Enterprise mobility: it's not what you've got, it's how you use it

'Mobility can offer the enterprise a real competitive advantage,' says John Delaney, Associate VP, European Mobility at IDC. 'But it all depends whether IT is on the defensive or taking the initiative.'

Speaking at Microsoft's recent Business Transformed event, Mr Delaney went on to explain that IDC's research shows 'we're on the cusp of a transformation from the first phase of enterprise mobility, where risk management was the priority, to the second phase where mobile is not seen as an auxiliary, but more as the primary platform for IT.'

Where we've come from

Mobility represented a first for IT: a technological revolution that started in the home and was brought into the workplace in the hands of employees. IT had to go on the defensive, protecting corporate data and brand reputation, and responding to ad-hoc developments made in isolation by different departments.

As 'bring your own device' is increasingly eclipsed by 'CYOD' (choose your own device), and 4G connectivity allows for faster speeds, more data and less latency, IDC believes that IT can once again take charge.

Some IT departments are already shifting from the defensive towards longer-term strategies that benefit the whole business, and are focusing on exploiting the applications and data sharing that mobility supports.

It's what you do with it that counts

'We can stand on the shoulders of these computer giants,' says Dave Coplin, Microsoft's 'Chief Envisioning Officer', as enterprise mobility moves into a new phase.

Microsoft's mantra of 'mobile first, cloud first' has delivered cross-platform synchronisation, integration, security and management for both devices and applications.

Attendees at Business Transformed saw a demonstration, featuring the Nokia Lumia 930 and Surface Pro 3 that showed how easy it is to update documents, sync preferences and personalisation, create smart searches across devices and use Microsoft apps like Lync and PowerPoint to their full potential. Now it's up to IT to put these tools to work.

We don't have to be slaves to the machine

It's not just a technological transformation that IT is positioned to take the reigns on, but a cultural one as well. Rather than adapting the way we work as mobility has matured, we are still doing things the same ways we always have. This has lead to a stressed workforce, imprisoned, rather than empowered, by technology.

'We are letting technology disconnect our own cognitive process,' said Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft. Instead of turning us into time-sliced, multitasking, inattentive zombies, he argues that technology should put people first: 'It's time for the rise of the humans.'

Businesses need to look at how people can collaborate across departments; how customers are connected, holistic human beings, with different 'consumer personas'; and how transformational tools can empower employees to be transformational for customers.

The future's already here

Examples abounded of real businesses already learning to 'rise above the machines.' Mr Delaney spoke of an NHS trust introducing a scheduler for home visitors and an e-prescribing app, both of which help clinicians see more patients.

There was also a panel discussion, including Peter Scott from BT, Paul Russell from Ricoh and Darren Foulds from Barclays. They agreed that mobility was about helping staff become 'more efficient and interactive', helping people to do their jobs with less interruption and taking services people already engage with and translating them to a mobile device.

Business transformed

We need to allow mobility to change the way we work: to allow it to do more of the heavy lifting and enable us to share knowledge and data instantly; to go efficiently wherever we are and to empower people. By doing so, IT can start to shift its focus from technology and control towards enablement and delivering a real competitive advantage to the business.

You can download Dave Coplin's books here or click here to find out more about our Enterprise event series. We want to hear your transformation stories so stay in touch via @MSFTBusinessUK.