Article | January 2, 2020

Mobile, The Presentation Layer To Digital

A conversation with Sean Ginevan, Google

Field Service Mobile

A candid conversation around enterprise mobility’s role in the Digital Transformation.

With various tools at the disposal of today’s enterprise, it’s a foregone conclusion that employees are able to work smarter, not harder. However, just because we now have more digital applications for business doesn’t mean employees are prepared to handle this influx of information. We sat down with Sean Ginevan, Head of Global Strategy and Digital Partnerships, Android Enterprise at Google, to discuss the role of mobile in today’s digital transformation, and how enterprises can best leverage emerging technologies to improve the lives of both its employees and customers.

Q: What does digital transformation mean to Google as it relates to Android?

Ginevan: Digital transformation is a pretty broad topic because it means many different things to different people. In my opinion, digital transformation is ultimately a foundational change for delivering value to customers. How that manifests itself may change depending on what business goals you're trying to execute against. At a very broad level, it's how to use technology, people and process to essentially change how businesses perform.

Many of my customer conversations center around using tech-led disruption to source new business models. How do we find new revenue streams, and how can IT act as a catalyst for that? We're already seeing how companies like Doordash make it easy to order food from my favorite restaurants from a quick tap on my phone. Shop Disney has introduced artificial intelligence into their e-commerce platform, providing recommendations to customers on items that they might want to add to their order, based on what's in the cart and what past customers have purchased. This idea of personalization, and immediacy are just some of the benefits companies are seeing from building digital workflows.

For the Android team, we ask ourselves how we can bring these digital experiences I described into the physical world? How can we ensure the right types of devices are available to retailers that want to bring personalization into their store? How do we make it easy for companies to deploy tens of thousands of devices that access digital infrastructure? How do we make sure the security tools are there to protect sensitive data accessed from mobile devices? How do we allow employees to use their own devices to access digital workflows while not putting data at risk?  Our goal is to ensure that a company can use the Android platform with confidence, and that its extensible, scalable, and secure enough to meet any use case an enterprise might envision.

Q: What role do you see enterprise mobility playing in this digital transformation landscape?

Ginevan: First, it's really important that when thinking about digital transformation you don’t approach it as a pure technology problem - you need to take an overall look at your business operations. Mobile is the presentation layer to your company’s digital infrastructure that the customer ultimately develops. It’s also means for how the data you're gathering from the physical world becomes actionable by your employees.

I'll give you two examples; one is in manufacturing. A common theme or idea in digital transformation is the concept of digital twins. Theoretically, you can map out an entire bottling line at a brewery and know exactly how it's performing because you’ve gathered every metric about it. This data about the bottling line is stored in the cloud to analyze as well , and with enough data from the process, I can do predictive maintenance to understand how machines are performing, and if any pieces of hardware are close to failure. While knowing if a machine is about to fail is valuable, it’s not enough. Someone on the floor needs to know which machine is about to break, and how to fix it. That's why mobile is so critically important because you need to get that data into the hands of those people that are working on the factory floor.

Another example we are seeing with many enterprises is in retail. Walmart, for instance, is a company that is now bringing a lot of digital data directly onto the store floor which has several benefits. The first is that it makes the store associates more efficient because they can execute common tasks directly from where they are, rather than having to run back to the back office. The second is that it improves the customer experience, because a store associate has the right information at their fingertips to answer a customer’s question.

As well, they’ve started to instrument cameras within the store for automated inventory tracking. This not only tightens the supply chain, but also ensures the right items are there for the consumers - at the right time. But when something's completely off the shelf, mobile is still fundamentally the way the action happens. A store associate gets notified in real-time prompting a need to stock more supply on shelves.

If you haven’t thought about mobile (both fundamentally and pervasively), then you'll have a hard time adopting some of these more evolving and emerging technologies to execute against digital transformation. In essence, mobile is the presentation layer to digital and the way digital data becomes actionable.

Q: What types of emerging technologies do you think will be most prevalent in 2030?

Ginevan: I think there's a lot of emerging opportunities in augmented reality. We're seeing this already in the retail space where brands like Ikea are using AR to help consumers browse their digital catalog and visualize how desired inventory would look like in their own physical space. You can imagine how valuable that would be for things like store planning. So, before a new sale, we can go through and understand exactly what that store display is supposed to look like, and even maybe play around with potential displays to get the best look and feel for that particular location. While still fairly nascent right now, virtual reality is also going to be an area with tremendous promise, particularly in areas like training. When you combine AR and VR, we see technologies like Google Glass really helping the end user.

Q: How does Android alleviate security concerns to allow enterprises to work safely? As well, how do you ensure a balance of proper security features and usability?

Ginevan: Security is foundational to Android and we build it into the hardware layer. That hardware helps validate that the OS hasn’t been tampered with, and that the keys that encrypt data on the device are kept safe. In addition, Google uses machine learning models to analyze all of the apps in the Google Play Store as well as apps the user may have tried to install off the web or via other sources. When we look at manageability of Android as part of that security framework, we make sure users are able to do the right things on that device with the right policies and configurations in place.

