Future of mobile perspectives for 2016: The long runway ahead

By Wyatt Urmey

2015 turned out to be quite the year for mobile. The year concluded with a holiday season where we saw a clear inflection point — mobile overtook desktops as the medium of choice for holiday shopping. This development is just one of many indicators that individuals will experience the future via their mobile devices.

To start the year off and look to the future of mobile, it made sense to spend time with one of our greatest thinkers on the topic of mobile, John Ponzo, VP, MobileFirst chief technology officer, to gain perspective on what happened in 2015 and what we still might expect in the future of mobile.

John, what were the biggest developments in 2015 for mobile, in your opinion?

In 2015, we saw three important trends start to take off: 1. the growing enterprise capability in mobile, including the increasing importance of physical meets digital, 2. the growth in the relationship between cloud and mobile and 3. a clear evolution toward more open source.

Enterprises building out new capabilities

The first wave of advancement in enterprise mobile focused on enabling businesses with mobile device management, email and simple, secure network management; the next innovations will go deeper. Now that businesses have surpassed those organizational basics, what we saw in 2015 was a start toward deeper integration, with developers building out new capabilities for organizations.

Enterprise development professionals are now looking for new ways to take the same capabilities and ease-of-use ideals that mobility has accomplished in the consumer space and use them to improve our work lives. We think this is one of the most underserved parts of the market and it’s at the heart of our partnership strategy. We focused on 100 applications we have in multiple industries where we work directly with industry professionals to bring a highly customizable experience to businesses with deep, industry-specific analytics that solve important problems.

There is a whole transition underway; mobile is no longer important to just the CIO. Now that mobile has really advanced in the enterprise during 2015, interest is permeating the broader organization. The focus of that interest is not just on benefits with end-customers, but focused equally as often on benefits to workers and the organization’s operation.

Physical meets digital

Another important area of this trend is the major advancements of mobile, and the mobile ecosystem, with physical meets digital. This is where we are pulling together digital and physical experiences into one. This area is increasingly important to organizations differentiating themselves by demonstrating a superior understanding of customer behaviors. It is also a key area of investment for us as we advance Presence Insights. We are looking at environments like stores, amusement parks, sports venues and manufacturing where we can pull together analytics and insights on employee and customer behaviors to improve customer understanding and workforce efficiency, allowing companies to act very quickly.

Moreover, we saw the clear extension of mobile across multiple screens, including smartphones and tablets. It’s now extending further beyond that point, to automotive and entertainment. Success then becomes more about the total integrated experience across devices and physical environments, which becomes the next great mobile experience. My team is helping to build out new capabilities for developers to allow them to create those great integrated experiences and pull together solutions for this evolving marketplace.

Growing the future of mobile on the cloud

Also in 2015, the marketplace saw the link between mobile and cloud strengthen, which will continue as we move into 2016. I see this as an opportunity to improve and streamline end-to-end mobile application development. Therefore, we are building multi-device, omnichannel solutions that help businesses interact and engage with a world that uses smartphones, desktops, tablets and many other devices — sometimes at the same time — to transact business on a regular basis.

Mobile’s resolution to be more open source is another big trend we saw grow substantially in 2015, and it’s now more critical to mobile than ever before. Even what were considered proprietary technologies in the past are becoming more open. Among them, emerging languages like Swift are moving into open source and can really help build up the whole mobile ecosystem.

What is your outlook for mobile going into 2016?

Demand. We are expecting 2016 will raise the bar on how “smart” applications will need to be the norm. Markets are moving toward more immersive experiences, as I mentioned. Integrating deep analytics and cognitive capabilities is more important to users and developers than ever in the past.

This has implications for data and how it’s treated. We are moving from a point where developers gathered or built out their own data sources, to one where developers need to consume and make sense of a broad collection of data — from a variety of sources — to allow applications to be intelligent assistants. There will be a need to make sense of unstructured data, incorporate semantic abilities, and combine with that immersive environment in a way that makes sense within the context of helping the user.

Companies will need to have intelligent digital apps that are context-enriched, making sense of weather, financial and other data feeds in decision making, which requires deep cognitive capabilities. As companies build out more of their digital strategies with cognitive, we may see even more reliance on mobile as part of their digital channel.

Lastly, when we start to look at where physical meets digital, we may also see more interest for capabilities that include virtual and augmented realities. These changes will have implications for mobile; blockchain technologies and distributed transactions and ledgers demonstrate where a larger trend may impact mobile. There is a long runway ahead to build on these technologies and a lot that will be needed to bring together data from many sources to improve authentication and business decision making.

What I think is changing quickly is that in the past, companies tried to own the data and make sense of it. In the future, there will be more reliance on external data and mining it, to own the insights rather than the raw materials.

Do you think leading-edge companies are moving past “app-centric” thinking in mobile to a more robust mobile strategy?

I agree that a big part of new digital models and strategies will be a focus on workflows and process transformations that will be more user-centric and mobile-centric. This is a transformation not just around new devices and modalities but also on how we think about process transformation and customer engagement entirely.

Our focus on industry solutions is really geared around process transformation. There already are customized processes specific to individual industry professionals, so the way we approach an industry transformation is based on knowledge of that industry, its processes and what needs to come together to improve and make a more productive and immersive interaction.

Within telecommunications, for instance, we have looked at the field force that needs tech-service enablement. We built out a set of capabilities that make it easier for them to make changes to customer repair orders, but also to do some better upselling, as they can be the front end of customer engagement.