Planning and Managing Enterprise Mobility
By Robert Lee Harris
Published June 3, 2012
Enterprise mobility needs to be component of nearly every IT project. Asking "what is the enterprise mobility impact?" will become second nature.
The term "Enterprise Mobility" used to have single meaning, albeit a different one depending on which section of IT influenced your perspective. It could mean the deployment of customer apps, management of devices, or the extension of enterprise services. Now experts industry-wide are encouraging enterprises to take a holistic view of mobility, thinking in terms of mobile technology's impact on all of IT, and on the business. How can IT leaders actually put this into practice before even developing an app, launching a BYOD strategy or embarking on unified communications for mobile devices? It's easier said than done, especially with the diverse IT disciplines and current technologies creating and sustaining biases regarding what enterprise mobility actually means.
Who Should Manage Mobility?
Not long ago, when mobile devices were perceived as less important to the enterprise IT strategy, responsibility got passed around IT, from telecom, to client technology (the PC team) to email administration. Likewise, now everyone is getting into the mobile management game, most obviously with mobile device management. Once the province of stand-alone products such as Airwatch, Zenprise and MobileIron, now companies such as McAfee, Symantec and Novell have added mobile device capabilities to their desktop management systems to offer a complete endpoint management suite (makes sense). Network security vendors Juniper and Cisco are adding remote wipe and device identification capabilities to their product suites in an effort to capture mobile devices as a network security role (also makes sense). Meanwhile, virtualization companies such as VMWare and Citrix offer to solve the problem by controlling application access regardless of the endpoint (this also makes sense).
"Mobile is the New Face of Engagement", a recent report by Ted Schadler and John C. McCarthy of Forrester Research, recommends appointing an "office of the Chief Mobility Officer" (CMO) to implement a mobility strategy. Considering the future importance of mobile, the goal is to "1) fuel profitable growth with stickier offerings and mobile self-service; 2) move faster along the mobile learning curve; 3) aggregate mobile project budgets to fund needed engagement technology; and 4) grow from an IT group focused on systems of record to a business technology group focused on systems of engagement."
This is very proactive and visionary, but is it realistic in most enterprises? Constrained by resource limitations, many would be tempted to assign a dual role, coupling the CMO duties with enterprise architecture, infrastructure or maybe application development. Rather than equitably prioritizing mobility, the CMO might end up focusing on whatever IT discipline they came from--Apps for some, security for some, devices for others. Since multiple aspects of mobility will compete for IT priority and resources, who should the CIO recruit as the Chief Mobility Officer to make sure that a complete enterprise vision is represented in strategic mobile technology decisions? How about him/herself? If Forrester Research is correct about the impact of enterprise mobility, why delegate it at all? Make it part of the overall approach for aligning IT with business strategies, rather than continuing to treat it as if it were still a niche technology.
Current Enterprise Practices
A very long time ago (which means 7-9 years in Enterprise IT time), cell phones were primarily voice devices, usually managed by telecom departments. There were few instances of connectivity into network systems. For a lot of organizations, there are good reasons why the "telecom staff" still fulfills that role, despite the increased complexity of the endpoints. The value of Telecom folks is always underestimated when it comes to real-time communications and carrier relationships. Yet there is a natural evolution that simply makes it easy for telecom people to manage mobile devices.
At a recent client engagement I spoke with the manager of the mobile device support team for a large enterprise. With a very strong background in wireless management, she had the same perspective that many who grew up in wireline telecom share. She said, "Application developers and network engineers don't know the kind of issues that customers have.... They haven't interfaced with them like we have." She's got a point when you think about voice. It has been an autonomous application with evolving user interfaces (stations with digital commands and voice mail prompts) since forever (over 30 years in Enterprise IT Time). Unlike specialized business applications, nearly every user in the enterprise has had access to voice. Telecom staff has often interacted with more end-users than any other infrastructure team member. In the current enterprise, the mobile support team is not far behind them.
I recently spent some time discussing these issues with Ojas Rege, the Vice President of Product and Marketing for MobileIron, and Dan Croft, the CEO of Mission Critical Wireless. MobileIron is a software platform that tracks and manages various apps and security settings on mobile devices, and Mission Critical provides outsourced mobile lifecycle management.
Dan gave his perspective on the "telecom" approach to mobility management: "Yes, historically wireless was supported by telecom people, but the help desk and (infrastructure) support are very separate. There are different issues when devices are not operating separately, and support for the end-user needs to be part of the infrastructure. Early smart phone adoption created a shift; first to data people, then five years ago to Messaging.... The biggest challenge will be application management--how to deliver apps, version control, deletion when it’s required. There's a whole host of business processes that go along with mobile apps."
So, as enterprises connected mobile devices to enterprise email and calendar systems, mobile device responsibility was passed on to the messaging team, with PC support groups often handling the endpoints. Ojas Rege added that this method, "Started in BlackBerry, but the market has evolved. Now other devices are managed systematically...enterprises need to understand effective security practices, and to have an audit program. An IT professional in security is needed." Does this mean enterprises should shift the role to network security, only to move it again to an application team as they roll virtualized applications and desktops? It's possible that as mobile device management and strategies evolve, the role will not have a permanent home.
