The year 2011 saw an explosion of mobile use in work settings. With the coming year promising even greater integration of mobile devices in the enterprise, it is time for companies to sit down and think about their mobile device strategy.
Disruptive and Here to Stay
The Australian newspaper’s IT section ran a piece on October 25, 2011 a radical year of digital revolution. It started with two bold, short paragraphs:
Many observers have described this year as the most radical period of change in the history of digital technology.
It has been the year cloud computing came of age, smash-hit consumer devices such as Apple's iPad invaded the corporate computing arena and the market for mobile apps exploded.”
People over-use the adjective "disruptive," but for once that word can be used correctly: when applied to 2011’s new technology and what we can see coming in 2012. It will change the way people live their lives (how many people under 30 still wear a watch and have you noticed that Starbucks accepts mobile payments -- and has been all year), as well as how they work. Some say that mobile payments are “the future of banking” (see here and here).
It is not just information and analytics that are coming to mobile devices, but the enterprise applications themselves. This month, SAP announced (with partners) the availability of more than 200 new mobile applications! For example, workers can order supplies from their mobile device and route their "shopping cart" to their manager’s smart phone or tablet for approval; directors are asking for their board briefing documents to be delivered to their iPad; and CFOs (and other executives) have the ability to review real-time balanced scorecards and project status with KPI’s on their tablets, drilling down to see details and attaching the results to emails to their team asking for additional information. Oracle also has a mobile strategy.
The board and management, together with the CRO and CAE, should be concerned with two primary risks:
- The organization is late to use the disruptive technology available to optimize operations, losing ground with customers, the market and in efficiency to its competitors.
- People embrace the technology in an unstructured and possibly even unsafe manner, creating not only security and control risks, but inefficient business processes and a messy IT infrastructure.
A balance needs to be struck so that the organization can take advantage of the new technology, but not at the cost of lost confidential information or an IT infrastructure that is unmanageable. How can IT be expected to support five versions of essentially the same application but from different vendors (not all of which may be in business next year), running on every imaginable mobile device and operating system -- that everybody wants connected to the corporate network?
What Do the Leading Strategies Have in Common?
The Aberdeen Group is a fine source for research on a variety of topics and I have blogged about their reports in the past. I am a subscriber and I recommend your looking into them.
Aberdeen recently published a report, Enterprise B2E Mobile App Strategies: Design, Build, Deploy, Manage and Support, that has some interesting content. While it said that “The global phenomenon of mobile applications has had a major impact on the enterprise; on its market-facing, business-to-business, and employee-facing activities,” the report focuses on the latter: enabling management and employees to be more efficient and effective. Here are a few of the more interesting points:
- The companies that Aberdeen call "best-in-class companies" achieve:
- 90% success in accessing crucial business information within the time frame required to resolve the issue (time-to-information), 61% more than "laggards"
- 72% year-over-year improvement in operational efficiency, defined as the ratio of potential versus achieved productivity, almost 2.5 times greater than the industry average
- 42% year-over-year improvement in time-to-information, 20 times greater than laggards
- 47% increase in employee satisfaction, more than double the improvements in average companies and five times that achieved by laggards
- 38% improvement in employee productivity, 2.5 times average and more than 10 times laggard companies
- The best-in-class companies had this in common:
- Custom mobile software primarily intended for employee use
- IT standards for mobile software deployment
- Enterprise mobile software application stores (app stores)
- Executive-level support of mobile software initiatives
- Mobile app development was identified as one of the top priorities for IT spend, with 41% of respondents indicating that they had already designated a portion of their IT budget for mobile app development over the next 12 months
The Way Forward
My advice is that corporate leadership (not just the CIO), with advice from the risk management and internal audit functions, ensure:
- New technology is embraced in an organized fashion, so that all can benefit from the consistent use of new applications, devices and ways of working. Aberdeen noted that the most successful companies had active CEO support for their mobile strategy.
- Devices are connected to the network only when it is (reasonably) safe to do so.
- IT provides a secure infrastructure for the use of mobile devices (such as enabling the remote destruction -- not just "wiping" -- of data on devices that are lost, left on planes, etc.).
- When enterprise applications move to mobile, there are reasonable controls to ensure that those applications can be relied upon (e.g., with effective application change management and controls to ensure communications between mobile and host systems are complete, accurate and valid) and the appropriate level of security is in place (such as verifying that only my manager can approve my purchases and only your company’s top executives can see your confidential information).
The internal audit, risk management and IT security teams should provide advice on the risks. However, care should be taken that excessive concern about risks does not result in being slow, or even late, to seize the opportunities.
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