Photo: Bergman Group

Between February 27 and March 2, 2017, Mobile World Congress (MWC) will once again take place in Barcelona. Last year, over 100,000 attendees visited the event in search of new insights about “everything mobile.” This year’s MWC theme is "The Next Element" and aims to underline how elemental mobile has become in our everyday lives. I would go further, as I believe that mobility is increasingly treated as a key enabler of the wider digital transformation process. From an enterprise perspective, I expect that during MWC 2017:

  • Process-mobilization debates will gradually replace technology discussions. I expect a little less hype around the features and functions of shiny mobile devices and network components this year. I hope that there will be more of a debate about how mobility can enhance business processes and change business models. Events like Web Summit host more advanced debates about the impact of smart devices on accelerating the business platform economy. MWC 2017 visitors should look for relevant case studies from the likes of GE Digital that underline how these business platforms can support positive business outcomes.
  • EMM offerings will fail to attract significant attention and will start to commoditize. Of course, the enterprise mobility management vendors at MWC 2017 will tout their offerings as cutting edge. However, my discussions with senior executives at end user companies underline that mobility is increasingly seen as part of the broader digital transformation initiates. Hence, I expect that EMM will move toward more of a platform play. These platforms will handle data management and analysis, collaboration, business process management, and transactions. MWC 2017 visitors should discuss with EMM vendors how they intend to design these platforms.
  • Omnichannel will become a major customer-satisfaction theme. Customer expectations increasingly exceed the traditional standard of customer service. Customers expect convenience, choice, reliability, speed, and a consistent brand experience. They expect a coherent and transparent interaction with businesses that takes their position in a customer life cycle into account and maps customer engagement to their respective customer journey. Mobility will become the top choice for customer engagement improvements. I expect that MWC will underline how deep linking, AI, chatbots, automation, and robotic process automation will become part of omnichannel architecture and play a major role for customer engagement initiatives.
  • Smartphones will be presented as the remote control for a very wide range of services. However, I expect that most of the “smart-phone-as-a-remote control” offerings will fail to impress customers. The major challenge for IoT and connected-home-type services is that most connected devices remain connected only to a central server. Yet, they remain unable to communicate directly, as there are still too many proprietary standards out there. Blockchain will go some way toward making devices communicate more autonomously. Check out the MWC blockchain session to learn more about this opportunity.
  • 5G and LTE-A will dominate mobile infrastructure discussions. While the business case for 5G remains as patchy as ever, the debate about the evolution of the new, ever more powerful broadband offering will be gathering momentum. MWC 2017 visitors should not get dragged into technology debates regarding LTE-A and 5G, but should focus on obtaining support with building use case scenarios that have a chance for generating positive returns on investment. I expect mobile edge computing and fog computing to be much hotter topics of discussion this year for this reason.

Finally, I would not be surprised if the IoT will emerge as the most hyped topic at MWC 2017, despite being conspicuously absent from the conference agenda. For the IoT to come into its own in the long run, devices will have to communicate directly between each other rather than via a central server. Mobility will play a central role for this endeavor. More than that, they must also be able to initiate further action without waiting for external instructions. Given that you can’t “buy” the IoT and that the IoT concept covers a very broad spectrum of usage scenarios, I recommend that MWC 2017 visitors avoid the IoT hype and approach the topic from the angle of enhancing business processes and business model transformation in their discussions with vendors of IoT solutions.

Forrester is hosting an exclusive networking event where attendees of the Mobile World Congress will have the opportunity to discuss with selective Forrester analysts how to prepare for mastering their mobile strategies. To get in touch, please contact Silvia Dragonetti at

Sign up to the related Webinar: Feedback, Reflections, And Opinions On The Mobile World Congress 2017 Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 11:00 AM-12:00 PM Eastern time (16:00-17:00 W. Europe Standard Time)