Mind The Mobilization Gap
We need management across all enterprise devices, not just what are usually considered "mobile" devices.
Enabling employees to work as effectively outside as inside the office remains a wish rather than a reality for many businesses. To do that today requires much more than a voice connection; they need access to the enterprise's business systems and collaboration tools. However, between the marketing claims and the practical reality of enterprise mobilization lies a vast gap, the mobilization gap.
Unfortunately, this mobilization gap has been filled with lots of marketing fluff terms such as: the mobile enterprise; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); cloud computing; location (in an enterprise context); the real-time enterprise; tablets vs. laptops vs. smartphones; device and data security.
Addressing some of the marketing fluff:
* The Mobile Enterprise: I've had mobile access to email since the '90s with my laptop; the mistake is to think a smartphone is a phone; it's a handheld computer that is more powerful than the laptop I was using to access email in the '90s.
The enterprise has been supporting mobile access since the '90s; the main difference is there are more mobile computing devices accessing it from both outside and inside the office, and employees increasingly expect access to the corporate systems that help them do their jobs regardless of location. There is no revolution, the enterprise is not wandering around the planet (as the name 'mobile enterprise' suggests), it's just an extension of a decades-long trend.
* Bring Your Own Device: Let's face it, BYOD for the enterprise is great--that is, most employees paying for their devices--while of course the CxOs have the company pay for theirs. It doesn't sound like a good deal for the employee, if you ask me.
* Cloud Computing: This is relevant to enterprise mobilization, but it's just a technology decision, not an enabler for mobilization. The backend for true mobilization could be hosted--or it could be managed. It could reside in the enterprise's data center, in the cloud, or a mix of the above. This is a good example of the "marketing mash-up," which mixes several unrelated hype phrases together and winds up making it sound even more far-fetched.
* Location: Why the obsession with just one piece of a person's context? In many situations, other factors matter more than physical location--factors such as call status, whether you're in a meeting, if you're connected in the office or are mobile, to name just a few. Location has a role, especially in FFA (Field Force Automation) and transportation, but that's a decades-old industry and well served already.
* Tablets vs. Laptops vs. Smartphones: There really is no "versus," only "and." That is, people use the device appropriate to them at that time: There is no battle of devices, we use multiple devices. If you generate content--e.g. spreadsheets, presentations or reports--then likely you'll need to use a laptop; while there will be times when just checking a smartphone suffices for email, or quickly reviewing a report can be done on a tablet.
* The real impact of device diversity is that devices much cheaper than laptops can be employed when the user is out of the office; they're all just computers of different form factors. This is an important point for the rapid expansion of enterprise mobilization markets in the developing world; it's not just a developed-market phenomenon.
* Finally, security is and will remain an issue--this is not marketing fluff. With roughly two thirds of IT executives using smartphones and tablets at work in North America and Western Europe, it's fair to say the security risk is tolerated, but not mitigated.
Exploring the security issue a little further, based on a recent survey I completed earlier this year: Risk-averse enterprise verticals such as banking and finance are managing the security risk by allowing tablets and smartphones, but barring direct access to corporate systems, limiting them to email and some services filtered through the remote access web portal--though accessed through easy-to-use apps (via APIs) rather than the complex mess of the web portal. However, verticals such as education are using tablets with full corporate access.
Some enterprises implement common device-wipe policies across all BYOD device types, and likely will continue until more effective mobile device management solutions become available. Similarly, enterprises are now controlling some devices that download business data and applications, using MDM (Mobile Device Management) tools that provide access control policies, proactive status reporting and root detection. But there is no clear and consistent approach; in an Eli Lilly case study later in this article, we'll explore how they solved the problem.
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