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Creating a fluid mobile platform strategy to manage mobile diversity

Why is creating a mobile platform strategy so important? A mobile platform is not just the individual device or

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operating system (OS) it runs, but it encompasses an ecosystem that includes the end user, the IT infrastructure and the app environment—all contained in the most cost-effective, manageable and secure package. This definition provides the basis for creating a mobile platform strategy.

Our research at J. Gold Associates indicates that a strong mobile platform strategy can do the following:

  • Increase end-user productivity by 10% to15% if done right.
  • Have a negative impact of 25% to 50% on TCO if done badly.
  • Significantly increase the burden on IT resources if not handled properly.
  • Create a catastrophic cost liability through failed security.
  • Significantly impact the availability and functioning of the mobile application environment.

Therefore, the implications associated with creating a proper mobile platform strategy range far beyond the individual user and/or device.

Managing the diversity of mobile platforms

Mobility is an enabling technology and not a uniquely different way to do business. Any mobile platform strategy should be an extension of the existing corporate strategy and not a one-off, stand-alone plan. Use existing corporate policies—especially security and user policies as a starting point—and extend and modify these policies for the unique characteristics of mobility.

We recommend companies focus on several areas when developing a mobile platform strategy including the following:

  • Identifying the end-user needs and creating user classes that allow for several—three to five at most—different types of users with different needs and capabilities. User classes should not only be based on the organizational position within the enterprise, but also by function and/or departmental needs, such as sales, marketing or services.
  • Selecting a limited number of device form factors and manufacturers that can be managed and secured by the organization. It may not be possible to support all users on all devices, and this should be acknowledged as part of the mobile strategy. Most companies will be best served by limiting/restricting the choices so the IT burden is manageable.
  • Creating specific policies based on the applications required by user types, and mapping these applications to a series of smart device types. Not all users will get equivalent capabilities on every device. This should be based on end-user needs, and the ability of the user-selected device to be effectively secured and managed.
  • Determining the mobile “risk profile” of both the company and the individual users and their devices. This will be used to assess whether certain users, apps and devices are appropriate for corporate use.
  • Evaluating and deploying the right products to enhance individual devices and provide security, management and policy enforcement. Many mobile management vendors have products that can create a more secure and manageable infrastructure, such as Sybase, McAfee, RIM, Zenprise, MobileIron, AirWatch and BoxTone. These mobile management solutions should be used to supplement any existing corporate infrastructure to provide the broadest capabilities to enable user choice.
  • Educating and informing end users on the issues and concerns regarding data protection and personal use within the corporate environment. Provide input on the security capabilities of the various choices that the end user can make, and map that to the types of uses allowed for that device. This is an area many companies fail to do adequately, and it is often why there is so much dissatisfaction within the end-user community. Most users will work with the company and IT if they know why policies are created. IT should use this as an opportunity to build allies rather than simply be seen as being dictatorial.

Completing these steps will lead your company to a mobile platform strategy that can embrace the widest possible needs of your mobile workers. With the rapid pace of innovation within the mobile space, particularly with tablets, mobile policies will need to be fluid and dynamic. Do not expect to create a static plan that will make sense for years; the strategy needs to be reviewed on a regular basis—at least every six months—to properly enable the maximum benefit.

Clearly, each organization will have unique and specific needs. But there is a core mobile policy and strategy that all organizations should implement if they are going to enable end users to bring their own devices to work. Done well, the end-user community will be satisfied, and the corporation will enhance end-user productivity while maintaining the lowest cost and highest level of security.

In part one of this series, read why the tablet invasion has many enterprises bypassing mobile device strategies and dealing with mobile security and policies on an ad hoc basis.

 

About the author: Jack E. Gold is founder and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. Gold is a leading authority on mobile, wireless and pervasive computing. He advises clients on business analysis, strategic planning, architecture, product evaluation/selection and enterprise application strategies. Before founding J. Gold Associates, Gold was a vice president of Technology Research Services with Meta Group, and also held positions in technical and marketing management at Digital Equipment Corporation and Xerox. He can be reached at jack.gold@jgoldassociates.com.

This was first published in September 2011

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