5 mobile technical trends that will impact organizations in 2016

Adrian Leow, a Principal Research Analyst in the Mobile and Client Computing group of Gartner writes about enterprise mobility trends in 2016, as well as key development observed in 2015.

1. What are the top three biggest developments in the sector in 2015?

1. Windows 10 is Trying to Expand the Windows Ecosystem Across Devices, Developers and Users: Microsoft has shown Windows 10 delivering new universal Windows apps for Office designed for touchscreens. It is also positive to see the new Microsoft universal Windows apps going beyond just business- or productivity-oriented apps; the addition of universal Windows apps for Photo, People, Maps and Music looks promising, and will make devices running Windows 10 more attractive to different users.

With these apps and the Windows 10 unified application platform, Microsoft hopes to attract more developers by increasing the set of devices to target and, ultimately, bridging the application gap with other platforms. This gap with competing platforms, such as Android and iOS in the consumer mobile space, remains a critical limitation for Windows’ progress in the phone and tablet markets.

A Gartner consumer survey (conducted during 2014) into the propensity of consumers to switch their current OS (in phones) revealed that a high percentage of Windows smartphone users (42%, versus just 28% of iOS users and 32% of Android users) would move to a different OS offering a greater choice of apps.

The survey also revealed that a greater percentage of current Windows phone respondents would switch to Android (39%) than stay with Windows (28%). Windows tablet respondents, however, were more loyal, with 45% saying they would replace their current Windows device with another Windows device.

2. The emergence of wearables opportunities in the enterprise: Wearable devices will offer a wide range of new opportunities to engage customers and employees, and will create innovative experiences and digital business offerings, but wearables will be far more than smartwatches. The wearable market will evolve very rapidly; organizations developing applications involving wearables must be extremely agile and flexible.

Few smartwatch applications will deliver significant employee value through 2017. The wearable era is just beginning; researchers and product developers are working on a vast range of new wearable devices, such as the smart fingernail, the wearable “selfie drone”, smart contact lenses, and subcutaneous sensors. In the longer term, some wearables will evolve from passive sensing and display functions to more active roles such as sartorial robotics.

We also expect wearable technologies to evolve rapidly to enable new types of wearables and deliver improved features in established categories such as smartwatches. Areas of technology evolution include touch-sensitive fabrics, new types of screen technologies, improved batteries and printable electronics.

3. Beacon and Location Based Services: This technology has gained traction in the APAC region in the past year and the associated app development intiatives to capitalize on this tech has swelled significantly. While the technology has existed for a couple of years now, in 2015 it really began to be embraced by organizations across all verticals.

Apple has already integrated this technology in the iOS devices and Android is expected to follow the same in 2015. In the next few years, wifi will provide more services than just the ISP’s internet connection. Beacons can work seamlessly for indoor experiences where cellular connectivity is based on the access point location.

2. What are the top three challenges faced by the sector in 2015? How do you see these challenges will change in 2016?

1. Enterprises face the challenge of building and delivering a sizable portfolio of mobile apps for customers, partners and employees. Organizations that had successfully built and deployed a handful of customer-facing and employee-facing applications now find that there is a backlog of dozens, even hundreds, of applications that are needed to allow different populations of users to get data from diverse information systems, both internal and external. In response to this, vendors have broadened and deepened their offerings to support multiple architectures, open up their previously closed tool chain, add cloud-based backend services, and expand their support for the application development life cycle

2. Gartner ran a survey in September 2015 to better understand organizations’ activities around mobile application development. The results found a majority of organizations deploying, on average, only 6.3 custom-developed apps. This low number of apps per organizations indicates that a majority of organization across the world are still at the beginning of formulating a strategic approach to mobile app development, this is supported by the volume of Gartner client inquiries asking how to create a mobility strategy? – this indicates many organizations across a variety of industries are nascent with mobile development. How will this situation change for 2016? – On average, 10% of organizations’ total planned spending for software application development (including capital investments and operational expenses) was allocated to mobile app development in 2015, organizations that plan on increasing spending on mobile application development expect to do so by 31% on average for 2016.

