Everything you read is about on-the-go enterprises these days but nearly all of it is actually about mobile devices. Certainly mobile devices, and the stuff that goes with it such as mobile apps and the cloud, are a big part of the whole mobile workforce on-the-go thing. But the mistake is in believing that such is the end-all-and-be-all of what it means to be an on-the-go enterprise.
Savvy business leaders have already seen the writing on the wall or rather they have seen that there are fewer walls to write upon since most enterprises have already shrunk their physical office space. During the recession, the seas of cubicles stood empty, desktop hardware sat abandoned, entire sections became ghost towns, and suddenly corporations realized they could shed that kit and kaboodle entirely. And that’s how the looming, towering physical presence of many a corporation shrank into a mere thumbnail of its former self. Practically no one noticed and of the few who did, none cared.
Outsourcing, whether near or far, also changed how business was done. Now enterprise could shed more of their physical space, more of their on-premise hardware needs, and more of their employees, and instead delegate work outside their core competencies to others. Or, at least move expensive work to inexpensive workers. But mobile and home office extensions became a greater need then for who in the heck wants to come to the office at 3:00 AM to talk to the team in India? Voila, now many (and more to come) corporate workers had a company workspace at the office and at home.
The consumerization of IT followed, and workers brought their own gear into the office, used commercial apps at will, and even spun up cloud servers on their own. That trend almost made IT irrelevant in many cases. Certainly it spawned many a huge Shadow IT operation. And with that advent, security and compliance became an even bigger bug-a-boo so enterprises began to counter with enterprise app stores, mobile device management (MDM), mobile app management (MAM), mobile app tunnels (VPN-like critters), and related technologies to turn the BYOD device into a corporate controlled servant.
Then the push-me-pull-you approach to company data access died in the cloud. Apps of every kind now floated down from the cloud to any device, anywhere and so the cloud built upon itself much like the Internet once did. There are hybrid clouds, personal clouds, private clouds, just clouds everywhere – and little software still resides solely on desktops and in company datacenters and that number is dwindling.
Throughout this entire process enterprises forged, knowingly or unknowingly, a multi-tentacled spread of itself. Corporations had decentralized much of their operations, had indeed mobilized themselves into an entirely new globalized-plus-cloud-plus-remote worker model. And thus mobile use grew far beyond the boundaries of merely supporting traveling workers. Increasingly it is becoming the very core of corporate existence.
Now add to that the fact that the entire technology model has flipped from trickle down to consumer up. Where once only government could afford computers, then later the largest corporations could, then the large companies, then the mid-size and the small, and lastly trickled down to the consumer, now consumer driven technologies push enterprises to adopt and play, whether they want to or not. It’s not for being silly that so many apps now come with consumer freemiums – the developers know consumer use will force companies to buy the expensive version to regain some semblance of control and buy peace among the workforce.
You see the pattern here, don’t you? Business is no longer solely steered by the helm. Workers and their habits are reshaping enterprise more so than technology and more so than strategies developed at the top. The result is that enterprises are changing faster, adapting quicker, competing more fiercely, innovating at Internet speed, and reaching far beyond the bounds of tradition to touch the very essence of what it actually means to be an on the go enterprise.
Because, you see, being an on-the-go enterprise means a great deal more than just supporting the latest smartphone or tablet. It’s about becoming a living, breathing organism capable of moving beyond mere survival to true global dominance — much like the humans who man them.
Pam Baker is the author of eight books and hundreds of technology articles published daily in leading online and print publications. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Internet Press Guild (IPG). You can reach her or follow her on Twitter and on Google+.