2014-20-May-Subway-Rider.jpgOnly last year, the industry was abuzz with news about "Bring Your Own (BYO)" programs ... Since then organizations have discovered three things: 1. Supporting an open list of employee-owned equipment is not practical. 2. Deploying a manageable and scalable mobile security infrastructure is "easier said than done." Plus, it’s taking longer than anticipated to get all the pieces in place. 3. So far, the only business applications workers have been able to use are email, contact management and calendar.

These complications have limited the payback that organizations have been able to reap from their BYO programs. Organizations are dealing with the first two items by limiting their approved list of supported devices, and by (finally) deploying mobile device management (MDM) or similar security solutions.

However, the lack of real business apps remains a problem.

The dearth of enterprise-grade apps has driven workers to use consumer apps to get work done. Nowhere has this been truer than for sharing documents and other files with colleagues. Mobile file sharers have been going "rogue" in droves, turning to unsanctioned consumer tools like Dropbox, which at least partially explains how Dropbox reached 275 million users.

Workers are so desperate to share documents they knowingly take considerable risks doing so, even when consequences can be catastrophic. A recent uSamp survey found that over a quarter of rogue workers who shared documents using unsanctioned cloud services experienced a direct negative consequence of such use, ranging from leaked confidential information, to lost business, to costly litigation.

The market has been quick to respond to this need to share documents, which explains the explosion of "enterprise file sync and share" (EFSS) products now available. According to a Forrrester Research report, there were approximately 30-40 EFSS solutions on the market in July 2013.  That number is certainly larger by now.

The popularity of enterprise file sharing is a next natural step in the evolution of the mobile enterprise. By the end of this year, most organizations will have either selected an EFSS solution or will have reached an acceptable usage policy with consumer file sync and storage products within their organizations.

But sharing files is just one step in becoming a mobile enterprise.

The Evolution of Mobile Collaboration

Once secure file sharing becomes commonplace, four independent developments will feature prominently in the next evolutionary stage of the mobile enterprise. They are:

  • Widespread access to enterprise services via apps -- the number of mobile enterprise apps will explode as enterprise services become increasingly-available on mobile devices. Case in point; SAP today offers over 60 apps (!) on the Apple App Store, while Oracle offers 38 and Microsoft offers 18. Each app typically allows a user to complete a single task. For example, one SAP app allows business workers to complete purchase requests or approvals. Single-task apps are popular because they incorporate a simplicity that users crave.
  • Proliferation of cloud services -- the ability to exploit a wide variety of enterprise services anywhere, anytime will make it easy to select the most appropriate service to complete increasingly-specialized business tasks. For example, organizations today can seamlessly mix live chat, analytics and e-commerce services from multiple vendors on the same customer-facing web site.
  • An enhanced social experience -- an improved user experience for enterprise social networking will enable mobile workers to communicate seamlessly across multiple collaboration tools including microblogging, ideation, instant messaging, video chat, etc.
  • Perfection of conferencing tools -- convenient services for pow-wowing with groups "on the go" will become widely available and increasingly popular.

Information Overload (Again)

Apps, cloud services, social tools and conferencing facilities will hasten the use of tablets and phones for work by increasing productivity and shortening work cycles. Ironically, the more popular mobile devices become at work, the less useful they will be.