Many clients are asking about how to develop mobile custom applications, create mobile front-ends to existing applications, secure their mobile content, select mobile devices, craft mobile policies, and manage the devices. Those are all very good questions to ask and critical to supporting the needs of flexible, distributed organizations and workers.
But what about mobile access to general-purpose knowledge infrastructure and end-user development of collaborative apps? Once you get past all the security issues, how will the end users actually be able to access content and collaborate on their devices? Solid mobile device management, development, and information protection does not mean you have achieved collaboration endpoint independence. There’s still a gap for general purpose and end-user developed collaborative applications.
Increasingly, the most valuable work in organizations cannot be automated with process-centric applications (such as ERP and CRPM) or custom transactional applications. The work is de-routinized: ad hoc, tacit, non-repeatable. Your job is to figure out what your job is to meet ever-morphing organizational goals. For de-routinized work, general purpose knowledge infrastructure and end-user developed collaborative apps are essential. These include flexible tools such as collaborative spreadsheets, e-mail, social networking, wikis, blogs, and quick methods for business users to develop simple collaborative apps (lists, forms, libraries, newsletters) that don’t require IT involvement.
Gartner’s Tom Austin wrote in “Watchlist: Continuing Changes in the Nature of Work, 2010-2020” that work will be de-routinized since “The core value that people add is not in the processes that we can automate. The core value lies in non-routine processes, uniquely human, analytical or interactive contributions that result in words like "discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning." Indeed, a Gartner Strategic Planning Assumption is that by 2015, 40% or more of enterprise work will be "non-routine," up from 25% in 2010. This concurs with a McKinsey study that showed the importance and growth of tacit work.
So if mobile workers in de-routinized roles are to be productive, they will require their mobile workplaces to support these technical needs. Accordingly, those in charge of assembling their mobile ecosystems and designing mobile workplaces (and hopefully there is a real person doing that!) must also evaluate how users will create and access general purpose knowledge infrastructure.
- Will the end-user developed collaborative apps created on the intranet be accessible from their devices or will they remain a bottleneck?
- Can the pace of forming, querying, informing communities be maintained while moving in and out of formal offices, or will social networking ebb and flow based on travel schedules?
- Will mobile workers have equal opportunity to contribute to collaborative work products, or will deliverables unevenly favor the views of office-bound peers?
- Will general-purpose enterprise communication tools work on the range of devices commonly used by employees, or will they be forced to choose between the general-purpose apps they need and the devices they want? And who will win?
- Will a mobile workplace be designed that integrates general-purpose knowledge infrastructure in a contextual manner that limits views to just what is needed, or will complex desktop-based navigation and window switching be forced onto tiny screens?
- Do the existing set of knowledge infrastructure support the mobile form factors and devices that will be used? If not, do the existing products need to be tweaked, front-ended, enhanced with 3rd party add-ins, or supplemented by mobile alternatives?
- Will creation of work artifacts (such as starting new documents, new spreadsheets, new discussion forums) be endpoint independent, or are mobile devices relegated to viewing and tweaking artifacts created back at the office?
These are just a few of the questions that will be left over after the custom mobile development, mobile content security, and mobile device management issues are dealt with. Better to prepare now then to get to the mobile finish line and realize it’s just the start of another race.