Future Watch: Top 10 Mobile Skills IT Pros Must Master
In a recent blog post, Gartner distinguished analyst Nick Jones outlined 10 mobile technologies and skills that organizations need to master over the next two to three years. Additional training for enterprise IT staff will be especially critical during this time since mobile technology is evolving so quickly, with new risks as well as new capabilities emerging.
Here's a quick run-down of the top 10 mobile technologies and related capabilities that Gartner and Jones say will be critical to master by the end of 2016:
1. Multi-Platform/Multi-Architecture App Development Tools
Jones predicts most organizations will need application development tools that support what he calls a "3 x 3" future. That means support for the three key platforms (Android, Windows, and iOS) and three application architectures (native, mobile Web, and hybrid).
"Tool selection will be a complex balancing act," he writes, trading off many technical and nontechnical issues, such as productivity versus vendor stability. Jones suggests that most large organizations will need a variety of different tools to be able to accommodate the various platforms, and therefore, developers as well as IT support staff will need to be proficient with multiple platforms and multiple architecture types.
2. Enterprise Mobile Management
This is a big one, especially for our readers, and closely related to the much-talked about BYOD or 'bring your own device' trend. For effective enterprise mobile management (EMM), IT staffers need the ability to manage and secure data across whichever mobile devices are being used throughout the enterprise, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Employees bringing their own devices with them can be a huge help for productivity, but also a huge hindrance to data security, presenting a whole new set of risk management tasks for the IT department.
Skills needed for enterprise mobile management include "mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management, application wrapping and containerization, and some elements of enterprise file synchronization and sharing,” Jones writes.
3. HTML5 Markup Language
HTML5 is the fifth iteration of the HTML markup language used for writing Web pages and structuring Internet content. While advances in HTML5 should make it easier to port mobile apps to different platforms, the new version also brings new challenges. Since HTML5 is still fragmented and relatively immature, Jones says, it poses many implementation and security risks.
However, he adds, as HTML5 and its development tools mature, the popularity of the mobile Web and hybrid applications will increase. Therefore, despite its many challenges, HTML5 will be an essential tool for organizations that need to deliver applications across multiple platforms.
4. Advanced Mobile-App Design for a Great User Experience
With mobile apps becoming more sophisticated all the time, it becomes increasingly important for businesses to improve their own mobile offerings. Mobile app developers need to learn how to leverage new tools and methods to create exceptional user experiences. Jones gives a few types of interface examples that developers should be able to produce, such as motivational designs, 'quiet' designs, and more playful interfaces.
Designers also need to be able to produce apps that can accommodate mobile challenges, such as partial user attention and interruption, Jones says, as well as apps like augmented reality that provide a ‘wow’ factor.
5. High-Precision Location Sensing
Location, location, location. Jones is convinced that knowing an individual's location to within a few meters will be a key enabler for businesses to deliver highly relevant contextual info and services. Imagine relevant coupons beamed to customers' smartphones as they walk down the aisle of the local supermarket.
In 2014, Gartner expects to see growth in the use of wireless beacons using the new Bluetooth Smart standard. Over the longer term, technologies such as smart lighting will also become important. "Precise indoor location sensing, combined with mobile apps, will enable a new generation of extremely personalized services and information." Developers and businesses that can master location-sensing technology over the next two years should have a serious advantage in this emerging market.
6. Wearable Devices and Personal-Area Networks
Playing off the concept of local area networks, Jones talks next about the intriguing concept of personal-area networks. In this environment, smartphones will become the hub for personal-area networks, linking wearable gadgets such as healthcare sensors, smart watches, and display devices like Google Glass, as well as a variety of sensors embedded in clothes and shoes. He expects these gadgets will communicate with mobile apps for health and fitness apps.
Mobile app developers as well as device-makers need to learn how to leverage these new technologies, keeping health and safety, as well as security in mind.
7. Emerging Wi-Fi Standards
Mastering new Wi-Fi industry standards such as 802.11ac -- Waves 1 and 2 -- 11ad, 11aq and 11ah will also be important, Jones says. These newer standards will help increase Wi-Fi performance and also make Wi-Fi more relevant for many different kinds of applications, such as telemetry. However, implementing the new standards will require many organizations to revise or replace their Wi-Fi infrastructure.
“Over the next three years, demands on Wi-Fi infrastructure will increase as more Wi-Fi-enabled devices appear in organizations, as cellular offloading becomes more popular, and as applications such as location sensing demand denser access-point placement,” Jones writes.
8. Mobile-Connected Smart Objects and the Internet of Things
There's tremendous opportunity ahead for companies and developers to produce and control connected smart objects for the so-called 'Internet of Things.'
By 2020, six years from now, Jones predicts, the average affluent household will contain several hundred smart objects, including LED light bulbs, toys, domestic appliances, sports equipment, medical devices, and controllable power sockets, to name but a few.
Many of these smart objects will be able to communicate with an app on a smartphone or tablet, Jones writes. “Smartphones and tablets will perform many functions, including acting as remote controls, displaying and analyzing information, interfacing with social networks to monitor ‘things’ that can tweet or post, paying for subscription services, ordering replacement consumables and updating object firmware.”
9. LTE and LTE-A
IT pros will also need to become knowledgeable about Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and its successor, LTE Advanced (LTE-A). These two cellular technologies promise to improve spectral efficiency and push cellular networks to new heights. They can provide theoretical peak downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps, while reducing latency, Jones explains.
All mobile users will benefit from improved bandwidth, so demand is expected to be high. In addition, the superior performance of LTE, combined with new features such as LTE Broadcast, will enable network operators to offer new services -- providing further growth opportunities.
10. Metrics and Monitoring Tools
Last but not least on Gartner's list of mobile technologies that enterprises need to master: metrics and monitoring tools.
The diversity of mobile devices is already starting to make comprehensive app testing nearly impossible, Jones says. Therefore, it is more important than ever for developers to master a variety of metrics and monitoring tools. These can be especially helpful when working with mobile networks and the cloud services that support them, and trying to find hard-to-locate performance bottlenecks.
"Mobile metrics and monitoring tools, often known as application performance monitoring (APM), can help," Jones says. "APM provides visibility into app behavior, delivers statistics about which devices and OSs are adopted, and monitors user behavior to determine which app features are being successfully exploited."
Roadmap for IT Pros
While Gartner's list of mobile-tech skills to master may seem long and arduous, it provides a useful roadmap for IT managers and IT training needs. It's also helpful for IT professionals and new grads who can give themselves a competitive advantage in the IT job market by knowing which skillsets are in demand.
Mobility has plenty of angles, from the technology itself to the apps that empower mobile users, to the security measures that keeps customer and company data safe. Enterprises that can master the intricacies of mobile technology will be much better positioned to unlock its full potential.