Enterprise mobility is a worthwhile goal. End users, armed with the latest smartphones and tablets, want it. And business leaders want it too: Various studies have shown that employees with mobile devices typically put in an additional 20-plus hours per week working off-hours when they would otherwise be kicking back.
Take control of enterprise mobility
Part 1: Getting the most out of your enterprise mobility program
Part 2: Deciphering the alphabet soup of mobile device security products
Part 3: Enterprise mobility and BYOD cost challenges plague organizations
But ask any IT pro about their enterprise mobility program, and you get the distinct impression that things aren't going very well. Sometimes it seems like the rising use of Apple’s iOS devices and Google's Android devices by employees is disrupting IT departments like no other technology trend before it.
To this day, many IT organizations are hopelessly behind the times, forbidding employees from doing the most rudimentary tasks, such as checking work email from a personal iPhone.
"It's 2012. People have been able to check email for work on a cellphone for ten years now. How is it that I can't do this?" mused Josh Baer, a regional sales rep for an HVAC consulting company in Rhode Island.
Mobile has disrupted his company in other ways. His boss recently decided to enable mobile productivity by purchasing Android devices and iPhones. Except, before purchasing a baker’s dozen of new devices for his sales team, he didn't check in with the lone IT employee at the company to make sure those devices could be supported in an official capacity.
Make a new plan, Stan
This is indicative of what happens when the business is not aligned with the IT department, and vice versa. But it doesn't have to be this way.
"To truly have a productive mobile initiative, everyone needs to be on the same page at an organization and working together," said Chris Hazelton, a mobile analyst at 451 Research, an enterprise research firm based in Boston, Mass.
Mobile productivity is about more than just letting employees check their work email or send text messages from either a corporate-owned or personal device. Smartphones and tablets are essentially mini-computers that are capable of productivity tasks right alongside communication. Enabling that mobile productivity, however, opens up a can of worms relating to nearly every aspect of an organization's IT infrastructure, including application deployment, data security, wireless networking bandwidth, budget costs and more.
The solution is to plan accordingly, said Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates, an enterprise IT consulting firm based in Ashland, Mass.
"Drop everything else and put together a mobile plan you can execute on based on the business needs. It's not rocket science, it's basic planning 101," Gold said. "For whatever reason lots of IT departments are running a Band-Aid approach to mobile even though mobile is no different than implementing an email system or an SAP system."
A November study by Gold's firm revealed that nearly two-thirds of organizations anticipate that they would be using a mobile device as the main productivity device within three years. Yet nearly half of those same companies admitted they had no enterprise mobility program in place to deal with that change.
That lack of strategy from the outset is the biggest problem for mobility programs, said Benjamin Robbins, an enterprise mobility consultant at Palador Inc., a firm based in Seattle, Wash.
And IT pros are often so busy keeping the lights on for mission-critical apps that they don't have time to switch gears on the fly and support a company's unexpected mobile program. The mobile space is so new and moving so fast that IT admins can easily get overwhelmed if they don't have a strategy to address the business' mobile needs. Instead of focusing on the delivery of business apps, collaboration tools and data while laying information security around those pieces, they get bogged down in the trivial details of the different operating system platforms, and whether the devices should be corporate-owned and managed or a personally owned device that is semi-managed, Robbins said.