Friday, February 6, 2015

Mobile Maturity

Many have observed that the introduction of new technologies follows a pattern, for example the hype cycle, technology maturity curve, adoption life-cycle, etc. When you think about it mobile computing has been around for a while now. If you need a refresh refer to The History of Mobile Computing. Many organisations are already on, or are currently moving onto their next generation platform and applications. Of course enterprise mobility will not follow exactly the same path as other technology advances. An interesting example is the introduction of personal computers; there are defiantly some parallels when it comes to uptake and the impact that they have had on business, and there are some inherent differences. For example (with the exception of Mac) most PCs in the market shared a common architecture and operating system. Unlike in the mobile space where there have been several shake-ups in terms of the leading manufacturer and operating system. Can we learn something of the future of mobility from how the use of PCs in business has matured?

Prior to the advent of the PC, computers tended to be expensive and used for specialised purposes. A small company would not likely use a computer as the business case wouldn’t stack up. Software design, development, and maintenance were also specialised.

Over time as this sector matured strategies regarding outsourcing and retaining in-house knowledge evolved. Some organisations that had initially outsourced (as they had no choice) built a core team competency to take responsibility for their IT asset. There are cases in the industry where these teams became so successful that eventually they were spun off as separate companies. These new companies could then service the general market or a group of related companies for example: BHP/CSC, GE, Bosch, TCS, and Wipro (to name a few).

In the 1980’s and 1990’s offices moved rapidly from paper to PC based activities. Drawing parallels to their older larger computing cousins the industry saw a rise in new job roles and associated skills for the design, development, and maintenance of the hardware and software. Organisations again evolved their strategies for balancing in-house knowledge with costs.

As mobile device usage has become commonplace for both business and personal use a similar technology maturity is evolving. These days many companies have at least one mobile application, some companies are embracing mobile innovation with labs, entrepreneurial style start-ups, and RAD prototyping. While the evolution of mobile matures, organisations are working through a process of determining what to in-house and what to outsource.

It makes sense that businesses should concentrate on their core competencies, mitigate risk, and strive to reduce costs. Unfortunately IT can sometimes be seen as one big bucket of costs that should be delivered cheaper. To approach this correctly requires a thorough analysis and understanding of the IT landscape, skills, and market. Personally I see the value in retaining business knowledge inside an organisation so part of the challenge of course is to unpick the blurred line between the pure business subject matter expert and the pure IT expert. For more information refer to Resourcing Enterprise Mobility.

What I have seen is that enterprise mobility management and security related tasks are maturing and becoming part of the general IT landscape. In fact in many cases they are now tightly coupled with a self-service trend continuing to proliferate.

Mobile application development is also maturing. UI/UX is seen as a market differentiator and for larger organisations is an area of consideration for in-sourcing. Likewise in the complicated landscapes of large companies the architecture and design of software is a common candidate for in-sourcing. As companies develop mobile applications and gain in-house skills there will be inevitably be discussions regarding the cost effectiveness of this longer term. It wouldn't surprise me to see the mobile application departments of some larger organisations spun off into separate companies in the not too distant future.

A final thought to parallel the personal computer with mobility. Children born from the late 1970’s onwards have never known a world without PCs. When these children grew up they expected PCs to be part of society, they gained skills on these machines from an early age and leveraged these skills to further advance the use of computing. A parallel can be drawn to perhaps children born from the late 1990’s onwards. This generation of workers will never have known a world without mobile computing and its associated landscape of applications. As they join the workforce they will bring their own expectations of mobile computing along with their wealth of knowledge, and enthusiasm. I think we can safely predict exciting times ahead for technology.