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It was no surprise that one of the things that stood out at MWC last week was the growing choice of suppliers offering enterprises the promise of a mobile workspace. But they certainly weren’t all talking about the same thing, and any observer starting to look at the available options could be forgiven for finding it a confusing picture.

The mobile workspace market is evolving rapidly as the number of mobile and virtual workers in organizations grows. Mobile workspace investments are now being driven largely by the need for better collaboration in the workforce, the need to raise productivity across the business, the need to improve customer experience, and, ultimately, the need to drive competitive advantage. The way employees work is set to change dramatically, with far-reaching impact across organizations, a point made in a recent report from Samsung on the “open economy,” whose authors argued that within three years there would be a fundamental shift in the way companies operate. The open economy will be characterized by the use of freelance workers (in a freelancers-as-a-service model), startup innovation, and open collaboration with competitors.Not all companies will be ready for such a fundamental shift, but it is fair to say that most see mobile workspace investment as a strategic matter, and that many are looking for partners to help them on this journey.

Enterprises will find many suppliers looking to help them evolve to a digital and mobile workspace, but systems integrators, mobility software vendors, ISVs, and service providers all have different perspectives when selling against this opportunity. The tier-1 telcos have typically developed their mobile workspace offers on top of their core mobile connectivity and devices, adding device management, expense management, unified communications and collaboration, productivity applications, and applications delivery, as well as service management and support.

At MWC, telcos, including Orange Business Services, Verizon, and Vodafone were focused on their investment in professional services and IoT capability, in recognition that mobile workspace is a complex sell: In many companies, transformation is driven from a single business process, and this is often an IoT project. The telcos’ technology partners are concentrating on a number of areas that are increasing in importance as telcos grow their portfolios, including managed security and service orchestration. Some partners, including Brightstar and VMware, are beginning to offer comprehensive solutions for their telco partners, including end-to-end mobility-as-a-service platforms that enable telcos to support business customers looking for a simple model for managing mobility.

However, telcos have substantial competition in the workspace services market, with the enterprise-managed-mobility vendors selling directly to enterprises and with some, such as Tangoe, launching their own mobility-as-a-service offers. They are also competing (and partnering) with unified communications suppliers, particularly those launching cloud-based UCaaS, as well as with collaboration and productivity providers. Managed service providers such as Atos and HPE Services are rebranding as digital service providers and argue that they are strongly placed to assist enterprises in designing and implementing their mobile workspace strategies, since they are vendor- and service-agnostic. The systems integrators are similarly agnostic, and many have strong vertical approaches that are a strength as the market moves toward mobilizing business processes.

The scope of the mobile workspace continues to evolve to incorporate new tools and technologies – such as personal assistants, smart offices, workplace analytics, and augmented reality – all aimed at encouraging collaboration, improving productivity, and increasing employee and customer engagement. Enterprises must be careful to choose partners that share their vison of the future workspace and can deliver their immediate requirements.

Straight Talk is a weekly briefing from the desk of the Chief Research Officer. To receive this newsletter by email, please contact us.

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