Mani Zarrehparvar: Why Mobility Is No Longer ‘DIY’ for Business

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According to Mani Zarrehparvar, the challenges that enterprise mobility presents are becoming more complex, just as are the solutions. The new president of Visage Mobile, Zarrehparvar spent 10 years as a mobile enterprise strategist — first as strategic solutions director at Asurion Wireless and more recently as director of mobility product management at AT&T. Here, Zarrehparvar explains why enterprise mobility is getting harder to manage, why smart businesses shouldn’t try to manage it themselves, and why the future of mobility is all about having a single device that knows what you need before you do.

What are some key mobility principles and trends that companies should focus on?

One behavior of large companies is that, if they don’t have visibility into — or they can’t control — something, then they end up sitting on the sidelines and not doing it. Ten years ago, at the very beginning of enterprise mobility management, companies weren’t deploying Blackberrys because they didn’t know what was going to happen to the devices once they put them out there. They didn’t know what would happen if someone broke a device, if someone lost a device, or what it was going to cost them. One of my early missions, at that point, was to build tools that would give companies visibility into the environment — so they knew what was happening — and also to give them control through policy management. Now fast forward 10 years and you’ve got three dynamics that are making that problem much more severe. One is that the actual data and the things you can do with your mobile devices have become much more complex. 

The second is the trend toward BYOD — the idea that mobile devices aren’t something that the enterprise has to pay for my users to have. They’ve already got mobile devices, they use them, they live with them. All I need to do is enable their access into my business. Companies are going to want to understand, first of all, what people are doing with their devices. They want to have a way to partition or differentiate between personal and work usage — and a lot of that is about creating policy.

The third one is really about the mobilization of things instead of people. Over the last couple of years, there has been this huge migration towards smartphones and everyone has traded in their keys for smartphones. The next wave is sticking SIM cards into anything you can imagine — into every car, into every home appliance, into every container. I think once that happens, you’ll move from billions of endpoints to hundreds of billions of endpoints.

I think those three things together are creating this dynamic that is making everything more complex and more challenging to manage. 

How can businesses best respond to these complexities in a fast-changing market?

When things get more complex, it slows things down. It slows down innovation, it slows down companies using these tools for their benefit. So, by giving companies a platform that addresses these concerns, you actually let companies move faster. They get to embrace mobile innovation sooner. They get to stick SIM cards into more devices, they get to open up more of their environment to users with mobile devices without concern.  

One thing that is a clear differentiator [between leaders and laggards] is that the people who are leaders in utilizing these tools outsource the management of their mobile environment. They don’t try to manage it themselves. They rely on tools, they rely on services, they bring in people who are experts at managing that environment and rely on them to do it. In order for companies to respond and be able to move in the right direction, they have to get away from having an admin with an Excel spreadsheet trying to manage this stuff. The key is to recognize that it shouldn’t be your core competence. Whatever your business is, go do your business. You don’t want to be in the business of managing mobile carriers and mobile data. There are other people who have built solutions to do that.

If there was one mobile capability you would love to see developed within the next five years what would it be?

I think the piece that would have the biggest impact for me would be this notion that you carry a single device and that device is an input mechanism. It’s a very efficient input mechanism — whether it’s a speech device, whether it’s a thinking device, whether it’s Google glasses, whatever it is — everything is in the cloud and basically all you need is authentication to do the things you’re going to do. And so what happens is, this device identifies you as you and now everything else happens. 

I’m imagining I walk out of my front door with my device, my device locks the door behind me. It starts my car. It pays for my coffee at Starbucks. As a matter of fact, it knows that when I get in my car and I say I’m going to Starbucks, it has my order waiting for me when I get there, because it can communicate with them. It recognizes that I’m late for a meeting and changes my meeting because it knows — by my location — that I’m not going to be at the office in time to be there for my video conference meeting and it changes it to a voice call. 

This idea of everything being in the cloud and then the network being aware of my presence and my condition, so that the network responds to me, instead of me telling the network what to do, is what I’d love to see. I definitely think that this is going to happen. I just think it’s a question of when. If five years from now I could have that experience, I would be very happy. I’d love to be able to do it now.

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