Opportunities and challenges for enterprise mobility in 2020

As 5G becomes established and digital transformation earns commonplace, what is in store for enterprise mobility in 2020?

This is a contributed article by Gary Lee, Chief Revenue Officer, B2M Solutions

Almost every business across the globe is making use of mobile devices to optimise processes, streamline workflows and increase workforce productivity. Enterprise mobility is therefore a critical component of the day to day operations of many businesses that make up the global economy. 

But, as 5G becomes established and digital transformation earns commonplace, what opportunities and challenges lie in store for enterprise mobility in 2020?

A whole new world of 5G

At present, 5G is still being rolled out and tried and tested, particularly here in the UK. When the dust settles and use cases are decided upon, however, 5G will once again transform the importance of mobile devices. This is because the speeds and low-latency that comes with 5G will create a whole host of new and enhanced applications, which all depend on always-available connectivity and low-latency transactions with cloud-based systems. Consequently, the need for 24/7 uptime and availability of these devices and their connections to the cloud will be business critical. 

For example, 5G could see a field service engineer running repair jobs with guidance from an augmented reality tutorial on their iPad, which can overlay instructions onto their screen to show them how to proceed. It could also allow for doctors to do the rounds of a ward remotely as telemedicine advances. The bottom line is that with 5G there are professionals who will be reliant on their device to complete a job and they cannot allow for any complication due to technology. That means that the evolution of support and operations models for mobile devices and the applications that run on them will also be critical.

The IT teams that manage these devices will need advanced tools that allow for real-time monitoring and proactive alerting to identify any issues ahead of a device failure. In the new 5G world of always on, downtime of mobile devices will be more than just expensive for those who get it wrong.

Greater complexity requires simple solutions

There are two additional sides to this, though. Firstly, as new apps proliferate, Custom Application Development and Delivery will become much more complex, not simpler. The development and successful deployment of custom mobile applications is already a challenge for those managing mobility within the enterprise. However, in a world of Continuous Integration Continuous Development (CICD), application updates are usually distributed every few weeks. And with enterprises now running 5-7 custom applications on each enterprise device, IT departments are in a model of continuously updating applications, while also patching mobile operating systems, and dealing with physical device challenges as well.

This constant stream of changes, combined with the sheer complexity of supporting varying device types from various different manufacturers and often different versions of Android or Windows in the field, means the complexity of regression testing each app update is daunting. The result is that application stability, largely due to application updates in this extremely dynamic and complex enterprise mobile environment is one of the top issues to be resolved in 2020 and beyond.

The second side of this concerns the platform that is used for monitoring these devices and that platform's ability to provide Actionable Intelligence. Where just 10 years ago, decisions about mobility were very device-centric, with decisions made on hardware specs and performance, today, mobile devices are just one of many "Things" in the Internet of Things and are one of many End Points which include desktop, mobiles and sensors. Cloud-based software and data lakes collect information from all these things and using machine learning and AI, they create actionable insights and intelligence. As we go into 2020 and beyond, purchasing decisions will be about this entire platform view and not just traditional feeds, speeds or specs of devices. 

Driving investment in change

In this environment of distributed daily management of devices, apps and users, businesses can no longer afford for their centralised IT function to have total control and visibility. This means they need to join forces with mobile workers to give them the power to better understand the health, utilisation and even basic tools of their mobile devices. Achieving this kind of distributed transformation will provide scalability and offloads already overburdened IT departments. However, it requires new tools and new methods of dealing with device management in a proactive way.

Businesses will invest in these tools more and more as they realise mobile is critical. My prediction is that we will start to see businesses focus on avoiding downtime for workers and end users, and that will drive investment in the management and operations of mobile devices in 2020 and beyond. The benefit of doing so will be true real-time views into health and utilisation of all mobile devices in a business network. This will allow the companies that move quickly to get ahead of the competition by avoiding device downtime and reducing the impact on productivity.

The other driving force behind this will be customer expectation. As customers demand more proactive and preventative services to avoid device downtime rather than reactive solutions to a problem that has already caused trouble, there will be a shift in expectations and models for managed service providers. A by-product of this is that companies that started in consumer repair models are now shifting into the enterprise space. These companies promise on-premise repairs scheduled by the end users.

The landscape for enterprise mobility will be full of opportunity in 2020, but businesses need to get the basics right if they are to go beyond mobile device management and reap the rewards.

Gary Lee is the Chief Revenue Officer of B2M Solutions, and is a business leader with more than 30 years of leadership experience and success. Lee has a proven track record in high-tech serving as C-level executive in both public companies and global venture-backed startups in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He was most recently Chief Solutions Officer at Stratix Corporation, the largest pure-play managed mobile services provider in North America. Prior to Stratix he was CEO of InReality and several other global startups providing software, mobility and telecomm solutions.