Report: Why the Mac is infiltrating the enterprise

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Why the Mac is infiltrating the enterprise by Erica Ogg:
Traditionally, the Mac has made up an extremely small sliver of corporate PC purchases, but over the last few quarters, more and more of them have been incorporated into the workplace. And on the heels of this trend was an announcement from the analysts over at Forrester last month: Businesses should start buying Macs for their employees. Or at any rate, they should at least start allowing employees to bring one, even if it’s their own, to work. Specifically, Forrester called the “prohibition” against Apple desktops and laptops on corporate networks outdated and said it needed to be “repealed.” And that represents a major opportunity for Apple.
To read the full report click here.

Can we consumerize everything inside businesses?

Brightidea, the innovation platform, has a fall release coming out, and their press release summarizes what’s coming:

New highlights from Brightidea’s Fall 2014 release include:

• Crowdfunding – source financial investment from internal business units to launch key development projects

• Massively Configurable Workflow – design a complete end-to-end process that aligns with your existing innovation use case, whatever it is

• Customizable Fields – full flexibility for administrators to control what user data can be captured, displayed, and reported upon

• New Prioritization Tools – shortlist and select the best ideas, including review, single scale, scorecarding, pairwise comparison, and stack rank

• Enhanced Rules Engine – auto-graduate ideas based on a rule being met

What caught my eye is the first item: internal crowdfunding to get new projects off the ground. That’s an amazing departure from conventional approaches to getting projects going.

In today’s traditional company, funding is handled by some allocation process usually working in a top-down fashion. Top management decides how to spread funds out based on corporate strategy. But how about if money was distributed on some other basis, like headcount, profitability, past successes, or the like. A company could allocate some proportion of funds in this way, and then anyone could propose new initiatives which would be crowdsourced. Perhaps in the most ambitious allocation, every employee would have a digital wallet and each could choose where to invest that capital.

Here’s a screenshot of the crowdfunding interface:

Brightidea_Crowdfunding

Imagine if everything in a company were managed as open marketplaces. First to get them funded, and second to make a marketplace to connect employees with projects, basically providing an internal platform that is something like what Elance-oDesk does for freelancers.

Strangely enough, yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt I found a company that is trying to do that, called Rallyteam, although the financial side — payment for the services — isn’t taken to the logical conclusion. Rallyteam assumes that employees have a salary, and the work that flows through its platform doesn’t change that. But my vision is that in the future employees might have a base salary for a core job, but that other compensation could be dynamic, based on the internal work market. But obviously we have a transition before that comes to be.

Here’s a screenshot of posted opportunities in Rallyteam:

rallyteam

And zooming in on one of the opportunites:

rallyteam 2

The workflow is pretty obvious: employees apply, their profiles are reviewed, a negotiation ensues, and ultimately someone connects with the work. Later on, Rallyteam supports feedback, with employees gathering indicators of skills gained and whether the work was done well, in a timely fashion, etc.

Basically, this is analogous to the consumerization of work applications and devices: the freelancization of business. Perhaps this is just another step in the walls of business becoming ever more porous. In the near future the distinction between being a full-timer, a part-timer, or a freelancer might become much less obvious.

Tech companies look internally for solutions

In his Weekly Update, Stowe Boyd, the Gigaom Research curator for social, wryly asks, “The consumerization of work, or the enterprization of life?” That is, do tech companies like Google and Facebook use their consumer products internally as enterprise work tools, or do they make products out of jerry-built solutions to their internal enterprise needs? He looks at how Microsoft has reportedly taken to using the product of their Yammer acquisition, while Facebook is reportedly making a product out of an solution developed for internal use.

The organizational challenge of mobile app development

With mobile application development a persistent priority within the enterprise, most IT organizations find several common challenges among their efforts:

  • The creation of an effective, consumer-level, customer experience is not easy for many traditional developers.
  • Existing enterprise IT infrastructure does not lend itself to mobile applications support.
  • Mobile application development is not a one-time event, but rather a continuing process of ongoing innovation.

Customer experience presents one of the primary opportunities for a business to differentiate itself, and increasingly customers are interacting with companies via a mobile device. In many ways, the challenge is organizational, as IT departments struggle to gather the resources and create the environment required for successful mobile innovation.

Banks grapple with developing the mobile channel

Retail banking is one vertical where the greatest demands on mobile have converged: banks serve consumer and small business markets with complex, highly-regulated products that have the highest of security requirements.  Though mobile phones are consumer-oriented devices, banks in general have struggled to bring a consumer-level customer experience to their complicated mobile apps. But banks are investing heavily in the channel, and they are learning how to create an environment for successful app development and delivery.

Several recent developments in the financial sector provide indicators of how mobile application development can be both innovative and institutionalized:

