The Social Mobile Enterprise

Enterprise social mobility is the next big thing.

Yes, I said it. I’m going out on a limb and predicting that the next major wave of enterprise innovation will be a combination of today’s emerging social networking explosion fueled by a move to mobility in mass. It feels like a very stable limb based on all that I have been seeing over the past few years.

Let’s look at it in context. Many have written about mega trends in evolution of enterprise technology. Rawn Shah wrote an excellent piece recently outlining the move from Mainframe, to Departmental Computing, to Personal Computing, to Internet Computing, to today’s Social computing environment. I think the next in line on the same scale may be Mobile Computing.

It’s funny, as I read this list, and the traditional mentions of “Computing”, I realize that term has run its course and it really is time to retire the term “Computing” since it has become irrelevant, something reserved for calculations, tabulations, lists, etc. Ever since the Internet age, it’s really about collaboration and connectivity, not computing.

The Enterprise mobile revolution is happening. A recent Infographic by Zendesk says, of Fortune 500 companies, 80% are deploying or testing iPhones and 65% are deploying or allowing iPads. Over the next few years, every enterprise will have made major headway into allowing BYOD (bring your own device) linking iPhones, Androids, and iPads into the enterprise systems. I am convinced that the convenience and serendipity enabled by Mobility makes all the difference in driving engagement of today’s Social Enterprise systems being deployed (see my post on the Upside Down Enterprise Portal).

Mobile brings a new dimension to communications. For me it started with the Palm Pilot back at the turn of the century (I always wanted to say that) when we began to sync with our calendar and contacts to have this information right in our pocket. I remember the excitement of having my assistant schedule meetings and then watching them “air sync” right to my device, while I was on the road.

Many a corporate road warrior (including me) became completely dependent upon his BlackBerry (or CrackBerry as we called it) in the mid-2000s. The BlackBerry showed the world that it is very useful to have instant access to calendar, contacts, and now email, all in one device. An entire generation of boomers and X-ers became proficient at the thumb typing model on the excellent blackberry keyboard. Soon after getting mine, I remember discovering the browser and beginning to do simple web access activities (checking weather, flight times, simple ecommerce) with the very limited and clumsy early blackberry browser.

Then, my life changed when I moved to an iPhone in 2009. I had just heard a “future of technology” conference speaker refer to this generation of smartphones, not as powerful telephones, but as small / portable computers. The explosion of the Apple app store and those that followed for other platforms (particularly Android) quickly showed the world that these devices could become a major supplement and often a substitute for the laptop computer. I giggle to myself when I see someone walking between meetings awkwardly carrying his open laptop, trying to preserve his connectivity to the corporate wifi while changing rooms. That will be a fleeting “sign of the times”.

As corporations were finally figuring out the power of social networking platforms, they began to exploit SharePoint, Jive, IBM Connections, Socialcast, Yammer and a host of other Enterprise 2.0 Platforms. They found they could use these tools to connect a widely dispersed workforce, create rich employee profiles and online communities to meet and work. The activity stream and microblogging emerged as a way not only to communicate in quick short messages, but to also allow the system itself to inform colleagues of progress being made, milestones being met, and steps taking place along the course of a project.

These platforms are indeed game changing, but as the mobile revolution has been continuing, many of the E20 platform and tool vendors forgot that they were retooling an enterprise based on a 2000 paradigm. Many were designing with the idea that they needed to connect stationary knowledge workers who only log in from their corporate desktop or laptop. Their solution to mobility is to allow a worker to connect to the E20 platform from his / her VPN connected laptop. This severely hampers adoption. Relying only on the normal 8-5, at the desk, environment for social engagement is truly unnatural.

Each of the collaboration platform vendors recognizes the need for a mobile component and they have been working hard to create that capability. Like all transformations in technology it moves in steps. They focus most of their effort on the laptop / desktop worker and then “bolt on” the mobile capability as an afterthought.

The game is changing again. It is time now to create environments that recognize the following facts:

  • Workers are mobile, even in their office
  • Workers collaborate 24×7
  • Firewalls are going away
  • Workers will continue to bring their own devices to work
  • Tablets will not go away
  • Laptops will become much less relevant (like Desktops have)
  • Knowledge work is being distributed to external partners

The next generation Social Mobile Enterprise solutions must be designed to allow:

  • Mobile access to all corporate services and information assets
  • Cloud based storage accessible to all business partners
  • Mobile connectivity among the workforce in the same office and across timezones
  • Mobile / Social stickiness through “Gamification” engagement models
  • Mobile / Social connectivity with equal access for employees, contractors, and business partners

What do you think? Are you also seeing this trend? Can you give some examples of what your enterprise is doing or planning in the comments below?

(By the way, this post was authored on my iPad and edited only iPhone. Only the final upload, graphics and hyperlinks were done with my laptop.)

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Filed under apps, Early Adopter, IPad, mobility, social business, technology, trends

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