Message from the editor

To every thing there is a season. As this verse¹ poetically captures, matters that at one point in time seemed settled may at another time be open again for debate. When it comes to smart handhelds, this is one of those times.

Enterprises are accustomed to standardizing and controlling the devices their employees use. But the season is changing. The relationship of mobile devices to enterprises—more importantly, the relationship of mobile devices to individuals who also happen to be employees— is undergoing a fundamental transformation. More than any other factor, the rapid innovation in smart handhelds is responsible for this transformative development.

What does this new world look like? Some leading-edge companies are saying to new hires, “Bring your own smartphone; we’ll support it.” They’re offering $50 monthly subsidies and allowing employees to choose the data plan that works best for them. These companies say they have figured out how to manage applications and information on employee-owned devices in a secure way.

How did we get here? And why would a company offer to support many different kinds of handhelds?

You might think this is just a case of being nice to Millennial employees (those born after 1980). If we don’t let them have their way, we’ll have to deal with a disgruntled staff, some say.

The reality is far more interesting. Yes, Millennials are likely to be “digital natives” who have strong, even obsessive, attachments to the handhelds of their own choosing. But a broader industry trend is in play. Smarthandheld users now have more choice and hold the power of the cloud in each device. And that makes all the difference. When technology converges the way it has in the desktop and laptop domain, the opportunities for innovative and creative new uses of the technology are diminished. It is quite rational to standardize, control, and buy in bulk. There’s no upside to flexibility when choices and capabilities are limited.

In a world of divergent choices, new capabilities, and a more mobile-sensitive Web, control has a big downside. It kills innovation.

What makes today’s divergence even more important, though, is its cybernetic quality. It’s the commingling of the human adjustment to engaging with information everywhere, at any time, with anyone, and the rapid innovation in mobile computing devices. This issue of the Technology Forecast examines the underpinnings of these twin disruptions in the business world. It suggests that companies that are stuck in control mode are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. The opportunity here isn’t just to give the digital natives the shiny new gizmo they’ve been craving. Smart handhelds imply more opportunities for enterprises than might be obvious at first glance.

The article, “Turning handheld power into enterprise clout,” on page 06 explores how enterprises can turn what has been a consumer trend in smart handhelds to their advantage. The first step here is to understand how the workforce is changing. What digital natives are doing with their handhelds and the information cloud they tap into represents a different collaboration model—a more interactive and information-rich path to productivity. They depend on personalized access to a cloud of relevant information. Rather than bucking this trend, business should embrace it.

“Mobile technology’s journey from peril to promise” on page 20 details the ways that security for smart handhelds is improving. As information becomes more pervasive and easily accessible, the potential to mix enterprise and personal information increases. Control over corporate data on mobile handhelds is a major concern, but security models to manage this data are already established, and mobile device management software and major operating systems are evolving to embrace and extend those models. Some of the more innovative enterprises have taken advantage of the security that already exists and, seeing the potential for process and productivity improvement, have committed themselves to in-house mobile application development. For them and for others, now is the time to explore the new process improvement paradigm that’s emerging in smarthandheld applications.

“How to exert leadership on enterprise mobility” on page 36 establishes that, as a first step, CIOs need to acknowledge that employees have their own IT capabilities now. Whether by conveying an understanding of the device choice options to the rest of the C-suite, establishing new governance approaches, or formulating new business process models, CIOs have ample opportunity to lead, especially considering the new power of smart handhelds connected to the cloud. Otherwise, someone else will.

This issue also includes interviews with four executives at companies on the leading edge of smart-handheld management and mobile application development:
  • Tom Conophy of InterContinental Hotels Group places smart-handheld trends in the context of an innovative IT culture he’s established and led.
  • Todd Schofield of Standard Chartered outlines the bank’s strategy for supporting smart handhelds and building an application development organization to support that strategy.
  • Srini Koushik of Nationwide describes how to begin supporting employee-owned smart handhelds and the value of “bring your own device” from an insurer’s point of view.
  • Mark Pesce of FutureSt Consulting paints a big-picture view of how organizations can face the challenges of personal IT, as well as a view of the leading mobile application development trends.

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We welcome your feedback and your ideas for future research and analysis topics to cover.

¹Ecclesiastes 3:1