Monday Apr 28, 2014

Mobile has changed the game and enterprises need to decipher how they will compete, innovate and transform

Author: Steve Ng, Senior Vice President, OFM, Oracle APAC

We are in the midst of a revolution where mobile is upstaging PCs, laptops and tablets to emerge as the device of choice for Internet connectivity. In fact, the entire user experience is undergoing a dramatic change – with the “carry it anywhere, everywhere” convenience and accessibility offered by mobile phones. Together with its ease-of-use interface, mobile is almost ubiquitous in today’s world. Consider the following global trends[1]:

  • Facebook has crossed a billion monthly active users of which 819 million (more than 80%) access it through a mobile device
  • iTunes is the largest music vendor in the world
  • Google generated around $1billion of its total $13.9 billion revenues from mobile in Q1 2013

The Asian market is a huge contributor to the global mobile boom with the region contributing to around 895 million active mobile subscriptions in the year 2012 alone.[2]  In fact, a Nielsen Smartphone Insights Study 2013 shows that smart phone penetration in the Asia-Pacific region is booming, presenting a huge mobile commerce opportunity. It has progressed especially well in sophisticated markets like Korea and Japan, with close to nine in 10 (89%) Japanese consumers and around two-thirds (67%) of Korean consumers having participated in mobile commerce activities in July 2013.As the technology wave catches on, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia are slated to be the next big mobile commerce markets and it’s only a matter of time before mobile commerce shapes the future of Asia’s overall retail landscape.

What’s more, it’s not only the developers that are tech savvy, but also end customers, who are more demanding when it comes to their business expectations around mobility. With an ever growing young population entering the workplace– 24x7 connectivity and instantaneous updates are the norm rather than the exception. There is clearly a need for business apps to move to the mobile to harness productivity and business efficiency of this young demographic. 

It is hardly surprising then that 90% of CIOs expect to deploy more than 25 mobile apps in 2014 and by 2015 mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1. [3]

Chart a mobile roadmap

While the need to go mobile is entering boardroom discussions, what remains imperative is charting out a mobile roadmap. Enterprises can seldom convert their complete suite of apps at one go. A well thought out roadmap can however help prioritize their portfolio. Starting with the most critical apps that can deliver the most value in the initial years, enterprises need to gradually move into a ‘Mobile First’ mindset. This mindset teaches enterprises to think of mobile at the inception stage of a new application/solution, but also consider the use case when developing the mobile app (eg. consider the device form factor, requisite capabilities or ease of use). Indeed, if enterprises adopt a long term vision that the future is mobile, they can translate this into crucial brainstorm sessions at the initial product development stage to ensure mobile experiences are integral to all their applications.

Sometimes it is because of the absence of this mindset that enterprises act in retrospect –simply replicating the same set of capabilities for their web applications to mobile is no longer acceptable. Take for example when a customer wishes to conduct a banking transaction on the mobile. Expecting the customer to wait two days for a password to execute the mobile transaction can defeat the entire purpose of providing users with the convenience and immediate access that customers now expect from their mobile apps. 

Leverage the power of the mobile device and recognize its constraints

Enterprises need to grasp the potential and for that matter even the constraints of mobile. While a mobile provides the efficiency of location based solutions, the size of the device is not suited to long, busy web pages that make browsing inconvenient. While designing for mobile, enterprises need to pay attention to the different kinds of things one can do with a tablet vis-à-vis a phone vis-à-vis a desktop. This starts by identifying the current state of the application and its suitability to the mobile device. Most web applications are in fact ‘mobile hostile’ and not at all user friendly when viewed in a three to four inch screen or mobile device. When developing the mobile apps, enterprises need to adapt the application to make it more tolerant of the mobile device. A step further would be to weave in a responsive design that makes the app mobile friendly– either providing a different application flow or even providing different types of information to the mobile user. Of course for the most optimized mobile experience, enterprises can always redesign and rebuild the app from ground up. But before venturing into the custom design space, enterprises should first evaluate what they want to achieve via the app, consider the integration to many of the standard device features such as GPS or camera etc. Many times, a simple notification sent via SMS or a social network can create as powerful a user experience.

Put the backend in the forefront

Embarking on the mobile channel, especially for enterprises, is not just about the device or the design and interface of the app; it’s about providing a complete end to end user experience. This user experience depends upon a stable back end. Indeed, for enterprises, the integration and secure access to backend systems is the most critical aspect, whether they are developing B2B, B2C or B2E mobile applications. A common approach is to build Web APIs in the backend but since this architecture requires constant connectivity, the challenge arises when the mobile device is disconnected. A Transaction Replay model works well when users are disconnected since a cached database sits on the mobile client. This allows the user to perform all available transactions that are subsequently recorded and replayed when the connection is restored. For connectivity that is consistent and superior, an open backend that can leverage the power of new technology trends such as Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly emerging as the platform of choice for enterprises across the board. Last but not least, security.

Convenience offered by the mobile cannot come at the cost of security. Especially with mobile penetration in the retail merchant channel growing rapidly - nearly one in 10 merchants accepted mobile payments in 2013, an increase of 50 percent per year since 2011 - enterprises have to consider security from device to data center. [4] Without a doubt, security is the key aspect of an integral mobile experience – not merely for the end user but the merchant too. As per a recent study on the True Cost of Mobile Fraud, fraud threats are impacting merchants to the tune of $283 for every $100 of actual fraud losses through the mobile channel. 

Even within closed corporate networks, the mobile device looms as a significant security threat. According to a Global Corporate IT Security Risks study conducted by B2B International and Kapersky Lab in May 2013, personal mobile devices used for work-related purposes remain one of the main hazards for businesses with 65% surveyed seeing a threat in the Bring Your Own Device policy. [5]

Yet according to the same study, only 14% of companies have a fully developed mobile device security policy for their corporate networks. This is especially alarming in light of the fact that mobile devices caused more critical data leakages than either phishing attacks (5% of companies), employee fraud (4%), or corporate espionage (3%). Enterprises require a secure environment on the mobile device that separates personal data from corporate sensitive data. Real BYOD management means delivering a secure container around the corporate applications so that enterprises can secure access privilege, easily separate, protect, and wipe corporate applications, e-mail and data of their employees, partners or customers. From the end-user perspective, BYOD management also means that their personal applications and data can be kept separate from the enterprise information. Businesses are beginning to recognize the significance of comprehensive security architecture and the need to create strong, stable and secure mobile ecosystems that simplifies compliance and truly exploits the new opportunities that mobile, cloud and social access have introduced.  After all, there’s no looking back with mobile- it’s changed the way we communicate forever and it can change the way business is conducted for our future generations. The way forward is for enterprises to embrace the mobile revolution responsibly – to deliver engaging user experiences on secure platforms, for any application, on any device and around any data.

***


[1]India’s mobile internet- The revolution has begun’; A report by financial services provider, Avendus, March 2013http://www.avendus.com/Files/Fund%20Performance%20PDF/Avendus_Report-India's_Mobile_Internet-2013.pdf

[2]Nielsen Smartphone Insights Study 2013: http://www.nielsen.com/my/en/insights/news/2013/the-asian-mobile-consumer-decoded0.html

[3]Forbes: Mobile Business Statistics 2012

[4]True Cost of Fraud Mobile, A study by LexisNexis, December 2013

[5]Kaspersky and B2B International studyGlobal Corporate IT Security Risks, May 2013

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