Enterprise Mobility: A Premium on Security

By Tony Kontzer  |  Posted 01-31-2012

Managing Mobility in the Enterprise


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.

Enterprise Mobility: A Premium on Security

As a financial services company, Primerica places a premium on security. And with its business model inextricably tied to a network of 90,000 independent sales representatives, most of whom have selected their own devices, the company has a policy in place to ensure that data is encrypted at rest and during transmission, and that data is deleted at the end of its life cycle, says CIO Wade. Most importantly, Wade says he needs to be certain that data related to Primerica's customer base is adequately protected. "You want to make sure you don't have any data loss protection issues," says Wade.

Primerica's security focus is reflected in its careful approach to mobile apps. One of the first rolled out thus far is Roambi, an Apple iOS-specific tool that integrates with and graphically presents data from the company's IBM Cognos BI system. When a sales rep wants to check, say, how much insurance he or she has sold in the past quarter, Roambi checks Primerica's LDAP server to verify the user's permissions before unlocking the requested data.

As security conscious as Primerica has been about its mobile activities, the company considers itself out in front of the competition. To wit, the company has developed a mobile browser-based app called Term Now, which enables sales reps to underwrite and issue a life insurance policy worth up to $250,000 from a mobile device in just three minutes--down from a process that previously could take up to 90 days to complete. "Nobody's doing that," says Wade. "We're five years ahead of anybody else."

Meanwhile, Wade says the company is evaluating "everything that's out there right now" as it considers what technologies it will rely on in the long term for such challenges as device management and mobile app development. When it comes to the latter, Wade seems to be leaning toward a wait-and-see strategy rather than having his IT team write distinct apps for iOS, Droid, BlackBerry and other platforms.

Managing Mobility: The SMB Story

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