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Mind The Mobilization Gap

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.

Next Page: Practical trends

Practical Trends
There are some important trends that have a more practical basis than much of the marketing fluff discussed earlier. Enterprise IT is rewriting the enterprise software rulebook as it shifts away from legacy systems (expensive ISV software licenses) and toward technologies that are cheaper; and increasingly this means adopting the technologies used by the Web service providers.

However, in a related trend, those expensive ISVs are continuing their strategy of buying talent once a market is proven, which means big expensive acquisitions. For example, Oracle's acquisition of social players Vitrue and Collective Intellect; Microsoft's U.S.$1.2 billion acquisition of the enterprise social networking company Yammer; IBM's purchase of mobile application platform Worklight; and SAP extending an already strong collection of mobile assets by buying the mobile application platform Syclo.

Today's enterprise mobilization market includes four vendor types:

* Mobile OS vendors such as Research In Motion (RIM), Apple, Microsoft and the Android vendors.
* ISVs such as Oracle, SAP/Sybase (MDM and Mobile Enterprise Application Platform, or MEAP), Siebel, Citrix, IBM, Cisco, etc.
* Independent platforms such as Verivo Software, Antenna Software, Spring Wireless, MobileIron, Juniper (Security), Layer 7 (mobile backend APIs)
* Managed services from system integrators and telcos such as Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, BT, NTT, and Deutsche Telekom.

Telcos have been recognizing for some time the importance of linking together their fixed and wireless assets into a complete solution for their enterprise customers. Enterprises still require wireline communications, but ROI and improved worker productivity can be quickly achieved with the deployment of wireless solutions.

Recently, Verizon announced the creation of its Verizon Enterprise Solutions group, which brings together Verizon's fixed and wireless businesses into a converged unit to offer end-to-end solutions to customers.

There is also the rise of the mobile Backend as a Service (mBaaS) market. With development cost and effort contingent on the complexity of both the client-side UI and the server-side integration, some companies such as Parse, Kinvey, StackMob, Kii Corp., FatFractal and FeedHenry are moving the server-side infrastructure into the cloud. In doing so, they aim to compress the time to market for developers and the deployment complexity for businesses.

But cloud, as discussed previously, is just an implementation option; many enterprises want the appliance in their data center, or a hybrid architecture. Here Layer 7 uniquely addresses the practical reality of enterprises' needs. These mobile BaaS infrastructures are creating a new model for how mobile applications store, secure, push and synchronize data.

Case Study
The Eli Lilly case study reviewed here was presented at the Gartner Catalyst Conference 2012; it concerns the implementation of a mobile backend.

Eli Lilly has approximately 38,000 employees worldwide; clinical research is conducted in 55 countries; manufacturing plants are located in 13 countries; and their products are marketed in 125 countries. Their problem was the requirement for global deployment of Apple iPads within 18 months to meet the needs of their mobile workers who interact with physicians and health care practitioners.

A key issue was how to get enterprise data securely on the device irrespective of the application. Some of the architecture principles included treating the app on the device as a separate configuration item and having the business process "owned" by back-end infrastructure so the enterprise has complete control and there are no middlemen.

Using Web services for data access (APIs) enabled API management platforms to provide secure policy-controlled access to data, controlled per user, device, app, and even access method, In addition, using VPN (Virtual Private Networks) for websites protects the data especially when accessed over the public Internet. For security, it included both data protection and authentication SSO (Single Sign On).

For connectivity, TLS (Transport Layer Security) was a given, as was 2-factor authentication. Eli Lilly selected Layer 7's Mobile Access Gateway (MAG), which solved many information access management issues, provided the best security framework, exposes the data securely through APIs, implemented REST/SOAP transformation to manage backend integration, and had caching support for the best possible user experience.

Eli Lilly deployed 37+ applications to both iPad and iPhone. The focus remains user experience; simple apps do one thing well, there's no complex portal experience, and access to enterprise platform data is via web services (APIs). Layer 7's MAG provides a single point of control over app deployment and lifecycle management.

From the enterprise mobilization deployments I've been involved, with we're starting to see some common practices and trends:

* Guidelines for BYOD must clearly articulate the responsibilities of users and the enterprise, based on the organization's business requirements and risk profile.

* Common device wipe policies must be implemented across all BYOD mobile device types until more effective mobile device management (MDM) solutions become available.

* There must be control of devices that download business data and applications, using an MDM tool that provides access control policies, proactive status reporting and root detection.

* Employees should be segmented into groups based on their role and their need to access corporate systems with personal devices. Then provide access and support appropriate for each group. Policy control here is critical.

* Enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms have emerged, providing businesses with a more flexible way of combining, integrating and utilizing modular enterprise services. These emerging platforms, exemplified by Layer 7, BoxTone, Antenna Software and SAP, will also allow management of security, policy and compliance across these integrated capabilities.

* Enterprise Mobilization is about to become one of the most competitively fought of all enterprise software markets. This not only will encourage consolidation, but will also bring traditional enterprise software vendors, mobile OSs/devices, systems integrators, cloud providers and mobile operators into the battle.

I see specialist mobile-only solutions as being at a competitive disadvantage, providing a partial solution to the enterprise, forcing silo'ed solutions as the market moves rapidly to integrated solutions. The bottom line is it's all about computing devices accessing enterprise systems with adequate security and under policy control.

Even devices behind the enterprise firewall are not without risk. To mind the mobilization gap requires us to realize it's a solution across all enterprise devices, not just what we consider "mobile" devices.