Do you have a company issued Blackberry? Perhaps your iPhone or Android device is connected to work systems via a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) program? Maybe you’re a real road warrior with a ruggedized laptop or a corridor warrior with an iPad, but the big question is -- why?

For some very specific verticals there are obvious requirements to be met, whether that’s reading electricity meters, getting signatures when delivering parcels, or in my industry, visiting people at home to provide mortgage or investment advice.

I suppose it also depends on your definition of “mobile.” For some jobs mobile does not need to be any smaller than the laptop, either connected via VPN to the corporate network or over the public internet to various cloud services.

Probably the lowest common denominator for all of us is email, whether that’s from an Exchange Server delivered to the corporate Blackberry, or Gmail on your BYOD iPhone. It has by far the longest pedigree in mobile IT. Without any empirical research to back my assertions, I would presume it is still by far the most used “mobile” application.

What are the Real Drivers for Mobile?

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So if I am not a lineman for the county, a financial advisor, or someone else working in a highly specific vertical, what are the real drivers for mobile access to applications beyond email? Is cloud driving mobile, or mobile driving cloud? Is the consumerization of IT pushing the agenda?

If we look at the broad trends in the adoption of consumer IT platforms by businesses, it appears to be often driven by staff who are used to having mobile apps at their fingertips for banking, social platforms, navigation or whatever else takes their fancy.

If you have easy access to all the details of your bank account from your iPhone or Android, why shouldn’t you have easy access to your ERP or CRM systems? It is often said that millennials are the first generation to complain that they have access to better technology at home than they do at work.

This also provides one of the links to how mobile relates to cloud services. If for instance you have a set of real, tangible benefits for providing mobile access to your CRM system, is it cheaper and easier to provide that via a cloud service such as SalesForce rather than upgrading your on premises platform, adding additional edge servers and security appliances, etc?

We could see this as the desire for good mobile access driving us to a cloud-based service.

Is Mobile Access Just a “Nice to Have”?

On the other hand we may have other very good reasons to go to a cloud-based service for social collaboration, or simple document sharing. An added bonus to such a service might be a great mobile interface or app. So not the “killer app” in and of itself, but a capability that brings some business benefit nonetheless.

Either way, do you have the infrastructure that will allow you to get analytics on how your staff is using these mobile applications? If you can’t measure usage, how are you going to prove success or justify further investment?

In summary, if you’re not looking at specialist vertical applications on specialist hardware, but are looking to enable your road warriors and corridor warriors with general mobile access to productivity tools such as email, social collaboration platforms, content sharing, etc, do you have a good, clear set of requirements?

What business benefits are you really aiming for by providing mobile access? If you have a clear understanding of what you really want to achieve, then you will be able to measure it, define success and show when you have achieved it.

Image courtesy of Dmitry Matrosov (Shutterstock).

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