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An update on IBM’s MobileFirst portfolio


IBM has made significant investments in the mobile market in recent years. Various acquisitions and internal development efforts have resulted in a portfolio of product and service offerings under the banner of IBM MobileFirst. IBM recently summarized the state of the mobile market and its MobileFirst portfolio for analysts.

It’s worth noting up front that IBM sees mobile changing how organizations operate and how people get their work done. For instance:

  • The average mobile user checks their phone 150 times a day.
  • While apps are popular, 80% are used once and then deleted.
  • The number of mobile transactions is growing, with employees and customers increasingly focused on getting things done on their mobile device.
  • 5 petabytes of data is generated by mobile subscribers every day, including details about where they are, what they are doing and more.
  • By 2015, it’s expected that 2/3 of the global workforce will own a smart phone, and that up to 40% will be mobile at least some of the time.

When it comes to executives, IBM sees mobile aligning with critical management goals:

  • 73% of CEOs are focused on capturing customer insights, and the data generated by mobile technologies offers an increasingly rich and important perspective on customers.
  • 82% of CMOs plan to increase their use of social media, even while social media usage is moving rapidly and inexorably to mobile devices.
  • 87% of COOs care about supply chain visibility, and mobile offers unique opportunities for increasing this visibility for employees, customers and partners.
  • 74% of CIOs see mobile solutions as tools for increasing/improving their organizations’ competitiveness.

These technology and executive trends are driving IBM’s investment in mobile and its MobileFirst strategy.

IBM’s Mobile Portfolio

The IBM MobileFirst portfolio contains an application and data platform supporting device management, security and analytics. This can be delivered through cloud or on-premises and supports an array of IBM and partner apps, as well as a broad set of industry solutions. IBM’s technology stack is also wrapped with strategy and development services.

IBM identifies four themes in MobileFirst:

  • Engage with customers in context to create an engaging experience
  • Build potentially complex and integrated apps
  • Optimize mobile infrastructure to provide a scalable and secure environment
  • Transform mobile from point solutions to a coherent enterprise strategy to create value.

IBM sees clients take various entry points to this suite of products and services.

  • Engage
    Many IBM clients are focused on connecting with their customers using personalized mobile campaigns and improving the digital experience of mobile customers. IBM’s TeaLeaf CX Mobile is focused here on providing detail on individual usage patterns and feedback, and integrating this with network and application data. Xtify was recently acquired by IBM and offers fine-tuned marketing segmentation.
  • Build
    Some clients are very application development-focused and look to IBM MobileFirst for an integrated platform for developing, testing and deploying mobile apps across multiple platforms with good enterprise integration. IBM recently launched a public beta for BlueMix Mobile Cloud Services – a set of mobile-specific backend services (mobile app management, push messages, mobile QA etc.) available in the cloud. The company also acquired Cloudant, a NoSQL database as a service provider. Besides its own technology and ongoing investments in acquisitions, IBM has stepped up its commitment to the various open technologies that matter in mobile, such as jQuery, Apache Cordova, etc.
  • Optimize
    Security and management are big issues for many clients, and IBM’s mobile portfolio contains tools for instrumenting apps, securing them, separating personal and business data, etc. IBM also sees a need for a unified architecture for device, content, application and transaction security and acquired MaaS360, which is being increasingly integrated into the portfolio and supports large scale BYOD deployments. IBM Security Access Manager handles mobile authentication, SSO, etc and is pre-integrated with IBM Worklight apps. In addition, IBM acquired Trusteer to enhance the security portfolio.
  • Transform
    IBM is delivering strategic consulting to put mobile consumers first, reshape processes and build new business models. Services include creative and design offerings, as well as analytics and technical offerings. A number of starter apps for specific industries, such as an un-skinned retail banking solution, should help accelerate mobile development.

IBM’s MobileFirst is both broad and deep. As mobile becomes increasingly central to the way organizations operate and as the mobile channel becomes integrated with other touch points, the value of IBM’s portfolio is only going to grow.

Some Thoughts

  • Making sure companies are confident in security and device management is critical to driving adoption of the other IBM pieces. Despite the importance of this part of the portfolio, IBM’s investment here can almost be regarded as table stakes. Big enterprise customers will not invest in the rest of the stack without it, but it does not deliver many business benefits in and of itself.
  • I see mobile as an increasingly important, increasingly integrated channel. It was not clear in the briefing how the mobile engagement elements mesh with IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management components. Xtify seems to provide a mobile-only set of personalized offer management tools, but I might have expected something integrated into a multi-channel environment. While many organizations start by deploying mobile as its own business increasingly it is going to be part of the core set of channels and so must be completely integrated into next best action and cross-channel marketing solutions.
  • Decision Management is a powerful tool for improving the way mobile applications work. Automating approvals, making recommendations, deciding the right context or most important content all require decisions driven by events, complex business logic and increasingly advanced analytics. IBM’s Operational Decision Management now has event support and geolocation, for instance, but it was not clear how the rules available in the mobile engagement components mesh with the company’s Decision Management products. While mobile apps require some local rules and decision-making, much of what makes a mobile app powerful or even possible is back-end decision-making.
  • Finally, I wanted to learn more about the role IBM sees for advanced analytics beyond those relating to mobile usage. While analytics was mentioned often during the briefing, it seemed always to be in terms of tracking app usage, app satisfaction, etc. and not in terms of more general purpose advanced analytics, such as predictive analytic models about customers. Integrating customer propensity models, fraud predictions, risk assessments and demand forecasts into mobile apps can make them much more effective. This means integrating mobile data with other data to drive analytic models, not simply reporting on mobile app usage.

Thanks to Charles King, Principal Analyst of Pund-IT™ for including this in his Pund-IT Review


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