There is no denying the current trend in bringing your own devices (BYOD) into the workplace – driven mainly by the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets that make it easy to blend our personal and professional lives. Workers have embraced BYOD, and the newest generation now entering the workforce is pushing the boundaries. They grew up on technology and, to them, work is an activity, not a location.
Don’t expect a technological life-altering big splash in 2012. But do keep an eye out for all the little ripples of innovation that will combine to change they ways we work and live. While consumers are frequently looking for the next big thing, IT departments dread constant disruption. For them, there is a certain brilliant simplicity to easing innovation into an existing paradigm so no one is disrupted from their day-to-day interactions, but in 12 months (give or take) the user’s experience is radically different from what it once was.
Innovation doesn’t always come in terms of a monstrous revolution. It’s the little additive changes that improve life: mini-waves of micro-developments.
Here are some of the trends I see enterprise mobility embracing in the coming year:
- Security: More and more information is being stored on our handheld devices. With recent issues like Carrier IQ keylogging and Android hacking brought to the forefront of consumers’ minds, enterprises are going to focus on the importance of smartphone security while not impeding productivity.
- Apps are where it’s at: Instead of new software programs, companies are looking to apps that will help move business forward. iPhones, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phones – they’ve all been around, but as applications become more prevalent in everyone’s pockets, these little gadgets are going to make a big difference in enterprise operations.
- C-ya Cius: There will never be an enterprise tablet. There, I said it. There will just be tablets, with enterprise apps. Just as RIM has fallen from grace as THE enterprise smart phone, thanks to the proliferation of apps (as I mentioned above), there are no longer enterprise smart phones. Any phone or tablet, with the right apps, can become an enterprise tool.
- Death of Wi-Fi is greatly exaggerated: Every time a new communication technology channel hits the air – Edge, 3G, and now 4G – we hear the death knell of Wi-Fi sounding. But as amazing as the speed initially seems, apps eventually get built that kill capacity and the network slows once people start using the network. I’ve watched this cycle play out again and again over the years. Despite prior dire predictions, Wi-Fi is still experiencing double-digit growth year-over-year. Because the reality is, as you build it they will come (and they will use it). As the newest, fastest networks become congested, we’ll still rely on Wi-Fi.
- Collision of data and voice: It is the beginning of a new era – Siri, Dragon Voice SDK and Xbox voice commands have changed the way we interact with technology. Enterprises may begin looking into this on a smaller scale. I foresee future capabilities that let you make calls, update contacts, or access your company directory simply by saying, “call,” “update” or “directory.” Yet, for the same reason people don’t always love speakerphones in a cube environment, complete vocal artificial intelligence integration isn’t always practical.
- Identity profiles: There is going to come a time where we no longer have phone numbers. People will simply integrate with their unified communications apps and click on profiles to reach a contact. We will manage our multiple identities (business, personal, hobby-specific) within a single device.
- Enterprise social-collaboration will take off: IT will prove its value by allowing tasks, communication, and collaboration to all occur concurrently. Facebook is already the most used mobile app in the world (accessed by more than 350 million worldwide). Companies may start including apps like Yammer, which could become just as critical as corporate email is today. Consumer programs like Foursquare make employees more likely to embrace local features from the office like Presence and Availability.
Those are my predictions for 2012. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or want to offer your own perspective on what’s to come in the year ahead. I look forward to hearing from you.