Mobile Transition: Managing Obstacles, Tapping Opportunities
From a channel perspective, mobile computing can be nothing short of maddening. Although there are millions of mobile computing devices out there, most were purchased directly by individuals or the companies for which they work. What's more, from an application perspective, most run nothing more sophisticated than email and a few consumer apps.
However, as mobile computing matures in the enterprise, the number of opportunities channel partners can tap into is rapidly expanding. From app development to management, the range of mobile computing services for which enterprise IT organizations are looking outside their own organization is growing fast.
In fact, the biggest challenge when it comes to selling mobile computing solutions may be the customers' previous missteps. After an initial wave of enthusiasm for mobile computing, many customers are quickly overwhelmed by all the complexity.
"Mobile drives a lot of cultural change in the enterprise," said Stephanie Trunzo, chief creative officer for PointSource, which specializes in building mobile computing applications. "The biggest challenge sometimes is overcoming previous false starts."
When it comes to mobile computing, the most pressing IT issue facing organizations is security. Not only do mobile computing devices allow users to store data both locally and in the cloud, they create a host of management and compliance issues that the average IT organization is poorly equipped to handle. This creates a major opportunity for channel companies to deliver everything from software that isolates corporate data from personal data on mobile computing devices, to managed services that put the responsibility for managing the integrity of the mobile environment on the shoulders of the solution provider.
Yet the mobile computing opportunity hardly stops with the management of the device and the applications that run on them. Demand is escalating for business applications that can run on mobile computing devices. Businesses not only want access to myriad applications on a mobile device—from business intelligence apps to the latest version of complex ERP software—but they are looking also to solution providers to build custom applications for them.
As part of massive effort to get closer to their customers, businesses of all sizes are building apps that take advantage of application programming interfaces to give them greater insight into customer behavior that simply can't be attained via a standard Web application. Armed with that information, those organizations are making much more targeted offers to customers that download their apps. The issue that most companies have today is that, while they understand the business potential of those apps, very few have the expertise needed to build them.
"The challenge is that a lot of IT managers are not familiar with the phrase 'single-page Web applications,'" said Henke.
The good news is that, as most solution providers already know, where there is mystery there is usually profit. Mastering mobile, for example, generally requires understanding not only the devices, but also how cloud services complement mobile computing.
"Mobile is about getting things out fast and iterating fast using mobile cloud services," said Jerry Cuomo, an IBM fellow and chief technology officer for IBM WebSphere. "Mobile and cloud are lot like peanut butter and chocolate."
Channel companies will benefit from finding the best mix of technologies to provide a safe mobile experience that helps organizations boost their productivity in ways that would have been previously thought unimaginable.
Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.