3. Device diversity still remains a challenge for mobility. There are literally 10’s of thousands of combinations of devices with different form factors, varying screen sizes, screen dpi’s coupled together with the fragmentation of the different versions of mobile OS’s. We’re not just talking about smartphones, tablets and hybrid devices when we talk about device diversity – now we need to think about all the devices that the internet of things has connected us too – and again that’s not just talking about that smartwatch you have on your wrist, we’re talking all kinds of e-textiles; home automation; automotive integration with your vehicles.

The challenges which device diversity poses spans across both mobile app development activities during your concept and build phases over to Enterprise Mobility Management – where you have to manage the apps and data released into the wild. This challenge won’t lessen in 2016, if anything device proliferation will increase – it’s up to the clients to use techniques like Gartner’s Managed Diversity Model to help them manage the multiple device scenarios they’re faced with.

3. What are the top new trends you expect to see in your sector in 2016?

There are five mobile technical trends that will impact organizations in 2016 I think are important to note. To prepare for the impact of these trends, IT must thoroughly understand them and carefully consider their planning implications. These trends are as follows:

1. The Number of Enterprise-Developed Mobile Apps Will Explode: In 2016, the number of enterprise mobile apps will rise dramatically. Those organizations with a clear vision for the digital workplace and a robust mobile strategy will thrive, and those without will struggle. Through 2017, the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organization capacity to deliver them. The multiplier effect of the demand for apps, coupled with consumer-level expectations, requires a different model for delivering software releases and updates than the traditional waterfall style.

Vendor-provided mobile apps will fill the need for standard transactions and services (for example, cloud storage or off-the-shelf travel booking), yet many transactions will transcend multiple back-end systems, have proprietary business processes or need other customization. These transactions will require custom development. A key priority in achieving this new mindset will be to create a digital workplace.

The digital workplace is a business strategy for promoting employee effectiveness and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment. This focuses primary on three pillars: engaging the employee, reimagining workplace technology and changing the nature of work.

2. Mobile-First Expectations Will Expose Lagging Organizations: Mounting evidence shows how mobile technologies are becoming increasingly ingrained in people’s lives — and changing human behaviors. In a 2015 study sponsored by Bank of America, 71% of survey respondents indicated that they sleep with their smartphones on or next to their beds.

Recent studies conducted by Flurry have revealed that total mobile app usage grew 76% in 2014 versus 2013 and that the total number of “mobile addicts” — defined as people who open an average of at least 60 apps per day — increased by 59% in the same period to a total of 280 million people worldwide. Against this backdrop, it’s clear that most organizations’ key stakeholders — including employees, partners and customers — will increasingly reach for mobile before other options in their interactions with those organizations.

Mobility-lagging organizations will suffer negative impacts such as key-employee resignations. Smart and skilled knowledge workers, both in IT and business roles, will become frustrated with their organizations’ failure to provide access to easy-to-use, productivity-enhancing mobile apps. Many of these workers will leave companies in search of a more modern working environment.

Other negative repercussions for mobility-lagging organizations include the lower productivity that is caused by the use of anachronistic tools and procedures, as well as reduced satisfaction levels caused by poor mobile support — not just among employees but, even more critically, among customers and business partners. These organizations will also face increasing competitive pressure from rivals that more-effectively embrace mobility — and are therefore better able to satisfy customers, build productive work environments and attract top talent.

3. Mobile Experience, Not Functional Utility Alone, Will Drive Mobile Value: Consumers make mobility-related decisions in a split second, based on the appeal of an icon, screenshots or a half-star-higher rating. For example, a private pilot of A/B testing of the Google Play store showed a 30% increase in a conversion rate based on simple tweaks to the app’s listing. In this digital world, the competition for customer mind share pits the best available UXs against each other, and those with superior experiences rise to the top. In these digital business scenarios, maximizing mobile ROI is actually a step above the real risk — not realizing any value at all.

