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INFOTECH: The Future Of the Enterprise is “mobile”


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Huge waves of innovations in connected, mobile devices and services are changing the way we work. The successful organisations of the future will be those that capitalise on the latest in mobile innovations – and embed the likes of wearable tech, smart machines, context-aware services and personal clouds, into their operations and value propositions.

This is the view of George Ambler, Gartner EXP Program Executive for South Africa, addressing delegates at Sun City during the African SAP User GroupÂ’s (AFSUG) Saphila 2014 event. This yearÂ’s conference marks the first time that Gartner had been present at Saphila, with Gartner tracks available to provide greater variety to the speaker sessions.

Ambler said that Gartner has identified the top 10 enterprise technology trends that are flashing on the radars of CIOs all over the world. The list begins with four primary forces: mobile device management, mobile apps, the Internet of Everything, and hybrid cloud services.

These four primary trends then lead to the “derivative impact” of cloud/client architecture, personal clouds, software-defined anything, and Web-scale IT.
Finally, the top 10 is rounded out by the future disruptors of 3D printing and smart machines (robotics). Clearly, mobility ranks highly on the agenda.

Bring your own anything
Gartner expects three major players – Apple, Google and Microsoft – to become the dominant mobile ecosystems, leaving little room for any other contenders. “However, we’re seeing increasing levels of mobile diversity in terms of form factors, screen sizes, interaction styles and architectures,” noted Ambler.

Wearable technology brings about an entirely new realm of form factors; and while it may have been largely over-hyped so far, this trend will gather momentum and formalise over the coming years. Organisations will have to deal with the challenge of “bring your own anything”.

The main challenge to the CIO, he said, is in developing an enterprise mobile platform that shields the organisation from all this complexity, but allows it to capitalise on all the opportunities.

“Leveraging the capabilities of mobility means creating consistent customer (or employee) experiences that are device- and channel-agnostic.”

He cited the example of General Electric, which has successfully embedded remote monitoring sensors on its engines allowing the servicing and maintenance value-adds.
Whatever the type of organisation, Ambler believes the key principle is to find mobile solutions that extend and further monetise an organisationÂ’s existing services.

“Imagine digitising your most important assets, products and services. Now ask how can I manage it better and improve productivity‘ How can I operate it remotely‘ How can I charge for it‘”

Rise of the personal cloud
Mobility unlocks the promise of “context-aware computing” – so that services can be tailored to individual customers or users, depending on where they are at that point-in-time.

While location based services have started appearing in the consumer marketing world, in the enterprise space weÂ’ve still hardly begun to realise the possibilities of context-aware services, Ambler explained.

But the mobility trend that may have the most significant impact is the advent of the personal cloud. “We think there will be something of a shift – as more and more users recognise the power of cloud services,” he said.

“Some will use Google as the anchor for their cloud environment, for others it may be Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft.”

But Ambler doesnÂ’t foresee a huge shift away from sexy mobile devices towards personal cloud overnight, saying that for a long time people will see value in the sophisticated features located on the device itself. But as the idea of the personal cloud begins to take hold, intelligence and functionality will increasingly reside in cloud-based architecture.

For the CIO, there is a lot to consider. Mobile innovations are happening so rapidly that oneÂ’s thinking needs to shift from being long-term and strategic, to becoming more tactical and short-term, he added.

It’s an uncertain future – but with one undisputed certainty: mobility will play a huge role.

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