This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of OnWindows.
Anywhere you look, from the coffee shop to the park bench or railway carriage, you’re likely to see people using mobile devices to connect with businesses. They might be consuming products and services, connecting with business partners or logging remotely into their office workspace, on their own device or one provided by their employer. But each of them has reached for their mobile first and, enabled by the cloud, they’re getting things done.
Today, almost every consumer – and every employee – feels at home with powerful communication tools in their hands, and businesses that embrace these technologies stand to benefit from exceptional levels of productivity. “We live in a mobile-first, cloud-first world,” says David Chalmers, global black-belt for enterprise devices and mobility at Microsoft. “Microsoft’s view for mobile-first is not just about the mobility of devices; it’s centred on the mobility of experiences that are orchestrated by the cloud and we think of these two trends together.”
With unprecedented connectivity in their hands, it’s no surprise that many employees want to use their own mobile devices to manage their work, and a growing number of organisations are embracing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. In 2014 Spiceworks reported that 35% of devices in the workplace were employee-owned, with a further 10% owned by the employee and subsidised by the company. Research by Tech Pro found that 75% of companies either allow BYOD or have plans to do so.
“Employees are consumers, they expect to experience the same native environment and design aesthetic as the leading commercial or social apps,” says Boaz Hecht, CEO and Founder of Sky Giraffe. “Balancing back-end access and security needs with this new UX requirement is difficult for some enterprises to understand. But if you want to increase engagement, you have to meet the user in their native environment.”
“People around the world are generally very comfortable with well-designed mobile apps and the various form factors,” says Dan O’Hara, vice-president of mobility at Avanade. “Individuals keep their mobile devices with them most of the time, often checking their phones before they get their coffee in the morning and before they go to bed at night. They’re used to using apps, so there are no big training issues with most mobile projects.”
In addition, there is an element of BYOD even for businesses that provide their employees’ devices. “We still see a lot of corporate provided devices for speciality cases such as flight attendants, police departments or healthcare practitioners, but even so an element of BYOD is often inescapable,” says O’Hara. “For example, in telehealth the patient’s side is inescapably BYOD because you’re not going to mandate what technology the patient has. But the provider, who needs to access all the information related to that patient and make the right decision at the right time, will often have a very strong corporate provided, tested and ruggedized type of device.”
Allowing workers to bring their own mobile enables them to work on a device they enjoy using, while keeping IT costs in check. But there are some challenges too. “There is a great desire for mobility, but it tends to be ‘my mobility’ – my tablet, my phone and my apps – which faces the IT team with the challenge of dealing with a breadth of devices, form factors, screens and capabilities,” says O’Hara.
Cross-platform capabilities are essential, and Microsoft is delivering these through Windows 10 and familiar productivity tools such as Office365, Dynamics CRM and Skype for Business. In addition, universal apps is enabling enterprises to extend the apps they need across the devices their people want to use. “Windows 10 not only brings more productivity experiences like new versions of Office and Outlook plus more security and management features; it also delivers a truly unified platform across all Windows devices,” says Chalmers. “That means a common experience for users, with their data and apps flowing across screens, and a larger addressable market for developers, who can now write one app for one Windows Store.”
“Device manufacturers continue to innovate and they’re getting more competitive, so we’re only going to see more form factors in mobile,” says O’Hara. “Microsoft has taken a big step forward with Windows 10 and universal apps, and that helps immensely with the ability to extend functionality to very large devices, very small devices and everything in between. With Windows 10 we’re also likely to see a revitalisation of the kiosk in the mobile ecosystem with new, mobile-aware, self-service kiosk-type applications in places where consumers tend to use kiosks to interact with their government, healthcare provider or retailer.”
A further, crucial dimension of Microsoft’s commitment to empowering mobile businesses lies in its cutting-edge devices that are designed to deliver enterprise-level security and productivity tools. The company recently announced a range of devices to meet a spectrum of business needs, including three Lumia devices with large, document-friendly screens, Microsoft Office productivity tools such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Outlook, and built-in security and mobile device management (MDM) readiness. When a bigger screen is needed, users can choose the slim, lightweight Surface 3 which runs desktop software; the larger Surface Pro 4 which packs extra processing power in a thin, lightweight device; or the Surface Book which integrates Windows Hello and Cortana in a device that can be used in clipboard mode.
