Whether you think intranets remain an important part of the digital workplace or fall under the "why bother" school of thought for giving mobile access to intranets, the variety and differences of our organizations require that we eschew any overly simplistic advice. Instead we need to consider what the real business drivers and employee needs are as we work out what constitutes a suitable mobile employee experience.
A Vendor View – the 'New Microsoft'
Last month the Redmond-Wash. behemoth’s new CEO, Satya Nadella took the stage to introduce Office for iPad. At least that was the crux of Nadella’s address if you read much of the coverage. If you watched the keynote or read more in depth articles you would see that Microsoft is pushing a “suite” (that is, a bunch of yet to be fully integrated applications) for managing mobile devices and BYOD -- the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite.
It may be accused of being behind the times in this market as it gets its Office tools onto Apple’s tablets, but Microsoft remains big (HUGE) in the enterprise IT space. The most important element of Nadella’s presentation for me was the emphasis he put on mobile computing needing the cloud to be successful, and his point that the cloud is in effect quite useless if it can't facilitate mobile. This concept was not new to many of us, but it was refreshing to see the new CEO of Microsoft putting it in such blunt terms.
I admit, you do not have to provide access to JUST cloud apps from mobile devices, you can build and deploy on site applications with responsive web interfaces or as cross platform apps. But let's just say deploying in the cloud makes it easier. Here's a little 2 by 2 matrix just to get us thinking ....
Security vs. Utility = Cost vs. Complexity?
So if we agree that the easiest (and best?) way to enable a good mobile employee experience is through cloud services, what is potentially the cheapest and simplest route to this promised land?
Figure 1: Mobile access via the cloud
What I am attempting to show here is the cost benefit analysis and potential trade off between the utility of the mobile experience to the user, and the security required by the enterprise.
The consumer level IT services that come with pre-built apps for most, if not all platforms (Blackberry 10?) might suffice for many organizations, but might not offer enough utility to other organizations because of the lack of security functionality. Many organizations might offer highly secure mobile access to some employees via devices issued by, and heavily managed (read: constrained) by the organization, while others might try to find the sweet spot (or suite spot?) of balancing managed BYOD services with consumer or custom apps.