Mobile access has become critical to global business today and the Accenture CIO Mobility Survey 2013 reinforces that. The survey was conducted online last winter and finds that 75 percent of 413 IT professionals rate mobility among their top five priorities. But it also makes clear that there’s lots of room for CIOs to expand enterprise mobile capabilities going forward.
I recently had the opportunity to speak about the findings with Jean-Laurent Poitou (pictured), Senior Managing Director for Accenture’s Communications Media and Technology Operating Group. CIOs, he told me, are increasingly interested in mobile strategy, but mostly in traditional scenarios such as field and sales force enablement. Many also know that greater potential exists, and they want to make “more processes, and more and more of the workforce, mobile-equipped.” Indeed, 46 percent of respondents plan to make changes to their business processes, workflow and employee roles to better incorporate mobility during the next year.
IT executives have a growing interest in leveraging mobile platforms for customer transactions, not just for customer interaction, according to Accenture. Yet usage of mobility beyond smartphones and tablets is still immature, Poitou says. Machine-to-machine communication capabilities were among the least-cited applications in the survey, for instance, and Poitou says that businesses have not taken advantage of many mobile advances for internal processes or for clients. The benefits of “connected devices of all sorts — in the factory, in the field, and in the hands of consumers” are still on the horizon, he says, and “the idea of adding connected products to the arsenal of tablets and smartphones for better communications and analytics is nascent, but growing.”
Shifting Gears in the Automotive Industry
Accenture itself is working with General Electric’s aviation group in a joint venture called Taleris to capture information from aircraft sensors to enable everything from smarter route planning to better maintenance cycles. In another leading-edge example, an automotive company’s electric car division uses built-in vehicle sensors to capture data for after-sales maintenance activities. “We believe industrial solutions and industrial processes will see a rapid pickup of connected-device based applications,” says Poitou, especially in the transportation and automotive sectors.
Whether you call it the Industrial Internet or the Internet of Things, the addition of embedded mobility solutions — where smart devices do things much faster, in a much more proactive way — will be a big change for enterprise IT. It will also boost the need for a cohesive mobile strategy. To date, according to the survey, only 59 percent of respondents report having a centralized, company wide strategy for mobility in place — a figure that surprised Poitou because “mobility, at least again in the areas where it started first, is already a fact.”
He thinks companies that aren’t further along may be big, global enterprises that favor divisional over centralized operations. In those cases, multiple divisions may have varying mobile requirements, or they may not deal directly with consumers or SMBs that have come to expect mobile interfaces. But that will change, he says, as mobility gets embedded into more devices “and as the need for a cohesive mobility strategy — prioritizing which of those applications you will mobile-enable first — becomes increasingly important.”
The study is a good reminder that despite mobile’s pervasiveness, many companies are still looking at the earliest manifestations. “There’s a long way to go in having a comprehensive view of how to use digital technologies to the fullest extent,” according to Poitou. But given the current speed of mobile adoption, future applications probably aren’t very far off at all.