In terms of blending that with usability, organizations certainly need to make sure security doesn't encumber progress. But they also have to make sure data is protected; obviously that's a balancing act. Through the Android platform, we can help protect against data loss with a personally-enabled wall which separates personal data from private using a unique work profile. So, we make sure our corporate data is not interacting with other things the user may have brought in to the device. IT has several tools available to them to really lock down the device and prevent it from being tampered with, and potentially made less secure.  This can be either whitelisting what apps are allowed onto the device or restricting access to certain users.

Q: How do you leverage emerging technologies to benefit your customers?

Ginevan: With Android, we see a lot of interesting tools being used from the platform. We talked about AR and Google Glass. Another one to note is machine learning and artificial intelligence. We're seeing really interesting use cases in field services where customers built a custom machine learning model to understand things like the identity of bugs. With better identification, you know what kind of treatment plan is required and that helps improve the efficacy of treatment. We've seen use cases in other industries like insurance, where a field adjuster can take a picture of a car and the machine learning model knows what kind of car it is and where the damages are, to aid in the assessment and make the claims adjustment process much more efficient.

Digital transformation starts with understanding your customer journey and how digital can streamline it. Enterprises must know how customers and employees interact with your organization and then work in reverse to understand where all of these different digital technologies can actually make processes more effective.  It all ties back to digital, but also you have to see if a solution is going to be usable by the people constantly interacting with it on a daily basis.

One of the things we’ve seen when assessing digital failures is disconnect from the executive team. Another is a lack of employee engagement. If employees either don't understand or aren't inspired to use new tools, it will be a massive issue in spurring adoption.

Building a great experience helps with adoption - Walmart used Google’s user experience framework - called material design - along with Android - to build very consumer-like workflows that were intuitive for store associates.  This ease in user experience is really critical because many retailers are dealing with as much as 100 percent turnover in some of their stores because of how tight the current labor market is. You really need to build experiences that are intuitive and easy for employees to get started with.

Q: What is the value of partnerships in the digital transformation landscape – for you and your customers?  How does Stratix add value to Google?

Ginevan: Partners not only understand the latest in technology and how to make sure it gets applied well in the organization; they also likely understand your business processes very well. Partners like Stratix can bring an outside perspective to help with the innovation process. I think it's important to realize that not everything in digital has to be done internally. Certainly, building agile development processes helps from a cultural perspective, but you can leverage partners to experiment and find new tools that are already out there, so you don't have to rebuild the wheel. You can apply these kinds of innovative tools inside of your organization to gauge if they work and to help inform future decisions.

There are thousands of different Android devices from dozens of different brands. While this diversity is a strength, a lot of enterprises ask themselves, ‘How do I know what solution(s) will be right for the business?’. The concern is discerning which devices are focused at the consumer market versus what might be more business ready. We launched the Android Enterprise Recommended service provider program to help organizations better understand what devices are enterprise ready, so they can make a more informed purchasing decision. We’ve since evolved the program to help customers find partners with validated expertise to support their initiatives.

Partners that really understand the Android platform and how it should be deployed and supported are critical to our success. We’re excited to have Stratix be an integral part of Android Enterprise Recommended service provider program.

Q: How do you think IT teams can better prepare for maintaining and supporting these new emerging technologies?

Ginevan: Enterprises must be sure they have the foundations already in place before starting their transformation. There's a quote from Harvard Business Review that says if your organization doesn't understand analytics, it will likely fail at deploying machine learning. If you don't know what data you have available in your organization and you don't understand how to integrate that data (in real-time) from various sources in one place, you are playing from behind. It’s essentially dumping a Ferrari engine into a car that doesn't have any wheels on it. You’re either making the wrong decisions because you don't have the latest data, or you're not getting the big picture because you don't have all the data at hand. You have to start with the building blocks and basic things as data analytics are critical.

I think there's a corollary here for the Internet of Things. If your organization doesn't understand mobile, it's going to fail at IoT, and the reason is twofold. One is we talked about how mobile the presentation layer to digital and is the way digital data becomes actionable. If you're now gathering all of this new data and putting it out into the cloud, people must be able to access it. Mobile may ensure that employees have the right data at the right time. It also ensures the right security model because it assumes that having data come in and out of the four walls of the enterprise from potentially anywhere is the norm.

The challenge is if you don't have those foundations in place, it's going to be really difficult to iterate quickly and experiment with some of these new tools. Google conducted some analysis with IDC and found only 15 percent of organizations have mobile device management deployed. That is going to be a huge problem because now you don't have mobility across your organization. Every employee won’t have access to all this new data available.  Even if you do have mobile there's a high likelihood you may not have the infrastructure in place to deploy things like mobile applications, as well as the configurations and policies necessary to connect these mobile devices into the enterprise. So, now is the time to start getting that foundation put in place and then you can start experimenting and iterating with these new technologies. If these very foundations aren’t put in place, you're likely going to struggle.

Q: What are some barriers to technical/organizational change/mobile tech adoption you are seeing, and how can we overcome them?

Ginevan: Enterprises must understand the business processes they want and iterate against to ensure those processes are already working without digital technology. One analogy you could use in digital is like building a fire. If you don't have logs and kindling, dumping a bunch of lighter fluid onto the fire is not going to help solve the problem. Thus, it’s really important that you understand that those processes are working already, so that you're not applying digital technology to already failed processes. You only get so many times at bat; the challenge here is that if digital technology fails not because the technology is bad but because the processes aren't good, it’s not going to spark change in the organization.