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Going Mobile? Have a Strategy!

There is no doubt that today’s workforce is much more mobile than it used to be years ago. It’s become even hard to define mobility and mobile workers – do we only refer to people frequently on the road, or also commuters and remote workers? And then where do you draw the line between mobile and deskbound workers – more specifically, how mobile are mobile workers? Are they away from their desks 20 percent of the time, 50 percent of the time, more, less? But strict classifications only matter when you are actually designing a strategy and selecting the most appropriate solutions for your workforce. The fact that everyone is becoming increasingly mobile cannot be denied.

As customer demands evolve, so do vendor strategies and solutions. In fact, one may say that mobile technologies (devices, apps, etc.) are proliferating even faster than mobile workers. With that, choices are harder to make. Which is the right solution for your business and your workforce? With mobility solutions being so diverse, they are even hard to compare, so how do you choose the solution that’s best for you?

A good starting point may be to consider what mobile solutions your employees are bringing into the enterprise. We talk a lot about “consumerization of IT” and most of the time we are referring to professionals using their mobile devices or some consumer apps (such as Skype, Facebook or Twitter) to conduct business more efficiently. In fact, consumerization has redefined mobility. An increasing number of workers are bringing their high-end smartphones and tablets to their workplace and using them for storing company information, leveraging the enterprise WLAN  for communication or Web browsing, using social networking tools to communicate, and accessing embedded multimedia tools. Due to this phenomenon, an increasing number of employees are beginning to request some level of technology and application support from their IT departments. Some facts provide further evidence of the power of this trend. In less than three years, the iPhone became mainstream in 80+ percent of the Fortune 500 companies; in less that two years, Android business users reached three million; in under a year, tablets have gone from newbie to necessity among technologists and mainstream buyers alike. As employees increasingly use their personal iPhones and iPads for business, IT needs to take note.

But the consumerization of  IT and its imact on mobile business communications poses signifcant challenges to IT. A few months back, Melanie Turek, Industry Director with Frost & Sullivan wrote:

“To that end, companies have several options:

  1. Provide (i.e. buy) one standard device in each category (smart phone, tablet) for a growing number of employees. This lets the business own the hardware and software, and maintain security and control over identity, applications and network traffic—as well as what happens to access and data when the employee leaves the organization. The downside, of course, is that it will significantly increase the IT budget, and it limits choice for employees.
  2. Ask employees to use their personal tools for business, but officially support one or more devices with business applications. This keeps the budget in check, and it gives IT nominal control over the business applications employees use on their mobile devices. But it forces users to juggle multiple “identities” on a single device, and it does not give the company true security, since employees can download any applications they like on a smart phone or tablet that they own. It also doesn’t ensure that contact info stays with the business when the employee leaves.
  3. Don’t purchase or support mobile devices for the majority of employees. This keeps IT out of the mobility game, and it is the least expensive option—in the short run. In the long run it could prove costly indeed, as employees either hack their devices to run enterprise apps under the radar, or follow the company’s policy lead and don’t attempt to work from anywhere but their office PC.

Deciding on a mobile policy will be one of the biggest budget and technology-support challenges for companies in the years to come, and it will involve business decisions as much as technology ones.”

My colleagues Alaa Saayed and Francisco Rizzo will provide a perspective on enterprise mobility in an upcoming free webinar. If you are interested in attending, please follow this link to register: http://t.co/RJXEpub

 

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