Beyond BYOD: Why enterprise mobility needs to transcend traditional IT

Mobility is no longer just about letting devices into the office, it’s about meeting the expectations employees and customers have about accessing data and getting things they want in real-time.

In a recent webinar, Opening the Gates: Creating a Mobility Strategy That Empowers the Business, Mike Jennett, research VP for IDC’s IT executive program, said enterprises need to think more broadly about mobility and be prepared for devices that work autonomously as well as understand that employees and customer are behaving much more like a 24/7 consumer. “It’s up to IT to build the infrastructure and tools to support that.”

This consumer-driven model means IT has to work much closer with the business side of the organization. “The business is really taking the lead.” Jennett said IT must make sure it doesn’t become a roadblock and instead becomes the catalyst to enable the business. IDC’s research has found that a growing number of organizations are being led on the mobility journey by the business. Mobility development led only by the IT department accounts for a third of enterprises, with the majority working on mobility initiatives jointly, he said.

Part of the challenge for IT, said Jennett, is making sure they are able to integrate legacy systems into a mobility strategy – it’s not just about creating new shiny apps for devices. He said organizations are at various stages in the process of making the enterprise truly mobile, which IDC describes using its MaturityScape model.

At the low end, there are “ad hoc” organizations, which have basic mobility functions such as email, said Jennett, followed by “opportunistic.” At the far end, there is the “optimized” enterprise, which is a lofty goal. “Most companies don’t need that,” he said. Those that have attained that already are likely younger companies, such as Uber, which grew up in the mobile world and didn’t have legacy systems to contend with.

More enterprises currently belong in the “repeatable” to “managed” category, said Jennett, as they have some strategy and processes in places to enable mobility. “We want to move away from the ad hoc and opportunistic phase or you’re going to get left behind by the business.” The struggle for enterprises, he said, is to get the right processes and platforms in place.

It’s important for IT to ask themselves five key questions: How will we plan mobility? What technology considerations are there? How will we design our apps? How do we fit this into our processes? What does this do to our culture?

The last question, said Jennett, speaks to how the people aspect is the most important aspect. “It’s not just about culture of creating fun mobile apps but the culture of your IT environment.” It’s not just about making enterprise applications mobile, he said, but also thinking about how to take data to create mobile revenue streams that used to be just traditional, baseline IT functions.

Organizations should begin their mobile strategy by defining an executive leadership team that includes both business and IT people, said Jennett. This cross-boundary approach minimizes conflicts so everyone is on the same page. From there, IDC recommends setting up a “mobile centre of excellence” under the umbrella of that team. Your application strategy should consider how to interact with both legacy and agile application development, he said, and the company must have formal, global device policy.

Interoperability and security should be key factors in looking at a mobile platform, of which there are many and improving in terms of how well the integrate with existing systems as compared to three or four years ago. You should not be reinventing the wheel when it comes to security, Jennett. “Mobile should be an extension.”

Another challenge organizations will grapple with, he said, is whether apps should be developed natively or for the mobile web. Native provides a rich experience, but can be very expensive and need to be specific to each device type, while mobile web doesn’t support offline functionality. A hybrid takes advantage of devices features and re-uses code.

Again, Jennett, reiterates, people are an incredibly important aspect of mobile, and the traditional, industrial approach to developing doesn’t necessarily work on mobile. “The experience people are expecting is a consumer-style experience.” Enterprises should take a lesson from Angry Birds in that it needs no manual. “They want something intuitive.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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