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Inside Looking Out: An Executive View on Enterprise Mobility with Glenn Gerlach

Welcome to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out. This past week, we had the opportunity to chat with Glenn Gerlach at CTIA.  Glenn (a.k.a. G2), is a Senior Mobility Strategist in Microsoft’s Mobile Computing Business division.

The Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi Glenn. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.  I’m always in awe of the rate of change that exists in the world of mobility. Obviously, this is not “how things worked” in the enterprise. What should companies do to better handle this new pace?

Glenn Gerlach:  The pace of change for Smartphone and Tablet, or as I call them “3rd screen” operating systems, has compacted to several months on the short side out to a year at most.  IT organizations were not built to respond to this rapid pace nor do existing management and security systems play well with the concept of  an employee bringing their own device and connecting it to corporate servers.  IT is finding it almost impossible to dictate end client choices for employees, thus they must find ways to establish access policies for devices, correspondent to the 3rd screen’s manageability. 

Without a semblance of policy control risk is not managed. The class of service approach provides incentive for end users to bring devices that fit your companies risk tolerance. It is influence where once control existed but an improvement over chaos.

EMF: While mobile email is still growing, it’s all about apps now. Where do you see the greatest growth opportunities for businesses?

G2: Company email, contacts and calendar and personal email are pretty well done by all the platforms and management of this class of information is widely understood by Enterprises.  This current class of devices are browser rich and utility [read non-Enterprise]  application centric.  IT has no charter to manage or restrict a user’s personal media, shopping or gaming applications, with no rules and lightly regulated access, 3rd screen devices exploded in numbers. Now the next IT assignment is to extend corporate applications, utilities and decision support tools out to those users.

That assignment gets complicated real quick with multiple platforms with varying risk profiles that are innovating constantly. If a decision is made to develop apps that satisfy your Execs on iOS, are you going to orphan RIM and Android and Windows? Do you have the developer know how to build useable apps  and can you afford to develop applications with a 12 to 18 month lifecycle across two or three or four platforms..  Unfortunately for businesses, the greatest growth opportunity is in consulting, middleware and outsourcing application development.

EMF: We’re doing all this for productivity, right?  But we’ve always talked about “productivity.” There’s got to be a better way to look at it.

G2: I believe strongly that every IT service, utility or application will be 1) Virtual. 2) Hosted and 3) Available on the 3rd screen in 5 years or less from today. Not every Enterprise will be there but very many will be. Companies who are “Cloud Enabled” and have delivered real time access to remote or field based employees  will see that better information delivery results in shortened sales cycles, improved collaboration, more creativity and increased revenues.

If you find that statement hard to believe, just think back five years when you couldn’t IM inside your company or search your email for keywords. Where would you be if those almost taken for granted utilities were no longer on your desktop. How would that impact how you manage the torrent of information crossing your desktop

The challenge is balancing policy and data management requirements while providing ease of access, predictably and economically across multiple platforms.

EMF: So should companies be looking at mobility as an expense or an investment? Are they doing that now?

G2: Through 15 years engaged with IT organizations and Corporate decision makers driving discussions around mobility, few have a complete understanding  of their costs.  They understand it is growing FAST but they have not actually sat down and assessed every cost area: devices, airtime, roaming, servers, support, security, development etc…. It crosses too many budgets.

The key is making decisions that allow  a smart spend. Spend is limited with a well devised plan that justifies any spend based on the impact to the core business; more sales, fewer return visits to close a service ticket, improved reporting accuracy and balances those gains against  the cost of supporting n number of platforms and revisions to those applications yearly. 

EMF: There’s been much said in the last couple of weeks about “ecosystems” and the importance of more than just hardware or software, but services and more. How does that apply to the enterprise space?

G2: The winner[s] in the ecosystem wars underway right now will deliver Enterprises manageable migrations from this gen of Mobile OS to the next gen, improved management tools that implement policy consistently across platforms or even better, that simply extend desktop and server policies the 3rd screen.

The prospect of 4 CRM apps or 3 ERP apps or 2 in-house developed order support programs that need update every 12 months does not scale. Device side UX differences will narrow dramatically within the next four years and the battle for differentiation will come down to manageability and compatibility with a broad set of enterprise tools.  Services will be consumed in connected scenarios from cloud based providers or Enterprise clouds and will provide data across a broad set of 3rd screen devices.  Subscriptions will allow services and media to be consumed across a variety of endpoints and connections.

EMF: What do you see as the next major chapter in enterprise mobility? What’s that next defining moment?

G2: Management, mostly because management is the missing ingredient that is preventing the deployment of apps and services to existing devices. It will come about for one of two reasons – unfilled end user demands for services or the catastrophic event.

IT organizations have been compelled to provide 3rd screen devices exceptions to established protocols and policies regarding company data. Company executives demand that their new gadgets be supported and once the gate is opened it is a complex or expensive undertaking to let some have access and prevent others.

The catastrophic event is the one that will cause the most turmoil; even if the breach is outside of your organization if it is public enough the CEO’s going to be asked by the Board how is the company information protected and how are those 3rd screen devices and the data on them locked down NOW!!!

EMF: I love asking this next question, because there are always so many different perspectives. The Cloud. Where will its impact be greatest from an enterprise mobility perspective?

G2: Like we discussed a few minutes ago, the cloud will impact every IT function.  Many IT functions are common across companies, industries and geographies.  Like a utility. There is no reason for a Biotech company or an energy producer should be required to build and maintain competency around email or portals.  Those same companies do not generate their own electric power!  Utility bills are classic “expenses”  Biotech IT should be empowered to drive IT function that is specific to their industry or to the way they differentiate themselves against competition.  That is an investment.

Well there you have it. Thanks Glenn, for taking the time out of your busy CTIA schedule to chat about your views on enterprise mobility. Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop us a line.


  1. Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:03 | Permalink

    Enjoyed the interview, these are great contributions to our industry and enterprise community at large.

    This piece underscores the idea (to me at least) that MDM is ultimately a commodity (equivalent to just an assumed capability) as the inevitable need to lock down security, policy and provide device level access becomes apparent from C level down. In one sense, the aforementioned is the easiest thing to solve as solutions abound. We’re already seeing this commoditization legacy tools such as BES but also recent incarnations of Microsoft server software. This is not to minimize the importance of the early leaders in MDM but it must concern them that moving from niche to mainstream will expose them to the bigger enterprise players; hence the increasing pace of M&A in that area.

    The much harder thing to solve with respect to the concepts raised by Glenn is the strategic tradeoffs organization must weigh when determining platform choices. Developing applications for your specific business or at a minimum leveraging existing options from your current vendors increases in complexity when weighing multiple form factors and operating systems.

    Compare this with the relative simplicity of developing for your field workforce on laptops e.g. one OS, one form factor.

    If companies are still lagging behind in just leveraging existing tech like laptops; there is massive opportunity in helping organizations effect positive change with mobility whether cloud or otherwise.

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    • Posted April 6, 2011 at 11:24 | Permalink

      Josh – I think that in many respects, all tools become commodities (certainly over time)….but the key will be how organizations leverage the tools to drive real business value. In terms of determining platform choices….haven’t employees already made the choices for us?

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      • Posted August 17, 2011 at 22:53 | Permalink

        Excellent read. As mobile enterprise content grows and the delivery of files and images becomes intensive in the wireless network there will demand to optimize without compromising on device performance.

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