infrastructure and this is ideally a platform feature.

At any conference like this, a number of attendees live and breathe mobile and are at the forefront of enthusiasm for their chosen technologies. Some memorable phrases I heard were “it’s not mobile first, it’s mobile only” and “HTML 5, nice thought, not reality”. And lastly, I can’t finish without introducing you to my new friend Romo, a great use for your old iPhones and iPods – turn them into robots!


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