If BYOD has boosted workplace productivity as many claim, then what’s going to drive the next wave of improvement? And this time, will we be able to measure it effectively?

We already know that the penetration of mobile devices in workplaces around the globe has been a catalyst for the current wave of incremental user productivity gains.  Surfing the wave of Consumerization of IT and BYOD trends, executives and their CIOs have readily introduced mobile computing programs for two major drivers: increased employee satisfaction and staff retention.

Whilst the surge of mobile devices has meant enterprise WiFi networks have required an update and the traditional enterprise software patching regime is being stretched to scales previously unimagined, there is also anecdotal evidence of marginal improvements in productivity; one hour per employee per day.  In its Evolving Workforce Research series, published in July 2012, Dell cited survey data that stated, “nearly 60% of employees feel work would be more enjoyable if they had a say in the technologies they used, while 60% feel they would be more productive with better IT resources (in the context of Consumerization of IT)”.

Are these improvements being realized and is this really enough? As a contemporary CIO or business leader investing a substantial sum on planning, executing, and upgrading infrastructure to accommodate a mobility program, one hour of employee productivity gains (although welcome) coming from anecdotal sources should be cause for consideration, whilst an employee ‘feeling’ they would be more productive smacks of political correctness in survey form completion

A Future Workspace survey from IDC in early 2012 found that most employees do not believe that the consumer-oriented applications available on their preferred mobile platform can replace enterprise applications required to perform their daily tasks. Yes, personal devices are considered up to playing in the major leagues, but consumer apps are still in the minors.

Research suggests that these actual improvements in employee productivity are achieved through increased access to email and basic collaboration services, or – the enablement of anywhere, anytime computing. In fact, according to Symantec’s 2012 State of Mobility Survey, the four highest ranked enterprise mobility use cases are currently Email, Web Browser, Contacts and Calendar, with an increase in efficiency and an increase in workforce effectiveness as the two largest drivers for the introduction of mobile computing in the workplace.

As device manufacturers have provided strong, well-accepted mobile Email capabilities, my view is that the next major target must be improved collaboration but through enterprise-grade, consumer friendly offerings.

Cobbling together consumer oriented applications – which can have random update cycles, differing requirements for connectivity, and questionable security credentials – in order to build an intelligent, content-oriented collaboration environment, capable of leveraging organizational social intelligence, is not a minor undertaking and simply won’t deliver on strategic goals.  Considering the potential current (as of Oct 2012) catalogue of approximately 2 million apps of which around 1.5 million are consumer focused, it means it will be difficult to formulate strategies to derive a measureable increase in employee productivity.

Additional IDC research suggests that 80% of corporate produced content doesn’t get from the hands of the content producer to the content consumer in a way that produces measurable results.  Conventional wisdom tells us that the larger the content store (e.g. share drives, document management systems, traditional and modern collaboration sites, feeds and the like) the more difficult it is to locate and leverage the correct content when you need it.

Yet, there is an ever-growing mountain of “Content” that resulted in the coining of the term, “Big Content”.  Similar to Big Data, Gartner suggests Big Content should provide a real opportunity for business improvement, process optimization, and market insight.  The issue with Big Content in a mobile world is that consumer-oriented applications and those that merely expose enterprise content do very little to contribute in any meaningful or productive way to the business. In contrast, some enterprise-grade offerings do deliver on the promise of Big Content.

Leading edge C-level executives are actively looking to transform executive jewelry – i.e. their latest mobile gadgets – into real productivity gains for their organizations.  The positive news is that now that we have enabled anytime, anyplace computing, we can positively contribute to unwrapping the secrets hidden in Big Content.

What is needed, however, is a series of viable enterprise-oriented, consumer friendly applications which enable corporate security policies, respect mandated geo-political privacy guidelines, and mine the Big Content opportunity to reveal the gems therein.

Any such mobility program mature enough to move past the infrastructure requirements for BYOD and actively bite into the Big Content challenge has the potential to reveal the underlying treasure of increased organizational effectiveness and measureable increases in productivity.  Imagine for a moment, that you had visibility into the actual usage of content across the mobile fleet, where, when, by whom, for how long, and under what circumstances. These types of insight have the potential to reveal the road ahead more accurately than any sales forecast could hope to achieve.

Remember when laptops were starting to encroach into the business environment? “They’re not secure”, “We don’t know what people will have on them”, “How can we define productivity?” Now, substitute ‘laptop’ with ‘mobile’. Mobility will be the future enabler of our business environment. The opportunity is real. . Forward-looking executives exploring the boundaries of what can be measurably delivered are the ones not scratching their heads when asked what success looks like in future.

By Anthony Turco, VP of Product at bigtincan.