Thuthuka Mhlongo, digital portfolio manager: digital workplace solutions at T-Systems South Africa, discusses how rapid mobile advances create unprecedented business opportunities for an always-on, real-time enterprise.
South Africa now boasts an astonishing 88-million unique mobile subscriptions (according to compiled data from the major network operators), which shows how our country’s love affair with cellular tech is more passionate than ever.
That is an average of 1,6 connections for every citizen.
At the same time, South Africa’s mobile network operators have invested heavily in advanced mobile networks (LTE) and fibre backbones, which continue to expand in reach, covering large metros, smaller towns, as well as many rural areas.
These numbers represent a phenomenal opportunity.
Businesses can easily extend their reach into new frontiers on workplace productivity, accommodating new and emerging workstyles that offer more flexible work arrangements for permanent and contract staff, while enhancing service engagement. No longer must staff all be co-located in one place, all at the same time, as real-time collaboration and high-definition video-conferencing services keep us connected to each other, wherever we may be.
As a result of the various mobile technologies, the pace of business is quickening. Suddenly numerous operational processes can be promptly executed enabling the ability to log requests, approve, monitor or manage workflows in an instant directly from our mobile devices. Collaboration with virtual teams, partners and ensuring continuous engagements with clients can be as easy as checking-in on our favourite social media mobile apps.

Heightened expectations
For IT departments, however, our growing comfort with enterprise mobility is sparking new challenges. We are hungry for more sophisticated systems to be adopted and integrated into mobile services and to be rendered from intuitive user interfaces that have been beautifully designed by UX professionals.
After all, this is what we have become accustomed to in our personal lives.
We are developing appetites for new forms of mobile interaction — from chatbots to virtual assistants powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. We expect our devices to have a clear separation between our ‘personas’, allowing us to transition across personal and organisational work profiles.
And we expect all of these enterprise services to be delivered to any and all devices — from smart\intelligent-phones, tablets, laptops, smart-watches and furthermore automation sensors utilised in powering predictive maintenance within the Automotive and Manufacturing sector. Industries – such as in Healthcare, medical aid insurers — need to cater for a broad range of wearables and portable healthcare devices such as fitness tracking wristbands and connected blood glucose monitoring devices as an essential part of their mobility strategy. The digital evolution of the automotive industry has seen more mobility capabilities being extended to connected cars.

Partnering for success
It is only with trusted and highly-experienced ICT partners that an organisation can hope to navigate through this complex landscape.
The pitfalls are varied and deep: The costs of extending corporate services to native or hybrid mobile apps from the various enterprise back-end systems can billow way out of control. As threat surfaces expand and fracture into hundreds or thousands of end-points, new security risks emerge. Data protection and governance laws continue to evolve — demanding that firms always stay up to date.
And let’s not forget that as employees we are all at varying levels of comfort and maturity with regards to mobile technologies. As more local companies become part of the international business market, they are pressures to consider requirements of international governance laws such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Building more services with mobility-first in mind becomes essential for change managers and other leaders to ‘take everyone along on the transformational ride’. Those that may be most resistant to changing workflows, workstyles or business models could slow down the transformation towards being a fully digital organisation.
It is equally important to achieve alignment and buy-in across the more senior echelons of the organisation. For instance, unless an enterprise mobility strategy is accompanied by a shift in organisational culture and work policies which allows for more agility towards different workstyles, despite the location. People will simply find it hard to extract any incentive or any business value which may result to slow user adoption that minimises the new opportunities mobility brings.
By having a technology partner that can deal with the nitty-gritty of user profiles, device compatibility, integrated security, network considerations, bespoke applications and services, managers can guarantee that Mobility doesn’t become a costly distraction from their core business deliverables.
Mobility is certainly giving rise to the concept of the always-on, real-time enterprise, where information flows freely between users and across time zones, securely landing on the myriad of end-point devices. But to achieve success, so many moving parts need to fall into place. This is certainly not the time to ‘go it alone’ and try to transform the organisation by trial and error.