Enterprise mobility in 2016: The year in review

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As we say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017, the first week of the year provides an appropriate time to look back at the previous 12 months, and the key stories which influenced the enterprise mobility sector during that time.

Rather than detailing the most important stories of the year chronologically as in previous years, this time Enterprise AppsTech is looking at the biggest hitters from 2016 in five key emerging areas:

App standardisation

One of the biggest stories of 2016 was undoubtedly the launch of the AppConfig Community at Mobile World Congress in February, an initiative to promote common goals for enterprise applications based on native OS standards.

The community took over from App Configuration for Enterprise (ACE), and was led initially by EMM vendors IBM MaaS360, JAMF Software, MobileIron, and VMware AirWatch with a focus on iOS. Nine months on, the initiative also includes Android best practices, while the community now boasts almost 100 members with 11 on the EMM side, including SOTI and BlackBerry.

While some companies remain conspicuous by their absence, this coming together of many major enterprise mobility players can only be seen as good news for the industry overall, with more developments anticipated in 2017.

Read more: AirWatch, IBM, JAMF, MobileIron launch AppConfig for easier enterprise app development (February)
Read more: Why AppConfig represents take two in solving a vital enterprise app problem (March)

Chatbots and AI

Chatbots did not entirely take over in 2016 – but use cases exploded last year, with enterprise interest certainly piqued as a result.

Microsoft kicked this off back in April, with Satya Nadella outlining his vision at the company’s Envision conference of “taking the human language but applying it much more pervasively to computing.” Describing it as ‘conversation as a platform’, the theory goes that by incorporating Skype’s speech recognition, Bing’s natural search and Cortana’s capabilities, plenty of time can be saved by moving humdrum business conversations along.

Cisco announced a collaboration with Gupshup in July, with Gupshup CEO Beerud Sheth telling this publication that eventually “bots will become the front end for ERP, HR, CRM, and all other enterprise systems”, while various other initiatives have been announced since then.

Read more: Microsoft’s ‘conversation as a platform’ vision underpins digital transformation future (April)
Read more: Analysing the rise of AI in the enterprise: Three recent releases (October)

Collaboration and social

2016’s biggest acquisition was Microsoft’s deal to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion back in June. This publication mused how the deal would combine two large ecosystems in enterprise, social, and mobile. CCS Insight’s Martin Garner noted the possibilities of LinkedIn integration with Office 365, Exchange, Outlook, Skype, and more besides.

Not everyone was in agreement over the best path to value; yet what was almost unanimously agreed upon was that the loser from this deal was Salesforce, who it was later revealed also wanted to purchase the Mountain View firm.

Last year also saw some interesting case studies related to enterprise collaboration away from Microsoft and LinkedIn. In March, the Financial Times said it was working with Facebook to offer Facebook at Work to its global employee base, with Nick McQuire, also of CCS Insight, telling this publication that “this should have been LinkedIn’s opportunity 12 or 18 months ago”. Other blue chip clients on Facebook’s enterprise social platform include Heineken and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Read more: Microsoft acquires LinkedIn for $26.2bn: What are the next steps from here? (June)

IoT

As the Internet of Things matured in 2016, so the realisation that the enterprise had the potential for the largest benefits matured with it.

Cisco put a marker down at the start of the year by acquiring IoT platform provider Jasper, with the deal being officially completed in March. At the time, both parties stressed that the road to seamless IoT integration would not be an easy one, yet the decision to allow Jasper’s already thriving partnership ecosystem to continue unabated – deals were inked with IBM, Salesforce, SAP and VMware before the acquisition – has helped smooth the path.

Research towards the end of the year revealed how IoT will change the enterprise, ready or not; Ericsson argued in a report that Internet of Things sensors and devices are expected to exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018.

Read more: A little more on Jasper’s acquisition by Cisco (February)

Low code and no code apps

One other trend which shaped 2016 was the continued rise of the low code, or no code, enterprise app development platform. As with any exciting technology, many players want a slice of the action; and as this publication analysed towards the end of this year, it was too many, as a couple of startups in the space went to the wall.

Ultimately, the consensus was pretty clear from speaking to those at the sharp end of the industry. The business need is there and the technology will almost certainly get consumed at a wider scale, but until the few winners in the space hit the finish line – whenever it arrives – expect a lot more innovation and jockeying for position until then.

Yet at the same time, expect more companies to try and come in through 2017. Google has even got in on the act, launching App Maker, which runs on the same infrastructure as G Suite, back in December.

Read more: The key questions CIOs will have about rapid mobile app development – and the answers (June)
Read more: Rapid mobile app development, app refactoring, low code, no code: Where are we at today? (September)

Do you agree with the main stories from 2016? Let us know in the comments.

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