The future is mobile, consumerisation is inevitable

iPhone4sAll the research, statistics and trends are fairly conclusive; the future will be based on mobile devices in general and smartphones in particular. Here’s a selection of some recent stats on the subject:

  • In 2011 more smartphones than PCs were sold; vendors shipped 489 million smartphones in 2011, compared to 415 million PCs, including pads (source: Canalys).
  • Global mobile data traffic in 2011 was over eight times greater than the total global Internet traffic in 2000 (Source: Cisco).
  • Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2011 was 150 MB per month, up from 55 MB per month in 2010
  • Mobile data traffic more than doubled in 2011 and will double again in 2012 (Source: Cisco).
  • By the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth (Source: Cisco).

This growth in mobile usage presents many opportunities for companies to reinvent their business model, enhance or differentiate their existing products and services, and develop new offerings enabled by mobile technology.

The opportunities are most obvious in the B2C market around ‘m-commerce’ and specifically online shopping. Within the B2C space there are some excellent examples from sectors such as retail, publishing, travel and leisure that are successfully exploiting mobile technology to develop new channels to market and grow their margins.

It would be easy therefore to focus on the B2C sectors as the main beneficiaries of the growth in mobile ownership; mobile lends itself very well to online shopping, social media and personalisation, to name just a few mobile enabled services. But to do so would be missing a key point: we are all consumers and increasingly we are demanding a universal online experience whether we are at home or at work. Just look at the excitement around Bring You Own Device (BYOD), which gives employees the opportunity to use their own devices for work.

Employees are increasingly asking why they can’t interact with their employer/colleagues/suppliers on their mobile device in the same way as they do with their supermarket/bank/friends. For the younger generations, this consistent look and feel is becoming an expectation that will influence their choice of employer. And this is what the Consumerisation of IT (CoIT) is really about; once we get beyond the headlines of being able to use your own iPhone, iPad, Galaxy, etc for work, consumerisation is about delivering a universal consumer-based experience in the work place. CoIT is therefore a natural and unavoidable consequence of the growth in mobile computing.

The potential uses of mobile within an organisation and for B2B are numerous. In both cases though the apps must adopt the same design principles and features as those used for B2C apps to achieve that same look and feel. Fortunately the BYOD trend is making this a lot easier as the same devices are being used.

Within an organisation, consumerisation means developing mobile apps for field-based staff, and mobile versions of corporate systems for staff to use when away from the office. Going further, companies can deploy mobile enabled social media and communication tools to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across distributed teams. The benefits will be seen through productivity improvements as a result of more flexible working, better design and accessibility of apps and higher levels of employee engagement.

And the same types of services that are being deployed in B2C apps can be applied to B2B markets to create new or enhanced products and services. Purchasing, fault reporting, appointment/facility booking and account management are obvious candidates for mobile. Location based services can be used by customers to check stock held by suppliers nearest to a site, contractors can provide real-time updates and images of jobs to their clients or to request approval for extra work to be undertaken without the need for another visit.

The growth in mobile ownership and usage is driving the BYOD trend, which in turn is setting the CoIT agenda. The penetration and use of mobile devices is set to continue and the consumerisation of IT is an inevitable outcome of this trend. BYOD brings direct cost reduction for organisations as it reduces the number of devices purchased and supported. The wider CoIT will bring much broader and deeper benefits, particularly if companies follow the same principles, and deploy the type of features that are being used in B2C services. The CoIT provides companies with an opportunity to change the way they work internally and create innovative products and services for their customers.

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