Enterprise Mobile Digital Experience
How do you access your intranet when not in your office, at your desk? Does your VPN allow you secure access to your workplace network from any device, or do you need VPN client software on an "issued" work laptop?

If you're a true "road warrior" chances are your employer gives you the tools needed to do the job, but if you're a hallway roaming "corridor warrior" do they expect you to sign up for BYOD program? Does the BYOD program have software that works with your beloved new Blackberry, or are you going to have to buy an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S-whatever???

The mobile enterprise digital experience - it's not easy!

So many questions to begin with, but I wanted to get you, the reader, to consider your own mobile experience. How does your mobile "work life" stack up against your mobile "private life"? I think for the majority of us, the two still don't compare. For every nice mobile banking app, restaurant finder or travel app you have there are equivalent really nice looking and functional business apps, right? Nope, I didn't think so!

I am sure some of you are lucky enough to have access to at least some of your internal network, its information stores, data marts and apps; it's probably more question of to what degree. For everyone who could access their SharePoint 2007 sites from the Blackberry Bold years ago, there are those of us who still can't get through the firewall without a certified laptop, VPN fat client and the ubiquitous RSI crypto-tag!

U sually there are good reasons for this, and obviously it depends upon your organization's strategy and corporate culture as well as the industry you're in and how you make your money: but consumer facing mobile apps are normally easy to justify with respect to development expense and ROI, as they usually are helping to drive the bottom line through improved customer experience.

However it might remain much more difficult for some of us to push out our intranet ecosystem -- with its content repositories and information systems, collaboration systems, etc. -- to mobile devices.

Why might this be? Well perhaps one reason is that one element in the diagram below cannot be balanced with the others.

Triangle of Mobile Enterprise Balances

Business Need

What are the business drivers for giving your employees a mobile digital experience? Is the majority of your workforce composed of Knowledge Workers or Process Workers?

For example, do you need mobile professionals to be able to work from the plane, the taxi, the client premises or the hotel room at pretty much any time of day and night? Or do you need mobile business "specialists" to be able to securely access one particular application, via a particular specialist device (think of the power company Meter reader or the parcel delivery guy)?

The emphasis on real business requirements will have an impact on both of the other points of the triangle. As knowledge worker for a bank, I can only access the Intranet via a heavyweight VPN setup from an encrypted company laptop, however in other companies someone in a similar role may be able to access various cloud based services from any suitable mobile device -- there is no one size fits all approach.

Mobile Enterprise: Different computers for different needs

That's my laptop on my office docking station to the right of the picture (on the left is my new Windows 7 test machine !)

Costs and Benefits

Once you have identified the business need, you can identify and analyze the costs and benefits to the different degrees of access you might be able to provide. There will always be trade offs and many of them might include the Information Security side of the triangle; but you can start with an overview of the technology options that might meet your business needs and then do your ROI calculations.

What tools are required to create the business benefits you identified for your business needs -- mobile access to email only, to email and the enterprise social collaboration platform, or to the full intranet including all information publishing sites and content repositories, etc.? Are you going to issue everyone who needs access a suitable mobile device, be that a Blackberry or an iPad, or are you going to test the waters with a Bring Your Own Device pilot?

In the photo below my colleague is using his own iPad which is connected up to a BYOD pilot program, to take notes while on an early morning call -- mainly because it boots in seconds, and our corporate laptops take about 15 minutes to boot to a usable state!

Enterprise Mobile Digital Experience

Information Security

The killer requirement or the requirement killer?

As noted previously, there is no one size fits all approach, so it depends what type of information your mobile workforce needs access to. If it's purely "work in progress" content within a collaboration system, then this is very different from confidential customer details in your CRM system. SSL VPN's , device management software and cross platform security software which can setup "work" and "personal" areas on your phone, and wipe them remotely are examples of tools which are making BYOD workable from a security perspective. Like anything else to do with information security, in the end it's going to come down to a thorough risk assessment!

The Impact for the Intranet Ecosystem

Where you land when investigating each side of the triangle will eventually have an impact on your intranet and how you provide your mobile digital experience to your employees. If the end result of this requirements analysis is that only 15% of the workforce need mobile access to a very specialist app on a smallish screen, then you might bring in an outside agency to design a simple iPhone app to provide access to the data (or to input it).

However, if you decide 100% of your knowledge workers need full access to both your enterprise social collaboration platform and your SharePoint portals, then you may need to invest in mobile application development tool sets, and suitable training for your teams in how to lever the mobile interface features of your platforms of choice.

So where does your organization fall?

Is your organization bleeding edge? Do you have a perimeter-less security setup with everyone carrying an iPad for ubiquitous on the go access? Or do you have to jump through hoops just to get an issued corporate Blackberry and laptop? Wherever you are on the continuum, please leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences.

Title image courtesy of Mmaxer (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Now that you've seen the inside of Jed's workspace, read more of his thoughts on enterprise portals: What's Next for the Enterprise Portal?