In B2B or business-to-employee (B2E) applications, a similar challenge remains. Utility still must be present, or the investment is wasted. Yet the utility of many enterprise applications exists today in the form of traditional PC or Web applications. Thus, the value for the additional utility of apps that extend existing applications would be small if it were measured purely based on the existence of a feature. However, the real value for mobility in the enterprise comes from well-designed, well-timed “business moments” that allow for the creation or continuation of a business process while seamlessly being interwoven with key aspects of the user’s life. The transaction may be the same transaction as before, but the context in which the transaction is completed opens up additional business value — and it is only a well-designed experience that will gain the adoption needed to scale this value.

Users will be quick to abandon a mobile capability with a poor UX and return to what they already know — the PC application they have used for years (or worse, better-designed apps outside your organizational control). This is evident even in large-scale, well-funded mobile products like productivity suites — the inherent UX challenges of using mobile devices for complex content creation quickly lead users to return to their laptops for in-depth productivity suite tasks. Therefore, your mobile capabilities must motivate usage based on the UX alone, or your users will return to what they already know.

4. Mobile Security Will Become “Good Enough” for Most Enterprises: Security technology will sufficiently mature by 2016 (for example, OS policy enforcement, managed containers and proprietary PIM apps) so that IT can re-evaluate the level of control required and the mechanisms it employs to protect the organization’s intellectual property. iOS (starting with iOS 7), AfW, and Windows 8 and 10 (using Enhanced Data Protection and the corporate metadata flag that allows for wiping only business data) are providing more control over content and apps. The proprietary PIMs from the EMM vendors have also become more secure, allowing the focus on security mechanisms to shift from the EMM system to the OS. In the process, the need for device management has been reduced.

As UX expectations continue to rise, security expectations need to be re-evaluated. The perceived “perfection” achieved in managing Windows-based systems is much more than is necessary for mobile devices. Virus scanners, malware detectors and firewalls are overkill on most mobile devices — at least for the foreseeable future.

The only capability that Windows-based systems and mobile devices have in common is full disk encryption. While organizations need to understand what apps and what versions of the mobile OSs are connecting to their infrastructure to prevent attacks, security policies will loosen to accommodate UX needs in 2016. In this fully mobile world, UX takes precedence over everything, including security.

There is a gap between the current security thinking and what end users will accept as solutions. Security practitioners must find compromises that minimize the impact on the UX while providing good-enough security for the organization’s intellectual property. Most importantly, security practitioners must realize that there is a continuum of risk and that the one-size-fits-all solutions of the past are no longer relevant.

5. EMM Will Become a Strategic Infrastructure Management Investment: Mobile management has grown from simple device management that emulates BlackBerry functions to full applications, content and identity management. As mobile device management (MDM) systems evolved into EMM systems, they also became more integrated with the organization’s infrastructure. EMM identity capabilities — including user credential distribution, single sign-on (SSO) and access control — became deeply integrated into core IT components, including directory services.

EMM suites offer software development kits (SDKs) that allow app developers to provide secure features such as content control, encryption and SSO. Content management is starting to integrate data loss prevention (DLP) policies, which has further mitigated the risk of data compromise and breaches while minimally impacting the end-user experience.

This level of integration adds complexity and “stickiness” to the choice of an EMM suite. When MDM was the primary function, switching systems was a matter of deprovisioning devices and reprovisioning them on the new solution. While switching was time-consuming and frustrating for users, it was not technically challenging.

Switching to another EMM suite requires not only device reprovisioning, but also complete integration with an organization’s directory services, email services, certificate services, content management systems and back-end processing systems — a painful process. For many organizations, this level of integration may have grown over time as more features were added to an existing system, rather than having been planned from the start. As a result, switching to a new solution will require a “flash cut” of many systems, which is not a trivial task.

Organizations should begin combining their PC and mobile support staffs, taking care to ensure that the agility inherent in the mobile team is transferred to the PC team. Carrying over this “DNA of mobility” will preserve the investment made in mobile while transferring the skills learned from PC management. The investment in software licenses and hardware to implement an EMM suite must be accompanied by the organizational changes and training that are required to get the most out of the EMM deployment and realize its full strategic value.

Adrian is from the Mobile & Client Computing Team at Gartner. His coverage focuses on Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), BYOD and Mobile App Development, best practices and strategies as well as in depth insights into vendors involved in this space.