Mobile working is now a mainstream reality for global enterprises and the benefits that mobilising key workers can bring in term of improved operational efficiency, agility and responsiveness are well understood by CIOs operating across almost all key verticals.

A new exclusive survey of a hundred senior British IT decision-makers in companies of 1000 employees and above conducted by CIO magazine, in association with enterprise collaboration specialist Box, reveals that mobile working is almost ubiquitous in the UK. When asked if a CIO’s role is to create a secure, creative and user- friendly environment for employees to do their day to day job, an overwhelming number of IT leaders agreed: some 90 per cent concurred with the statement compared with just six per cent who disagreed. In response to the question of whether they provide and encourage mobile technologies within their workforce, the overwhelming majority of CIOs – 79 per cent - indicated that mobile working was actively promoted within their organisations. Only 21 per cent of respondents indicated that mobile working was not supported in their organisations.

However, the days when mobilising an organisation simply meant equipping field-based sales staff with laptops are now long gone: instead savvy CIOs are looking at more innovative solutions with which to boost business efficiency. A raft of innovations including faster cellular/Wi-Fi connectivity, more powerful smartphones and tablets - in addition to the growing use of cloud-based secure collaboration services - is transforming the mobile working landscape by offering organisations richer and more compelling mobile solutions.

Empowering workers with mobile collaboration capabilities

Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner, said that such developments are facilitating major innovations in business collaboration because, before their arrival in the enterprise, mobile collaboration was limited to interaction through wireless messaging and voice calls.

"Empowering workers with mobile collaboration capabilities through smart devices, personal cloud sharing and mobile apps is a smart move for organisations to innovate in the workplace and stay competitive,” Basso said.

Gartner also points out that the convergence of cloud and mobile computing has emerged as an effective way to continue to promote the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. "Cloud is the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style," said David Cearley, vice president & Gartner Fellow.

He added that, in the near term, the focus for cloud/client will be on synchronising content and application state across multiple devices and addressing application portability across devices. However, over time, he predicts that applications will evolve that are capable of supporting simultaneous use of multiple devices. This will mean that enterprise applications will develop to use multiple screens and even exploit the functionality of wearables and other emerging device types to deliver enhancements to the user experience.

In terms of the mobile enterprise applications being leveraged by organisations currently, the CIO research indicates that collaboration services are delivering significant business value. The study showed that 31 per cent of CIOs saw expansions of their mobile collaboration services as a strategic priority for 2015. It is also made clear by the research that businesses are involving their users in their mobile strategies – and users play a big role in introducing business applications and platforms into the workplace. Some 97 per cent of CIOs said they involve their users in such decision making. A further 61 per cent indicated it is a joint process between IT and business leaders while 36 per cent listen to their users but ultimately leave the final decision for the CIO to determine. Just 3 per cent said mobile programmes are currently completely user led.

Realising the benefits of ‘friction-free’ collaboration

Rob Bamforth, principal analyst with technology analyst group Quocirca, points out that adoption of mobile collaboration services – ideally “friction-free” collaboration - has the capacity to significantly boost worker productivity. “Because working patterns are changing; more people are working from home, on the move or flexibly in multiple locations across their workplaces. Many are working on remote sites and even those sat in the traditional desks, offices and areas of their 'static' workplaces often have many more connections to remote co-workers than in the past,” Bamforth said.

“There is a need for 'friction free' collaboration. The internet and globalisation are great levellers and so gaining any edge or just staying ahead of the competition is getting harder. Economic pressures mean that big budgets are no longer easy to come by, and organisations need to sweat more of their assets and this includes getting the best out of their workforce - not just individually, but as a collective team.”

Cheryl McKinnon, principal analyst serving enterprise architecture professionals for Forrester Research echoed these sentiments and predicted that content hosted in the cloud would be “the next frontier” for enterprises. She said: “The ECM (Enterprise Content Management) market is transforming — largely due to new, often customer-activated, use cases. We also see that the current horizontal collaboration market is shifting to better target specific work output, as opposed to more general-purpose knowledge-dissemination use cases.”

Global enterprises ramp up investment in mobile collaboration

The scale of this mobile collaboration opportunity globally is highlighted by a new research report from Research and Markets that forecasts very aggressive growth in mobile collaboration investments in the enterprise as organisations increasingly wake up to the potential business benefits associated with providing more efficient communication and collaboration among employees on a real-time basis.

The study, Mobile Unified Communications and Collaboration Market by Solutions, & by Deployment Type - Global Forecast to 2019, notes that a growing need for gaining competitive advantage and an increase in demand for optimised workflows among organisations have significantly added to the rise in adoption of mobile collaboration solutions. Reflecting this growth, the study predicts that the global mobile Unified Communications and Collaboration market will grow from $5.15 billion in 2014 to $17.38 billion by 2019, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.5 per cent during the period between 2014 and 2019.

