Market research documenting the invasion of smartphones into American businesses are dime-a-dozen at this point. But the recent report ‘Smartphones in the US Enterprise’ (download the Executive Summary) by Technology Coast Consulting and Galvin Consulting is worthy because it doesn’t just answer the ‘What?’, but also tackles the ‘What’s still missing?‘.
Through in-depth interviews with IT directors, Amy von Kaenel and Carolyn Galvin – veteran analysts boasting HP, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and Frost & Sullivan on their resumes – come up with an interesting set of ‘Unaddressed Pain Points’ by mobile device management (MDM) software and mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) vendors (such as my employer, Sybase). They include:
1) Better user interfaces for MEAP-built mobile apps. “This includes screen graphics, ensuring content is dynamic and delivering a positive user experience,” von Kaenel and Galvin wrote.
2) “Agnostic back-ends.” That is, the ability to integrate data and software from multiple vendors “at a reasonable cost.”
3) “Endless upgrades.” This is the result of the constant flow of new mobile devices from the phone and table makers, resulting in a constant flow of upgrades from MDM and MEAP makers. According to one manager, “it is very expensive for corporations to have to upgrade mobile application platforms due to the level of functional and regression testing involved, as well as the degree of immaturity of the software platforms and various compatibility issues.” 1,500 man-hours among developers, QA and project managers is typical, users told von Kaenel and Galvin.
4) “Focus on Partnerships to Standardize Upgrades.” An example would be an Android phone maker partnering with a mobile software vendor to “create new mobile device models that are not dependent on the version of software and operating system. As a result, corporations could implement the hardware upgrades without having to undergo massive software upgrades. A similar model has been made possible in server environments with the help of virtualization and should be possible on mobile platforms as well.” Something like Samsung’s alliance with Sybase, perhaps?
5) “Siebel on Handheld Devices.” An IT manager at a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company suggested this. He preferred an online to a native app version, so as to limit the amount of vulnerable data residing on the device.
6) “Ongoing Security Concerns.”
7) “Greater need for (Data) Synchronization.”
8) Bandwidth costs, due to carriers dropping flat-rate data plans.
I’m very curious what my readers think. From where I sit, the pain points seem minor compared to the cost of sitting on the sidelines. In other words, easily-fixed twinges, rather than the throb of deep hurts.
Take Security – MDM vendors such as Sybase do enable strong security for devices that in most cases satisfies regulatory requirements. But that is contingent upon IT implementing the right policies and general oversight.
On Agnostic Back-ends – while some companies certainly have the resources to knit together best-of-breed or custom software, most more-or-less standardize on stacks. There is no shortage of MEAP or MDM software that can accommodate each stack, as well as no shortage of ISVs who can create custom connectors where they are lacking.
On the Upgrade problem, blame the fast pace of innovation in this still-early market. This won’t be the same problem several years from now.
Certainly, mobile software vendors have plenty to work on. The good ones will be able to rise above by addressing the most pressing of the above pain points. But these ‘pain points’ aren’t the kind that should leave enterprises already being overrun by mobile devices paralyzed and on the sidelines.