Thinking About Mobile for Your Enterprise? You Better Be-You Only Have Three Years


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We all know that use of mobile has been exploding. What many of us may not realize is exactly how much it is exploding. Cisco’s Virtual Network Index (VNI) is a great tool to explore the growth of  network traffic and get the answer to some basic questions…

The Age of Enterprise Mobile Computing Has Begun

For years, we have been dreaming of a world we can get access to any information we need–and do whatever we want with it–from anywhere. One only has to look at old videos of “Get Smart” or even “Star Trek” so that dream depicted in various “business” realities. However, for most of the past 40 years this vision has only been a dream. First, we needed mobile computing devices that we could hold in our hands (and put in our pockets). Next, we needed ones that actually had a battery life that supported more than a few minutes of intense use. Finally, we needed to find a way to send and receive data from these quickly (and without needing a national defense budget to pay for it). Today, we have all of these literally at our finger tips–and, thanks for companies like SalesForce and Apple, we have working models for how people can use these devices to work and play in ways they have desired for nearly half a century.

Does this mean that we will finally see a boom in enterprise mobile computing? Let’s take a look at the forecasting data to find the answer…

Business Traffic (Mobile and Land-line) Will Be 4x Larger in Less than Four Years

Although we are navigating the largest economic recession in 70 years, we are not seeing a slowdown in enterprise traffic. Data usage will continue to grow far faster than our businesses, markets and population:

Yes, land-line traffic will remain the bulk of data usage. However, mobile traffic “looks” like it is growing faster. Let’s take a deeper look to see if this is true…

Mobile Traffic for Business Use Will Be 25x Larger in Less than Four Years

Mobile use for business is indeed growing faster: over 6x faster. While it is only 4% of enterprise traffic now, it will be more than 21% of business traffic in 2013:

This is amazing when you consider the size differential in terms of input and display between mobile and desktop devices. Clearly, the advantage of the ubiquitous device is, in and of itself, a “Killer App.”

The next question is, “What types of data usage are driving this growth?” Let’s take a look…

Mobile Data GROWTH Is Being Driven By Data Sharing: Raw Files and Multimedia

Looking forward in time, it is clear that use of mobile computing devices as video handsets will be huge. However, upon closer look at the data, you will see that the fastest grower (as a percentage) is data sharing, i.e, file sharing, email, data collection and multimedia broadcast. (It is curious to note that the slowest grower will be simple audio):

It is easy to imagine how this could occur. Look at quickly use of mobile devices to update your “Status” on facebook and Twitter has increased in the past year. This is just the beginning.

In the enterprise, we will be begin to see use of mobile computing devices to capture and exchange richer forms of data. Imagine collecting patient data in a Health 2.0 world. Imagine collecting video for everything from media to insurance claims to security. Imagine combing through your real-time sales and business data from a mobile device in a meeting (you don’t have to imagine this — you are already doing it — if you use Saleforce’s mobile SFA application or are an executive at Walmart).

A final question is whether this growth is the same everywhere world-wide. Let’s take a look…

The United States Will NOT Be the Largest Market

For years, the United States has been the largest market for information technology and services. This is ending:

3G investments in Europe are paying huge dividends. The mobile culture of the APAC region will naturally lead to continued explosion of mobile usage. However, what is interesting — but not surprising when you consider how much easier it is to build cell towers than dig fiber optic trenches — is the growth (as a percentage) in the use of mobile in Africa, the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe. This means two things: 1) you need to think about supporting multi-byte character sets and dynamic localization, and 2) you cannot simply rely on WiFi and 3G.

If Enterprises Do Not Want to Miss Out on This Trend, They Need To Start Planning Right Now

This “future” will be here in three years. That is not a lot of time when you consider the usual three- to five-year enterprise technology development and implementaiton life cycle:

  • Visioning and Green-lighting
  • Budget Planning and Approval (Already completed for 2010)
  • Project Inception and Execution
  • Roll-out and Adoption
  • Upgrade and Integration

If you do not want to be a follower, you need to start envisioning right now what enterprise functions you should enable via mobile. It also means that you need to consider both the mobile and desktop capabilities of any enterprise platform you are evaluating for purchase. If you don’t do this, the following will happen:

By the time you fully implement and roll out your next big enterprise system, your staff will begin pointing out how their consumer products (best case) and your competitors’ systems (worst case) already enable them to perform so many of their daily activities using a smart phone or mobile device.

You do not want this to happen.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Haughwout
Jim Haughwout (pronounced "how-it") is passionate about creating technology that improves how people live and work. He is the Chief Technology Architect at Savi Technology and a General Partner at Oulixeus Consulting. His work has been featured by Network World, ZDNet, Social Media Today, the IBM Press, CIO Magazine, Fast Company, GigaOm and more.


  1. Probably worth pointing out also that we are just now witnessing true contenders for the iPhone starting to hit the market. After all, according to stats, iPhones are only a smaller part of the smartphone market but make up the biggest part of Internet usage.

    With the Google phone, Droid, and Microsoft pushing their next OS (mobile 7), we’ll probably see expectations for mobile access exploding.

    Better hope that mobile carriers can keep up with the necessary bandwidth.


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