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Mobile devices have infiltrated the workplace, giving executives and employees worldwide the chance to capitalize on the ability to consume and relay business intelligence without being handcuffed to their desktops. But with the new freedoms and possibilities going mobile provides also come new challenges.

Enterprises are on board with the productivity to be gained through the tablet’s ability to instantly power on, display information in a visually appealing way, and access data remotely through 3G or wireless networks. The following delineates the three biggest barriers to mobilizing your business intelligence on SharePoint.

Barrier 1: Mobile SharePoint Experience

Microsoft SharePoint is the leading enterprise collaboration tool, housing documents, lists and libraries to be viewed and modified by various project teams to help carry out the mission of the business.

Unfortunately, SharePoint is not supported on mobile devices. Users cannot upload or edit documents in SharePoint, as mobile operating systems do not expose their file systems. Also, anybody who has attempted to use SharePoint on their smartphone or tablet knows that the touch experience is not optimal for retrieving information on the fly.

Unfortunately, the mobile invasion has come before businesses have had a chance to prepare, with 62% reporting no controls in place to manage these devices. This puts another roadblock in our path to mobilizing our business intelligence: Security.

Barrier 2: Mobile Security

71% of businesses believe mobile devices have caused an increase in security incidents, citing significant concerns about the loss and privacy of sensitive information stored on employee devices, including corporate email (79%), customer data (47%) and network login credentials (38%). The majority of businesses believe the lack of security awareness among employees is the greatest reason for their concerns (62%).

Introducing SharePoint into the equation adds another layer of security headaches for IT managers. Without an enterprise-wide solution for mobilizing SharePoint available, users will create their own.

According to a recent SharePoint survey, users are not likely to heed corporate security policies when it comes to being able to access the data they need when they need it. Almost half of the users surveyed will copy documents out of SharePoint to less secure media, such as email and USB drives, even though 92% of those users know that such actions make the documents insecure. Some have experimented with Dropbox, a web-based storage tool that, due to a programmer’s error, left user accounts wide open for infiltration for roughly four hours before a fix was implemented in June, 2011.

Even if we were to live in a utopian society where information security was of no concern, we still have one more hurdle to leap -- our mobile intelligence is only as strong as whatever 3G or WiFi network we might be able to access.

Barrier 3: Connectivity

In a world where the number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people by the end of 2012, connectivity should be of little concern to the average smartphone and tablet user. However, there are still situations in which users cannot count on stable connections to continue using all features of their mobile device.

Even with 3G availability in locations with no wireless access, data transfer charges while roaming represent a significant expense to businesses implementing a mobile strategy, as mobile carriers have phased out unlimited data plans in favor of tiered options.

Two actions are needed in order to break through these three barriers. The first is to give mobile users a solution for accessing all features of SharePoint on their mobile device, regardless of connectivity. The second is to make security transparent to the user.

Breaking Through the Three Barriers

When you need SharePoint for iOS, Android or Blackberry, the answer lies in native mobile apps. Although these apps are platform dependent, many will provide an enhanced user experience, address security concerns and support the ability to continue working offline. SharePoint apps are not all created equal, however. When researching SharePoint solutions to support your mobile strategy, evaluate the following product features:

  • Will your users require significant additional training to be able to use the solution?
  • Are you confident that the solution will protect your business intelligence?
  • Does the solution require connectivity to be productive? Can work continue even if there is no WiFi or 3G available?
  • Is the app updated frequently enough to keep up with changing technologies and user demands?
  • Will the solution deliver the same experience regardless of the device -- iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry -- your user prefers?

Closing Thoughts: The Danger of Doing Nothing

Ready or not, the mobile invasion is here. Regardless of which app you choose, one strategy you should not pursue is inertia. Failure to proactively address the need for a mobile SharePoint application welcomes opportunity for security breaches and shuts out opportunity for increased ROI.

Title image courtesy of Slavoljub Pantelic (Shutterstock).

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