The new venue for Mobile World Congress 2013 (Photo:Natalia-Grau)
Once upon a time, IT men and women ruled over the enterprise, doling out hardware and software upgrades to their colleagues just as the kings and queens of old gifted precious gems, stately houses, and lucrative sinecures to their most trusted followers. Yes, IT departments reigned supreme – unchallenged, even if resented (and occasionally travestied). But then BYOD and BYOA rose in the west, and the power of the race of IT men and women waned. Some fought to retain the status quo, and issued increasingly stringent policy proclamations; some merely watched as the water pooled around their feet and rose up to their necks; and some, recognizing the trends as net positives for their businesses, joined the revolution.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but in a way that’s been validated by hundreds of surveys and thousands of opinion pieces – as anyone who reads the IT press can attest. The question is: why am I recapping? The answer: because IT departments are on the verge of making a comeback. At least, they are if the panelists on Nick McQuire’s Mobile World Congress enterprise mobility panel are to be believed.
The stage is set for another Mobile World Congress panel discussion
The event, which took place yesterday, was entitled, ‘Future of the Enterprise: Can Mobility Transform the Business?’ and the aforementioned panelists included Antenna’s own Jim Somers, José Luis Gamo, CEO of Telefonica Multinational Solutions, Nick Brown, SVP of mobile strategy and solution management at SAP, John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, and Tarun Nimmagadda, co-founder and COO of Mutual Mobile.
The event kicked off with a slick visualization of the spread of mobility across the world – a visualization backed by thumping house music intended to convey the dynamism of the GSMA. Once our ears had stopped ringing, McQuire came on and assured us that the companies he had picked to speak perfectly represented the enterprise mobility space as it is composed today. He then introduced the format: short presentations from each company followed by a panel discussion.
Telefonica’s Gamo was up first, and he set the pace with stats that proved that the cannibalization of the PC is an “unstoppable trend.” He then claimed – if unsurprisingly, that mobile operators are best placed to solve the BYOD, social, OTT, LTE and Wi-Fi problems brought about by the rise of mobile. Some of them, certainly – but all of them? Anyway, he did a good job of demonstrating that businesses investing in mobile must take a holistic approach to re-designing their infrastructure.
Telefonica's Gamo in full flow during Nick McQuire's enterprise mobility panel at Mobile World Congress 2013
John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, followed, and spent most of his presentation showcasing the undoubted successes of his company since its inception. He did make one comment that caught our ear though: apparently Hurricane Sandy prompted massively increased interest in BYOD from NYC-based companies. You might be able to ignore the doom-mongering IT press but a super-storm that strands your employees and cripples your ability to operate is another matter entirely.
Nick Brown of SAP followed Marshall and gave a disinterested but confident and interesting presentation. His thesis was that IT service providers had historically built software around specific hardware rather than the end-user and that that had led to overly-complex solutions that were as expensive to train people on as to develop. He recommended that mobile business service providers focus on the end-user and increase the take-up of their services by giving end-users an app that “delights them”.
Antenna’s Jim Somers began his presentation with a counter intuitive thought: “contrary to popular wisdom we live in a world where there ISN’T an app for that.” Like Gamo he emphasized the scale and difficulty of the task facing businesses looking to mobilize themselves; ‘going mobile is not just a case of “one and done”’, he said. Like SAP’s Brown he spoke about the importance of the end-user experience – ‘there’s a reason why our tagline is “deploy happiness”, he added. He finished by looking to the (near) future: “we’re not going to be talking about ‘mobile’ for much longer. We’re going to be talking about ‘information’.”