European MNCs Prepare For The Second Mobility Wave: “Oceans Play To The Wind”

Notes from the IQPC Enterprise Mobility Exchange 21-23rd May, 2013 in Rotterdam:

Last week I chaired, presented and discussed the future of mobility with suppliers and IT leaders at this year’s Enterprise Mobility Exchange. During the event professionals representing many leading European MNCs emphasized themes including best-in-breed customer experience and workforce productivity. IT leaders giving account of their current mobility deployments included BAT, Procter & Gamble, Enel, the National Grid and Lafarge.

Summary: IT departments of European MNCs clearly see the writing on the wall 

European decision makers focus on the second wave beyond device management and communication services. They look to balance the response to fundamental trends together with the need to support necessary business requests. The winner won’t necessarily be the one who supports the most devices and the most applications. Successful mobile deployment happens when the IT side understands and caters for the specific needs of the business.  

BYOD is no single answer to taking mobile enterprise into the second wave

The discussion on BYOD remains complex. Many participants voiced reservations due to European data protection laws, compliance issues and acceptance of purchasing plans. Interestingly, security issues came second to a more fundamental requirement in the energy sector: safety. Electricians are expected to be on call when power is down, construction workers are on roads, and operations dealing with gas, electricity and water must remain fool proof and protected against unauthorized access to avoid life threatening situations.

These valid concerns do not mean that they are passively watching as the BYOD storm brews. Phil Colman, CIO of BAT, outlined three theoretical choices: prohibition, laissez-faire and active shaping. He then demonstrated clear commitment and passion for actively shaping mobile deployments. There was great consensus on this course both on stage and in the networking discussions. Michael de Goede from the electricity supplier Alliander rated mobilization of the workforce as number one priority fuelled by demand. He coined the term "oceans plays to the wind". But that raised some real questions: which requests from users will impact the business? What are the key priorities which must be addressed to empower end users and business departments to be more effective in their jobs?

Corporate device choices are disparate

Some companies opt for CYOD rather than BYOD whereby a company supplies a fully supported and managed list of popular device for employees to choose from. But many in the utility sector believed that a single tablet or smartphone choice would go a great way to increase satisfaction and productivity amongst their service professionals. There was no consensus on the choice of device. iOs, Android on Samsung tablets and Windows 8 all had strong supporters amongst IT professionals. Apple for the popularity amongst users and the fact that “you know how to deal with the shortcomings”; Samsung/Android for a rich set of productivity applications and the tight security built into a single device infrastructure; Windows, the best known system to support by IT professionals integrating Word and Excel.  

There was also much difference in opinion on rugged devices. Some maintain that devices for their service workers must be capable of working for hours in extreme temperature conditions. Others found that building the right casing for smart tablets did the trick even on construction sites as workers would keep them close to their chests and treat them with much greater care than traditional laptops.    

Cases built on popular devices and real life productivity gains

The discussion did not stop at devices and device management. There was agreement that business would be better supported with the right combination of device and application (s) than with general BYOD policies. Mobile Enterprise was largely understood to be a comprehensive service proposition to employees and deployment scenarios were wide ranging. Procter & Gamble for example has deployed multiple own developed apps, while many companies have introduced corporate application stores. Andrew Baynes, CIO of National Grid, emphasized what catering for different roles in customer service really means: roles range from meter readers who need simple apps with only a few data points, to repair specialists who need complex data on fault diagnostics and time to repair.

Successful deployment scenarios delivering enterprise value could be presented in cases where the business and IT shared a common set of goals, worked together to align business requirements with technical limitations, and educated users from both sides. Such an illustrative case was presented by Enetel with representatives from both IT and workplace management for service engineers. Together, they mastered the challenge of developing a very data hungry application rolled out with strictest data protection guidelines and zero outage policy on a single tablet device. Supporting multiple operating systems or devices was not considered an efficient business solution in this scenario.