IBM is offering to do the heavy lifting for corporate mobile strategies with a new mobile computing consulting practice.
IBM announced the formation of Mobility@Work, a new mobile computing practice within its consulting arm, IBM Global Services. IBM has consulted on mobility in the past, but it has never had a practice that specialized in the area.
"Mobile enterprise applications involve a lot of heavy lifting," said Christopher Fletcher, research director for AMR Research. "[These consulting services will] make it easier for enterprises to deploy applications out to users without having a huge impact on an IT organization."
The services will help organizations to:
- Restructure IT operations to better support mobility.
- Enable users to access desktop applications on mobile devices.
- Develop a cloud-computing approach to mobile computing.
Shawne Robinson, IBM's mobile and wireless product manager, said these services will help IT organizations restructure themselves in order to better serve the growing mobile workforce. For example, an IT organization might be heavily focused on a company's telephony infrastructure and installing software on desktop computers within the corporate campus. That organization would need to reorient itself, Robinson said, in order to deliver and maintain technology for a growing mobile workforce.
IBM has recognized that the population of mobile workers is growing rapidly, he said. This drives a need for more robust mobile computing, and 40% of IBM's employees are mobile on any given day. They are either traveling, working from home, or working from a corporate location but away from their offices.
"We really need to be working proactively with customers to achieve this [mobility]," Robinson said. "Companies need to learn how to achieve a high degree of productivity that could be lost by not working in a traditional office."
"Mobility is hitting a point today where most mobile SIs [systems integrators] are beginning to take stock. The size of deployments is getting to the point where big systems integrators like IBM Global Services should be taking it seriously," said Stephen Drake, program director of mobile enterprise research at IDC. "It's important because software providers need SIs to be involved to push mobility forward."
Drake said that large consulting companies like IBM, accustomed to million-dollar engagements, found it hard to justify a focus on mobility because mobile deployments were limited in scope. Often, a company would distribute mobile devices to top executives, or a single line of business would give devices to key employee groups. But now the scale of mobile deployments is growing. A recent survey by IBM's Institute for Business Value found that 67% of all workers use some form of mobile computing on the job.
"I think, overall, what we're seeing is a pushing of data and information out to the fringes of organizations," Fletcher said. "People are away from their desks, but they must still get all the information they need. A lot of companies have their hands around RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server and have some connectivity, but I think there are some big enterprises out there that don't want to invest in -- or don't have the resources to invest in -- other mobile business applications. You get into heavy lifting fairly quickly, with the multitude of devices out there and at least three major operating systems that pop up in every organization. IBM is trying to draw some attention to their capabilities to show [enterprises] how [IBM] can make it easier for them."
IBM also announced a handful of new mobile software products. The Rational Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) is a technology that allows developers to rewrite green-screen mainframe applications (legacy text-based enterprise applications) into mobile user interfaces and Web services. WebSphere Business Monitor is a mobile business activity monitor that allows end users and IT professionals to get real-time mobile dashboards on their handsets, providing business performance metrics.
IBM is also partnering with AT&T and Sprint to provide push email, calendaring and contact data via Lotus Notes Traveler.
"One of the major plays for IBM is having Lotus Notes Traveler out there," Drake said, "to put something out there that competes with Microsoft's [Exchange] direct push."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor