McMaster Conference features mobility readiness program

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Tennenbaum Institute introduced to a Canadian audience a tool that gauges the mobility readiness of a business at McMaster University’s Sixth International Conference on Mobile Business Wednesday.

Rahul Basole, a principal research scientist with the Tennenbaum Institute, spoke at the conference about his new Mobile Readiness Tool, a Web-based program (accessible, for a fee, via the Institute’s Web site) that assesses a company’s level of enterprise mobility.

Basole wanted to map out the distinct phases of mobility adoption in the enterprise, he said, due to a lack of clear definitions. “It’s not clear in the industry what mobility really means, and what mobile enterprise really means. The industry has been struggling because of this,” said Basole. “It’s not just deploying laptops to your workforce—it’s a whole changing of the culture and practices of your workforce.”

He said that many people’s conception of a mobile workforce merely extends to the ability to access e-mail on a mobile device, and is stuck on the concepts of access to information and efficiency. Said Basole: “Better productivity and customer service are just the tip of the iceberg. But it will take a fundamental change to get from-the-top-down innovation around mobility.”

Conducting case studies with many “C-level” executives, Basole mapped out a five-phase model.

Phase 0 is when a company has no mobilization whatsoever, which, said Basole, with the exception of some mom-and-pop operations, is virtually unheard of anymore within the enterprise. Phase 1 includes basic mobilization, from Blackberries to laptop deployment.

Phase 2 includes a solid base of existing mobilization, along with some mobilization enhancements. This could mean running a CRM or ERP program through a mobile device.

Redefinition of the mobile concept constitutes Phase 3. “At this point, the way mobility is deployed has an impact on the business model and structures—it redefines what you do,” Basole said.

The last phase, Phase 4, is one that, at this point, is pretty far off, according to Basole. Reshapement is a complete infrastructure shift, where everyone will be connected to everyone else—and everything. According to Basole, people will be able to effortlessly work with all the corporate data they need or connect to a coworker.

One reason why the enterprise is so far away from this phase is the fact that most of the enterprise isn’t comfortable with mass mobility yet. Basole said, “Mobility’s more of a point solution right now that enables the individual, not the enterprise. We need to take more of an entire, holistic approach.”

There are other barriers to this type of integrated mobility, too, he said. Large-scale mobile deployments can be very costly. Security is still a very big issue, with the problem of how to manage corporate data in the field.

And the technology is sub-par. “The devices have to develop more. There are very few enterprise-level devices. The technology has to fit the task at hand, and there are particularly few enterprise applications,” said Basole.

These factors have all contributed to the fact that most enterprise-level companies are stymied between Phase 1 and Phase 2. “It’s not really a technology challenge—people have to understand the true business value,” Basole said. “It needs to shift from a nice-to-have to an integral business strategy.”

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