  • NASDAQ has recognized the importance of the customer experience in using mobile applications, and as Wall Street Technology reports, has purposely brought in a cadre of designers far afield from banking technology to create their investor relations customer experience. The company decided it is better to bring in top-level designers and introduce them to financial services, than to take experienced financial services developers and introduce them to top-level design. Thus the firm formed a design team with experiences as diverse as online retail, Disney, Broadway theater, design agencies, and nonprofits. The team spent six months learning the NASDAQ business environment before creating its new app for investor relations professionals.  As Michael Cotter, the SVP of corporate solutions at NASDAQ OMX put it, “I think user experience is a strategic differentiator. I fully believe that the end user experience is what drives value.”
  • Similarly, the consumer driver app Uber has become something of a model for bank technologists. Uber was both the highest-rated non-financial mobile app among a panel of bankers and among the inspirations for JPMorgan Chase’s new mobile banking app.
  • From the other direction, banks are finding that aspects of their commercial-level applications can scale down for the consumer mobile banking market. Banks have already built applications that enable their commercial customers to see multiple accounts, keep running balances, make various types of transfers, and the like. Many of these same capabilities can be translated to consumer and small business products, and if they have been developed on a common mobile application platform, that translation is all the easier.
  • Even mid-sized banks are finding value in mobile application platforms. The MA-based Eastern Bank, with $8.7 billion in assets, opted for a mobile development platform to enable the firm to keep innovating with its mobile products. Development platforms will become viable for more SMEs as the tech market packages such innovation engines for smaller and smaller enterprises. This approach can be seen as part of a broader need to update financial services technology infrastructure.
  • A recent report on mobile banking highlights the receptivity found in the small office/home office (SOHO) market.  Just over a quarter of those surveyed were interested in a checking account package that included mobile banking and 62% of those were willing to pay a fee. Although the report apparently concludes that there is a great willingness to pay for mobile services, I expect that once the market (likely quickly) moves to mobile banking as a required, “check off” item, additional fees will not be welcome. A similar report shows that coming into the new year, the mobile channel represented 20% of merchants’ payments. That may not seem like great penetration, but it represents a doubling of volume over a 12-month period, and in that time the share of merchants accepting mobile payments more than doubled from 30% to 66%. Mobile banking as a share of online banking can probably be expected to increase at least as rapidly. And, there is of course a poll showing the importance of mobile to Gen Y’ers when selecting a bank: fully 78% say it is at least somewhat important.
  • Indeed, Bank of the West’s Quick Balance mobile app, which recently won the Monarch Innovation Award for most innovative financial service product/feature, targets the small business market. The app enables a customer to view five accounts simultaneously or, on an iPad, view up to 30 days of pending payments and eBills—capabilities traditionally provided only to commercial customers—as well as customized messages or promotional links. These commercial-level capabilities are combined with a consumer level of simplicity: no traditional login is required to access the multiple account view.

Conclusions

In sum, although banks have some scars for their early efforts and misses in designing customer-friendly mobile apps, their experience shows the following:

  • The mobile channel is inevitable for both consumer and business customers. A rapid adoption curve and changing demographics are transforming markets.
  • Simply assigning traditional engineers to design consumer-level apps is probably not a good solution, with nontraditional design engineers likely needed to provide the level of customer experience required: Consumerization is a trend to which IT departments must proactively adapt.
  • Infrastructure must be updated, and a modern development platform is critical not only for agile, continuing innovation, but also for the efficient leverage and integration of development components across applications and departments.
  • Although these requirements are first realized within large enterprises, vendors are increasingly packaging products to enable development and innovation for lower levels of the SME market as well.
  • Applications and IT departments that can combine sleek consumer design with institutional-level platforms and practices can effectively bring higher levels of products to lower levels of the market more effectively and efficiently.

More of the same destined for 2014

The news for 2014 will be the further acceptance and adoption—rather than backlash and rejection—of the major technologies so vigorously hyped in 2013. Cloud, big data, mobile, social and consumerization were front and center for discussions of IT in the enterprise at the year’s close. The curators of Gigaom Research’s technology-specific analyst blogs recently offered their predictions for 2014, and they generally see further fundamental change, realism, and mainstream adoption underlying the trends in their sectors:

  • Cloud computing will see more dominance from Amazon Web Services and more maturation of OpenStack for the private cloud. Cloud management platforms will find use in managing the multicloud environment that most enterprises are finding to be reality, since cloud has proven its viability and importance over the past 24 months. DevOps, PaaS, and cloud-oriented security all gain currency in this new environment.
  • Mobile will continue to revolutionize shopping and the integration of the in-store and online customer experience. Mobile payments, which might be seen as a natural corollary to that trend, will, however, continue to lag due to fragmented and competing technologies and a lack of standards or broadbased market power to impose a de facto norm. Within the enterprise, Apple’s iOS will benefit from the further decline of Blackberry as a favored mobile platform.
  • Social enterprise computing will play off of the BYOD trend and other advances in mobile, as a core platform for employees at work. The consumerization of enterprise IT will spawn greater autonomy for workers—in both technology and mind.

Virtualization from cloud to mobile

The integration of these dynamics from cloud applications, through the network, to a virtual, mobile desktop creates an integrated IT management approach across the enterprise. Virtualization is enabling a more agile IT grid throughout. Thus, applications are more readily updated, systems are more securely managed, vendor provisioning is more easily replaced as suppliers change—and more advanced computer power is made available to employees, customers and suppliers alike. Of course, getting to that point of simplified complexity is not easy, 2014 will only provide further steps on that route, and IT Shangri-La is never quite reached.

An Internet of things and of data, data, and data

An overarching theme across the curators’ predictions within their technology areas is the impact of new data, and data at a new scale, across the enterprise. From the Internet of things transforming energy into cleantech, to the slow adoption of wearable technology, and the use of algorithmic analyses to improve such managerial basics as hiring; big data will continue to flood the lines of enterprise and consumer computing. New capabilities and efficiencies will be borne of the newly sensed and aggregated data that will be bundled in the virtualized IT fabric that is simultaneously being woven.

In short, 2014 will bring progress in the new cloud-to-mobile IT infrastructure, and more data-driven applications will be created to leverage that infrastructure. The challenge will be to effectively update enterprise infrastructure while delivering on the right, creative applications for each enterprise and industry. Shangri-La beckons.

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Does function trump form in application design?

There’s a principle of application design that beautiful means usable, but a new study out of Google suggests that while beauty doesn’t necessarily affect perceived usability, poor usability can negatively affect perceived beauty. Nobody wants a reputation as selling a product that’s both unusable and ugly.