The Mobile Generation is Rising – And the Enterprise IT Crunch is Imminent

Two articles published yesterday caught my eye because, to me, they bring into sharp focus an impending crisis for enterprise IT. Tom Cheredar at MobileBeat wrote about the dramatic rise in mobile usage among teenagers. Ann All at ITBusinessEdge wrote about the vital importance of mobile application usability.  Both articles are oriented towards the consumer population, but it doesn’t take much to read between the lines here and see the implications for all organizations, whether B2C or B2B. An enterprise IT crunch is coming, driven by the cost and new skills requirements for embracing the mobile generation. At Appian, we believe we have the solution today with our mobile BPM.

Tom’s piece referenced a new Nielsen report on “How the Class of 2011 Engages with Media.” He wrote, “The teenage demographic spends the least amount of time watching television, talking on the phone or using personal computers…Mobile technology appears to be what they use most.”

What enterprise IT shops need to keep in mind is that today’s 12-17 year olds are tomorrow’s corporate employees. As they enter the workforce, they will transfer their life experience to an expectation of what their professional lives should offer. This has enormous implications in regards to the type of organization they will want to work for, and how, where, and when they will expect to be able to do their work.

Corporate IT is already confronting the needs of the mobile workforce. New research from Forrester says that 66% of today’s corporate employees do some level of remote/mobile work. I’ve seen the full report, and it goes on to say that  “Hyper-Mobile Professionals” already constitute 33% of the workforce. Based on the Nielsen data, these numbers are going to explode upwards over the next several years.

Ann’s piece looks at “the lousy mobile experiences some retailers are presenting consumers.” In looking at the choice between using native mobile applications versus mobile versions of their websites, she states that, “While mobile apps offer the superior customer experience, many companies are choosing mobile websites to leverage existing investments in Internet development and marketing.”

This attitude is short-sighted, but understandable. The most recent data I’ve seen on the cost of mobile application development (again, from Forrester) is that it ranges from $20,000 to $150,000 per application. Hefty cost in an era of fiscal conservatism. Ann also makes the point that “with all the focus on architecture [of mobile sites and apps], I think the need for usability is often given short shrift.”

As I said at the top, we believe the answer to all of these issues is our mobile BPM. We offer native mobile apps for all popular devices. We eliminate the high cost because any application built on Appian can be turned into a native mobile app with zero additional development cost. We use the kind of extremely intuitive Facebook-like interface that the mobile generation expects. Of course, what that interface is masking is a lot of power and complex integration to back-end corporate systems. That’s how you get full-featured mobility that people will actually want to use.

-Ben Farrell, Director, Corporate Communications