Many enterprises have determined that rather than passing mobile device management from one department to another, they will outsource it. Not to be dismissive of outsourcing for mobile device management, but enterprises had better not make this their whole strategy. In one of my recent favorite columns by Michael Finneran of dBrn Associates, he discussed mobile technology with a group of CIOs. They all agreed that mobility was the most important emerging component of IT, yet they wanted to be somewhat hands off as far as managing enterprise mobility. If the goal of outsourcing is to use IT resources in a strategic capacity (i.e., "Now that we are freed up from the day to day of provisioning devices, let's focus on the larger strategy for mobility"), that's great. If the reason is to get rid of a nuisance (i.e., "Why are we talking about mobility again? Doesn't XYZ Company do that for us now?"), then be prepared to watch your enterprise mobility strategy grow anyway, in a fragmented manner, at the line-of-business level with both applications and devices.
Some real life examples I have seen firsthand include a company that kicked off their "Mobile Strategy" and discovered that there were already five apps developed by business departments for both tablets and smartphones. Another company staked out an employee-liable device initiative and simultaneously had a division deploy a proprietary sales application on corporate liable iPads, with specifics on how to support it yet to be determined.
BYOD and User Self-Management
A second "hands off" approach to enterprise mobility is to embrace BYOD and consumer applications in lieu of anything else. Outwardly this looks progressive, but if it is your whole strategy, you’ll be prone to even more issues than you see from outsourcing the management of corporate devices. Dan Croft from Mission Critical Wireless put it concisely: "Most companies are disappointed in cost savings they think BYOD will bring to the organization. The cost of hardware is so nominal that shifting the burden to user does not save much."
The counter argument is that the real savings is in deferred support costs. I am especially skeptical of this model when an IT company touts its own savings as the potential ROI for self-support. Cisco states that internally they save 17% with their BYOD program. IBM is also a noteworthy example of this. Keith Fancher, IBM's Unified Communications Transformation manager, was a BYOD advocate at Enterprise Connect 2012. If the self-support model works for Cisco, could it be because I.T. is their core competency? What about a different company, say, one whose expertise is in selling packing materials? Does Cisco pay the same infrastructure equipment costs internally as an outside customer would to provide secure access by any device? I have no doubt that Cisco and IBM have enough in-house expertise to pull off peer support via wikis, knowledge bases, etc. Does the same hold true for a grocery wholesaler? Even more recently, IBM's CIO, Jeanette Horan revealed that BYOD is not yielding the cost savings that were expected, and that the apps users chose for their personal devices created significant security concerns.
This is not to say that employee-liable devices, outsourced mobile device management, or both cannot be part of an enterprise mobility strategy, but each requires more forethought than just the device problem. The development of richer enterprise content for mobile devices will present an opportunity for workers to be more connected and productive. This already includes using the device as a phone extension, presence and embedded collaborative portal tools. All these things can be extended in a piecemeal fashion to a personally owned device, but at some point the productivity value of having an integrated, supported device will outweigh the productivity value of employees using a device they fell in love with at home.
Enterprise Infrastructure and Apps
I recently reviewed and updated a Software as a Service (SaaS) RFP template that was written six years ago. One section of questions addressed the client interface (what browser version is supported, RAM, required, etc.). Six years ago there were no questions about mobile interfaces, even as SaaS offered the inherent benefit of anywhere access. Even today, enterprises are deploying external cloud solutions without scrutinizing the mobile interface. Five years ago, enterprises searching for telecom solutions thought ten times more about interoperability between vendor's SIP phones than about using a mobile phone as the primary extension. And today, enterprises deploy virtual desktop solutions without anticipating how to extend the interface to a smart phone screen.
Apps can be even worse. It is rare to see an enterprise centralizing their strategy for app development and simultaneously determining the impact of the apps on the devices they are choosing for employees. (Or letting employees choose). Most organizations have separate initiatives to develop mobile apps for their customer base with few efforts to keep employees connected. There are more turnkey mobile extensions of enterprise applications out of the box; and customer service, sales, and customer loyalty would be the first priority, but perhaps leveraging the expertise that is available on the customer side would enable enterprises to extend more functionality to their employees.
Even many customer-facing apps have been outsourced to third party developers with no internal support anticipated, with the apps being rushed to market. Without a true strategy behind them, many fail (my local grocery store’s "app" comes to mind--it is so much work to use and gives back so little financial benefit that I get the impression it was created to check off a 2012 corporate IT goal).
How to Think About Mobility
Perhaps even if the CIO becomes enterprise mobility’s primary advocate, it’s not enough. Whether it is devices, apps or access, treating mobility as separate initiatives misses the point. Enterprise mobility does not need its own budget. It needs to be component of nearly every IT project. Asking "what is the enterprise mobility impact?" will become as second nature as asking what the impact is on the network, what OS versions are required, and how the line of business users will be impacted by a new initiative. Given time, this is what will happen, whether or not IT decides to take the lead.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.