Managing Mobility: The SMB Story
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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.
For DES, the architectural design firm that ran out of IP addresses, mobile application development hasn't been as much of a priority as it has been for the large organizations featured here. Because the company relies on particularly complex software that currently can't run on mobile devices, such as computer-aided design and apps that model building information, it doesn't yet face the demand for mobile solutions that companies in other industries do, says Sampson, the firm's CIO.
That's allowed DES to pursue a cloud-centric mobility strategy in which it plans to migrate, whenever possible, to cloud-based services that employees can access via any browser. "As soon as something becomes a cloud-based application, it becomes much more easily accessible from anywhere on any device," Sampson says. What's more, he says, business-grade cloud apps assume much of the security burden, minimizing potential risks posed by allowing mobile devices to access the DES network.
DES sets up three components on each employee's mobile device: network access, company email, and Box, a Web-based file-sharing and file-synching service. Architects working at DES use Box to collaborate on huge project files and to synch files across their devices. They also use it to improve the client experience. Architects who once went to client sites juggling paper drawings can now, instead, use iPads to display PDF files of their renderings. These files are stored and accessed via Box.
They'd like to be able to do much more, and Sampson says the company is looking at mobile apps that would enable limited markup of architectural drawings. But he's also anticipating the eventual appearance of cloud-based versions of those heavy-duty design programs, as well as apps that would let an architect simply point a device at a job site and view a superimposed representation of what the finished project will look like.
Until then, the company is considering developing a human resources app that's envisioned as a kind of social networking orientation tool for new employees, says Waibun Lee, director of visual communications. Lee says he's also been working on mobile forms for vacation requests and expense reports that would eventually be incorporated into the HR app.
While DES supports employee iOS- and Droid-based smartphones (it strongly discourages use of BlackBerrys), it's been sending a not-so-subtle message about which device is likely to become the preferred mobile platform. Last summer, Sampson launched a contest in which employees who came up with good ideas for putting the tablet to work would win an iPad 2. In less than six months, the company had given away 30 iPads.
Among the winning submissions: an idea for using an iPad as a collaborative note-taking, brainstorming and sketching tool during meetings with clients; and a suggestion that the firm give iPads to prospective clients to serve as an electronic portfolio of DES' work.
Both ideas speak to perhaps the most underrated benefit of having an advanced wireless strategy: Quite simply, it impresses customers and prospects. "Showing up to a client meeting with a roll of drawings is probably not going to win you as many points as if you show up with an iPad," admits Sampson.
Learn More About Mobility and the Enterprise
The challenges that CIOs face in managing mobility in the enterprise is an ongoing topic of interest at CIOInsight.com. To view the top five most popular postings of 2011 on these topics, click on the links below:
1. iPhone 4S, 4 or 3GS: Which Should You Choose?
2. 10 Reasons Why CIOs Still Hate Apple 3. 10 Reasons Android Is Scaring CIOs 4. Gartner's Top 10 Business Apps for Tablets
5. Tablets Rule: 2011 Emerging Technology Adoption Trends Study