“To reinvent productivity and business processes, you need devices that can enable the new mobilised productivity solutions – phones, tablets and PCs that can build the connected end-points to the intelligent cloud,” explains Chalmers. “With tablets, 2-in-1 devices and laptops running Windows 10, employees can create multiple desktops to stay organised and operate their favourite Office applications so they can get stuff done wherever they are. Windows also works with the widest range of USB-compatible accessories, so you can keep using what you already have.”
No matter what device they are using, most mobile workers need access to sensitive information and resources that must be kept safe. Ask any expert how to address mobile security, and MDM will be high on the list. “MDM continues to grow in importance as people expect more out of their devices, and that goes hand-in-hand with security for the applications directory and of course corporate data,” says O’Hara.
Ensuring a secure mobile workplace is a key focus for Microsoft and its partners. “Microsoft is fully enabling enterprises to embrace a complete or hybrid BYOD device policy with its Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS),” says Chalmers. “EMS enables users to have single sign-on, and self-service password management, for any corporate resource, and to easily manage identities across on-premise and cloud. It helps manage and protect corporate data on almost any device – Windows, iOS and Android – from one console with Microsoft MDM and mobile application management. These are both great assets for BYOD environments where a multitude of devices and form factors may exist. Enterprises can stay in control of their corporate data even when it is shared with others, inside or outside of the organisation, and desktop virtualisation enables them to stream applications from the data centre to the cloud, to keep users productive anywhere, on any device, or to keep their data more secure.”
While the mobile enterprise may be a world of new capabilities and opportunities, many organisations still need to work with existing investments, which may predate today’s cloud and mobile technologies. A number of Microsoft partner solutions are enabling those organisations to take full advantage of what mobile has to offer. For example, Imation’s IronKey USB sticks leverage Windows To Go – which many organisations already have as part of their Microsoft licence – to enable users to work in a secure, IT-managed workspace on any computer. It’s a cost-effective way to give contractors access to resources without handing out laptops for them to use, and because it doesn’t rely on internet connectivity, the device enables productivity wherever the worker happens to be.
Micro Focus, partners with Microsoft to enable mobile capabilities for COBOL investments. “The increasing consumer adoption of all things mobile represents an irreversible trend,” says Ed Airey, director of product marketing at Micro Focus. “As organisations and technology continue to evolve, new consumer demands will drive the need for new tech requirements and new solutions. Particularly in support of trusted COBOL systems such as banking, insurance and government applications, developers need the right tools to maintain and modernise these apps.”
Profisee’s Master Data Maestro solution is designed to extend the capabilities of Microsoft SQL Server Master Data Services (MDS) to users who need to contribute to, review, and access the organisation’s master data, wherever and however they work. “Usability, especially for power users like data stewards and analysts, has always been a challenge in MDS implementations, and we designed Maestro to address these needs,” says Jeff Wilson, chief marketing officer at Profisee. “Meanwhile, the workforce has become increasingly dispersed, and MDM is more often being used to front-end data-driven, data-reliant business processes.
“These forces have created an expanding MDM user-base, and Maestro’s mobile-enablement and Azure cloud server options are extending the value of the Microsoft MDS platform into the operational enterprise. For example, many of our business-to-consumer customers are using MDM to better understand customers’ mobile usage profiles and effectively market to end customers through mobile platforms. While its MDM interactions are not directly via mobile interfaces, Domino’s has made a huge push into the market of mobile customer interactions and its Maestro solution is helping it to target the market based on usage of mobile devices.”
The mobile enterprise takes many forms, from the latest devices and software to the extension of legacy investments – but in every case enterprise-level security and cross-platform capabilities are key to enabling differentiating levels of productivity, insight and connectivity. By providing cutting-edge devices and tools, along with technologies that make existing assets available to mobile workers, Microsoft and its partners are empowering businesses to develop forward-looking mobile strategies, whatever their budget.
“We’re working to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more,” concludes Chalmers. “We have unique capability in harmonising the needs of both individuals and organisations, and our mission is grounded in both the world in which we live and the future we strive to create.”
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