The report goes on to point out that the “surging” Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend among enterprises and enhanced mobile technology is rapidly boosting adoption rates and opening new avenues in the market for real-time business collaboration. The CIO survey agrees that BYOD is gaining traction in the enterprise. When asked which of these broad initiatives are being scheduled for implementation in 2015, some 29 per cent of CIOs said that support for BYOD mobile solutions deployment was a top priority for their organisation. However, setting up and managing mobile apps across the enterprise was top of mind - 36% of respondents said mobile application management was their top priority.

Instant access to content, from anywhere and on any device

Industry experts agree that, to maximise potential mobile working efficiency gains, it is necessary to allow the workforce to access services across multiple devices. Employees should be given the tools and systems to be productive on whichever platform is most appropriate for any particular set of circumstances – irrespective of whether that platform is a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, a ruggedised specialist device or even a wearable computer. “Nowadays employees demand instant access to their content, from anywhere and on any device. IT managers everywhere are faced with the challenge of empowering their employees while remaining secure. We've seen some incredible examples of this working really well,” said David Quantrell, Box senior vice president and general manager of EMEA.

He added: “Companies like AstraZenca, Eurostar, Oxfam, SKF and Gatwick Airport have all learned that collaboration and mobility are two initiatives that demand immediate attention. Cloud computing has become the enabler for greater flexibility and access to content. Their employees are no longer restrained by limited access to content, they are free to move around still fully connected to their most important information which can be accessed through cloud technologies. When you give your employees mobile access to content, you remove multiple barriers: essentially IT becomes the accelerator for greater productivity, rather than the blocker.”

The new CIO research confirms that both the scale and scope of enterprise mobile applications is being scaled up by forward-looking enterprises. The poll found that email is the number one mobile collaboration capability (cited by 96 per cent of CIOs) offered to UK workforces, closely followed by shared calendars and contacts (75 per cent of CIOs). Cloud-based storage and file sharing is also a popular option, alongside creating and editing shared documents.  

Boosting worker productivity with mobile content collaboration

When it comes to leveraging mobile content collaboration technologies within the organisation - for example for customer service, training or feedback - some 40 per cent of senior business decision makers interviewed by CIO said they have already deployed such systems to boost productivity. However, it is apparent that there is potential to extend these benefits further. External collaboration tools were only used by a third of organisations for partners and customers, while 63 per cent of CIOs said they do not currently have such systems in place.

The CIO research also found that the area in which the business could get the greatest value from mobile content collaboration technologies is field working, which is cited by 46 per cent of CIOs as their top collaboration priority. Some 21 per cent felt the technology could be used to improve internal collaboration, while 13 per cent believed that sales enablement would be the main area of value for their business. Others considered home working (8 per cent) and external collaboration to customers or partners (12 per cent) to be the areas where their organisations would benefit the most from mobile content collaboration technologies. Moving forward, 23 per cent of respondents said they intend to increase their spending on mobile content collaboration technology within the next 12 months. The same percentage said they would do so within the next 24 months. A further 10 per cent said they would increase their spending within the next 18 months, and 10 per cent said within the next six months. Just 17 per cent of CIOs indicated they will tighten the purse strings and not increase spend in this area.

Quantrell from Box agrees that companies can reap significant productivity gains by investing in the correct tools to facilitate innovative forms of mobile working. He believes that one day all companies will leverage mobile content collaboration and the winners of tomorrow will be those organsiations which start that transformation journey today.

“Companies everywhere want to drive efficiency, security and simplicity for all employees. That's why more and more companies are putting mobility as a central and entrenched part of their modern IT strategies - and this is not limited to one sector. From healthcare, construction and retail through to the media and entertainment industry, we're seeing complete digital transformation and a hunger for new ways of working that match the modern digital age,” Quantrell said.

“What's significant is the impact we see when a company embraces mobility. Some of the world's largest enterprises like General Electric, Schneider Electric and Royal HaskoningDHV are fundamentally transforming the way they do business. They have shed old systems, reimagined workflows and empowered their workforces in entirely new ways.

It is apparent from the CIO-Box study that senior IT decision makers are stepping up efforts to provide mobile access to agile cloud-hosted enterprise collaboration systems which can be seamlessly accessed across a wide range of end user devices. And it is equally apparent that the productivity benefits that can be realised from strategic deployment of such solutions can be highly compelling. The role of the CIO is clear: to play a pivotal role when it comes to supporting workers and enterprise teams with the mobile tools and solutions they need to succeed in today’s fast-paced business world.

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