Piecing together two or three mobility projects is not a mobile strategy. Companies must prioritize tiers of users to assure the right equipment and applications go to the right workers.
Employees will use mobile technologies if they believe they make their jobs simpler and more efficient, regardless of whether the company has a fully developed mobile strategy or not. And more than half of companies are considering mobility: According to a 2006 survey of 369 North American IT executives by Forrester Research Inc., 58 percent said setting a mobile and wireless strategy was a critical priority for 2007, while only 16 percent said a mobility effort was not currently being considered.
"Many CIOs are now in a situation where they've had two or three different mobility projects more or less dumped in their laps," says Leif-Olof Wallin, an analyst with Gartner Inc. "They find themselves with disparate technologies, disparate service providers, and few avenues for leveraging traditional IT disciplines. CIOs that attempt to support everything typically end up with a support nightmare."
A strong mobility strategy should start with the creation of a mobility center of excellence within a company, Wallin says. It needn't be big; it can be one employee to several workers, depending on the size of the company. By serving as liaison between IT, other business units and top decision-makers, these "mobility excellence" employees can ensure the strategy continuously evolves to drive business objectives.
Forrester Research analyst Maribel Lopez advises clients to create an enterprise mobility checklist to aid in the development of a mobile strategy. The checklist should cover the framework, security, device management and support.
A mobility framework determines the types of devices, operating systems and software applications that will need to be supported, and sets guidelines for each class of employee. Security questions include what regulatory and encryption requirements must be met, frequency of user authentication log-ins, and timetables for when lost or stolen equipment should automatically be shut down. Companies must decide whether to keep management and support in-house, or fully or partially outsource them. Then, after a business process review by high-level corporate executives, companies must set policies for procurement of devices, application migration and employee use.
A mobility strategy must also be flexible. Multiple options should be available to meet requirements that are dependent on job titles, tasks performed and levels of associated security. Creating user tiers is important, since not all users, mobile devices and applications should be treated equally. CEOs, for example, will likely have access to a large number of applications and data. Line workers, meanwhile, may need tailored systems for in-field tasks but have limited need for business applications.
Forrester identifies three classes of enterprise mobile workers: information users who spend two or three days a week away from their desks, mobile workers who are out of the office four to five days a week, and instrumented workers who need mobility for a specific task, such as inventory tracking or supply-chain management. Each has distinct requirements for application support, hardware type and security.
"Some mobile workers depend on constant access to applications, like a nurse using a tablet or a cable-company repair worker receiving dispatches," says Lopez. On the other hand, "information workers are typically executives using wireless e-mail devices. They want access to some, but not all their applications on the road."
An analysis of your workers' tasks and their environments will help identify logical tiers of users, each tier with its own approved devices, applications and levels of support. Specialized mobile devices may be called for: Some industries and workers, such as those in the oil industry, may require ruggedized equipment. International travelers working in under-developed countries may need small devices that can be concealed. Once completed, the tiering of workers and their requirements will allow your company to develop a strategy for support levels ranging from 9 to 5 to round-the-clock. The tiers can also serve as a prioritized blueprint for a multiphase rollout of your mobility strategy.
"The challenge to most enterprises is that mobility is a very fast-moving target," Wallin says. "There are new devices, applications and supporting companies coming out every year. A key component of any strategy should be to plan for frequent replacement, and an understanding of how those changes will fit within your tiered-user model."
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