On October 23/24, 2013 I attended the Mobile Enterprise Strategies Summit in Toronto, organized by The Strategy Institute.  The conference, which included speakers from the UK, USA, Canada and Spain, was divided into eight presentations, eight case studies and two panel discussions.

Key topics included:

  • Mobile developments and trends
  • User experience development
  • Mobile enterprise and business data management
  • Governance and legal issues
  • Relationships to cloud and big data
  • Mobility convergence

It would be hard to review all the sessions in a single blog, so I’ll just try to interpret some of what I heard.  See also Nestor Arellano’s article on mobility platform architecture.

Enterprise mobility seems to have evolved over the past couple of years.  It’s no longer about simple consumer access from a smartphone/tablet or having an online web store.  The emphasis has now moved to business transformation, technology exploitation and mobile systems management.  An important corporate goal is to adopt a “mobile first” strategy for business applications and processes.

Also, mobility is no longer just about allowing employees to choose their own phone or creating seamless wireless connections.  Mobility is now an integral part of an overall enterprise architecture and needs to be treated as both a business opportunity and a management challenge.  Mobility is no longer a point product or a “bolt-on” – it is fundamental to modern customer service delivery.

It should also be recognized that mobile systems include important corporate data, some of which may be personal and needs to be protected.  Significant effort will be needed to protect mobile systems at all levels – the hardware (have you ever lost your phone?), the applications (how many applications want to see your contact list?) and the data.  Strict separation of personal use from corporate use in a BYOD environment is critical.  Many new questions arise from “big data for mobile” including access to location data, context sensitivity, etc.

Diversity is apparently the new normal, which seems obvious to me.  There will never be only one mobile device and there will never be only one mobile network supplier.  Mobile systems will include native applications (built for one specific device), cross-platform applications (built for a class of devices) and web-based applications (built for general use).  The mobile user interface can also be complex given the variation in device features. Solution architectures will need to take all of this into account while also providing links to (or integration with) existing systems.  Architects will need to be very clear on which “use cases” the business is trying to solve with mobility.

Success with mobility is not just a case of having a “supercomputer in a phone,” however.  As with all areas of IT, there is a need to consider people and processes just as much as (or even more than) the tools and systems.  This leads to challenges such as security, performance, agility and even elegance (i.e., keep it simple, silly).  Success also comes from managing mobile assets just as you would manage any other complex technology – including governance, planning, standardization, operational control, etc.  We are moving from what was called Mobile Device Management (MDM) to the more comprehensive concept of Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM).

Two of the presentations relating to the people side of mobility stood out for me.

Laurie Boulden of the US Department of Homeland Security provided interesting and amusing anecdotes concerning their attempts to transform their organization into a mobile-based, work-at-home environment.  Differing managerial styles within the same department, low levels of engagement among the employees and funding were all issues – any one of which can seriously impact the success of a mobility program.  Ms. Boulden highlighted three critical factors:

  • Effects of people – leadership and consistency
  • Effects of space – workplace considerations such as car safety and distractions at home
  • Effects of technology – which can be both a help and a hindrance

Lou Milrad spoke about the legal challenges in building a BYOD strategy.  He recommended that clear and comprehensive policies, procedures and processes be established for both the enterprise itself and also for its employees.  He stated that “protecting sensitive enterprise information will be much more difficult as BYOD and cloud use proliferates in the business corporate world.”  For example, with more information being stored and used outside the enterprise-wide network, you may not even know where your data dwells.  And the traditional concept of what is data is starting to be interpreted even more broadly.  Mr. Milrad noted that “it’s all about the data and data governance” and suggested that that the shift to multiple records management tools can increase business risk.

According to Mr. Milrad, the key legal challenges would include:

  • Data security and protecting data integrity
  • Prohibition against “jail breaking” or “rooting”
  • Confidential information
  • Electronic communications, document preservation and evidentiary obligations
  • Insurance and liability considerations
  • General duty of care
  • Privacy (personal information)
  • Employee/Employer relationship
  • Training and education
  • Licensing and intellectual property rights

As an aside, ask yourself what the legal ramifications might be if you burn yourself at the coffee shop while answering company emails or text messages?  Or if you have an accident while texting and driving for work?  These are not technical issues!

All in all, it was a very interesting conference that provided some good food for thought, including:

  • It’s not only about cost savings
  • A centre of excellence may be needed due to limited corporate experience
  • It’s all about the data and what happens to it
  • Complexity increases rapidly, so keep it simple and take one step at a time
  • And, perhaps needless to say, security is paramount.
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