Managing Mobility in the Enterprise

By Tony Kontzer  |  Posted 01-31-2012 Print Email

Increasing demand for mobile computing capabilities is forcing IT executives to fret about everything from device support and application development strategies to a whole new set of security concerns, with huge rewards awaiting those who tackle these issues most effectively.

IN SUMMARY:

who: IT leaders from Primerica, the State of Utah, and DES Architects & Engineers, among others.

what: Discussing how enterprise mobility is reshaping their business processes, and what they're doing to manage its impact on the workplace.

why: To give CIOs an inside look at how organizations large and small are tackling today's heterogeneous mobile enterprise environment.

The state of Utah in 2010 completed a comprehensive use-case analysis of iPads, looking closely at some 20 different ways state employees might make use of the popular tablet computer. The result was an iPad user guide that outlines all of the iPad-friendly software--including Apple's Safari browser and Evernote's mobile note-taking application--that's been given a stamp of approval from the state's IT leadership.

Elsewhere, Robert Sampson, CIO at DES Architects & Engineers, a 100-person design firm whose projects have included the corporate campuses of Roche Molecular Diagnostics and Gilead Sciences, discovered in November 2011 that the firm had exhausted all of its 256 available IP addresses. He quickly expanded the range by an additional 256 addresses--meaning the company can now accommodate more than five IP addresses for each employee.

Meanwhile, the push toward mobility is so prominent at financial services marketer Primerica that CIO David Wade accepted a seat on the AT&T Financial Services Advisory Council, which requires him to attend in-person meetings twice a year and participate in monthly conference calls. The council's dozen or so big-company CIOs discuss their most pressing mobile computing issues.

In fact, organizations of all sizes, and in just about any industry, are looking for ways to tap the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets. And make no mistake: The number of workers who rely on their mobile devices for more than exchanging calls and texts with their spouses and children is growing.

The most logical place to look is in the app categories that have fueled business adoption of cloud computing. Over the next four years, the research firm Yankee Group predicts that the number of users of mobile sales-force automation apps in the United States will grow from fewer than 6,000 to more than 13,000, pushing industrywide revenue from less than $400 million to nearly $700 million.

Even more dramatic is the expected growth of mobile field-force automation apps, with the number of users expected to rise from 4,000 to nearly 10,000, resulting in a corresponding increase in revenue from less than $700 million to nearly $1.5 billion. These numbers only scratch the surface. Companies are building countless mobile apps to augment business processes. While it's tough to estimate how many U.S. workers are using consumer apps downloaded from Apple's App Store or the Google App Marketplace to conduct business, the numbers are likely to keep growing.

Increasing demand for mobile computing capabilities is forcing IT executives to fret about everything from device support and application development strategies to a whole new set of security concerns, with huge rewards awaiting those who tackle these issues most effectively. "The mobility platform in the enterprise is becoming a key area of value for the CIO to deliver," says Chris Marsh, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "Even among companies that are reducing their overall technology investment, a significant portion of [them] are increasing their investments in mobile technologies."

Utah's CTO, Dave Fletcher, sees a direct connection between reductions in overall tech investments and a simultaneous increase in mobile investments. Fletcher says the state, which boasts one of the nation's youngest--and thus mobile technology-savvy--populations, is eyeing mobility as a way to make the delivery of government services as cost-effective as possible. That, in turn, is expected to free up funds for an education system that faces higher than average per-capita costs because of Utah's large student population.

For example, by enabling highway patrol officers, state inspectors and social caseworkers to submit reports via mobile applications, the state has eliminated the one to two hours per day that each worker previously spent returning to the office to fill out paperwork, says Fletcher. The apps were built using Google Forms, which the state's IT staff then integrated with the appropriate databases.

Additional apps--some built using HTML5 so they can run on any popular mobile platform, and others provided as extensions by app vendors--enable a growing array of business processes and citizen services. Executives are able to tap a mobile app to view critical data from the state's IBM Cognos business intelligence system. Surveyors and others who depend on geographic data can get at the maps they need using a mobile extension provided by geographic information systems vendor Esri.

As for the public, Utah's residents can use their tablets and smartphones to check the status of professional licenses, view graphical representations of recent crimes in their neighborhoods, or check out the latest traffic reports. The state also is looking at ways to enhance the usability of the 350 Twitter feeds currently managed by all state and local agencies. Fletcher says he'd like to work with those agencies to aggregate their feeds and make them  digestible for citizens via a tool such as Flipboard, which graphically presents Twitter posts as magazine-style displays on devices running Apple's iOS.

Utah has even established an app that alerts journalists to accidents and other breaking news, complete with links to media tools that might help in the construction of a story.

When it comes to managing Utah's growing mobile capabilities--especially those provided to employees--Fletcher always has security concerns in mind. Along those lines, Utah has established a mobile-device policy that, while fairly permissive about the devices employees choose to use, is stringent about how data is treated.

Employees are strongly cautioned against saving confidential data on mobile devices. But, just to be safe, the state requires them to use a screen-saver password to prevent unauthorized access to information. State-issued devices are configured with all the necessary controls, including Symantec virus protection and security tools. With employee-owned devices, some of the burden falls on the user, while basic virus and VPN configuration support is provided over the phone. That said, employees using their own devices are required to agree to the policy, thus accepting the potentially drastic actions the state might be forced to take if a device suspected of containing sensitive data is lost or stolen.



 

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