Stroll down any street, attend any business meeting or pop into any café or bar and it is highly likely someone will be using the latest and greatest mobile device. The spread of mobile devices has been dramatic and their uptake throughout Australia shows no sign of slowing. According to Forrester Research, “organisations in Asia Pacific are also prioritising the use of mobile channels to connect with external stakeholders such as customers and business partners, underscoring the region's evolution toward the age of the customer".
This massive upsurge in mobile computing and the expectation of instant connectivity is reshaping the IT landscape, with a blurring of the personal and professional environments. People are now using their own tablets and smartphones, as well as their ultra-portable laptops and traditional notebooks, to access company systems and conduct business on the go.
According to Forrester, more than 50 per cent of the information workforce uses three or more devices for work, while Gartner is predicting that by 2017 half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes.
The ubiquitous nature of mobile computing is opening up new ways for businesses to grow market share, build customer intimacy, increase profit margins and improve their image as a brand. Instant mobile access to information enables faster response times and on-the-go decision-making to support customer service and improve employee and supplier relations. This, in turn, enhances productivity and improves business outcomes.
But in such a connected world, organisations are finding they no longer fully control the technology stack used by their employees, customers and suppliers. And that raises multiple challenges that must be addressed.
More than just cool devices
The move to enterprise mobility involves delivering anywhere, anytime access to people, applications and data on multiple personal and business devices.
While this increases productivity and efficiency, mobility also creates device and network security issues, as well as privacy concerns associated with having personal and company-owned data on the same device for organisations with mobile workers.
The associated costs of managing all these additional devices also require a new financial model. Decisions have to be made on how many and what types of devices are allowed, who pays for them, and whether help-desk support is provided.
These are serious considerations that demand a comprehensive enterprise mobility strategy, which has wider implications than just cool devices and flashy user interfaces. It's an approach embracing strategy, policy, architecture, systems engineering, applications development and support services. With technology constantly changing, an enterprise-grade mobility platform must also be flexible enough to adapt to new devices and innovations.
There are some key steps organisations should take when developing a strategy to compete and prosper in this new, connected, mobile world.
1. Establish enterprise mobility strategy and policies
Traditional IT models are highly controlled and monitored, with individuals relying on companies to provide computing capabilities and network access. The deployment of applications to company-owned assets, such as a PC or BlackBerry, was straight-forward and the delivery of support processes was reasonably simple.
But it’s far more complex in the modern mobile environment, where many of the former safeguards no longer apply or are inadequate. New policies need to be developed to tackle some key questions:
- What is the overarching enterprise mobility strategy that drives this policy?
- Who owns the device and pays for access -- the company, or the individual?
- What are the risks of having company data on a personal device? Conversely, how do enterprises protect the privacy of employee, customer and supplier data?
- How does the enterprise enforce security such as passwords or encryption on a personally owned device?
- How does the enterprise mitigate the risks of an employee losing a device?
- Who is responsible for providing technical support, and for what applications and devices?
- What are the financial impacts and expected returns on investment of moving to this new end-user computing model?
2. Establish solid infrastructure
Building a solid foundational infrastructure to support enterprise-class mobile applications is essential and can be divided into three main areas:
The deployment model
This is one of the most critical decisions and is driven by security and privacy policies developed in the first step.
Applications can be either deployed:
- in the native environment of the device, with access to all its resources but constrained by the device's capabilities;
- into an encrypted container on the device with access to selected capabilities, plus resources within the container; or
- on the device using a thin client. The applications use the capabilities of the server they run on rather than the computing resources of the device.
Network architecture and security policies:
Firewall rules and network security policies in most organisations are designed to support web-based applications using perimeter-based defence structures. However, this approach is no longer adequate to deal with employee-owned mobile devices that can potentially access an organisation’s core network behind the corporate firewall.
Organisations need to consider various scenarios when making changes to their network architecture. This may include control measures for access to the intranet, company-owned applications, data from home, public access points and from within the enterprise using either personal or company-owned mobile devices.
This focuses on workplace capabilities such as corporate intranets and extranets, email, instant messaging, microblogging and social networking, and is heavily influenced by enterprise security requirements. Collaboration infrastructure presents some challenges as enterprises must be able to track the use of corporate assets while respecting the privacy of individuals, both from within and outside the enterprise firewall. This must also be balanced with users’ access to enterprise data both at work and in a remote environment.
3. Establish the architecture
Organisational decisions taken in step two will influence the shape of the architecture needed to support enterprise-class mobile applications. Priorities include:
- Security: The architecture should have mobile device end-point security built into the device via end-point network intrusion protection, virus scan and password policies from the beginning. This will provide peace of mind to corporate IT and compliance teams.
- Mobile application architecture: A major shift from monolithic solutions built around a particular business process to multiple, applications with smaller memory footprints that are designed around the specific use cases.
- Visualisation and information architecture: User-computer interaction is being transformed by the rich user interfaces delivered by mobile devices. Mobile applications need to adapt new models for visualising data and use the hardware, display and user interaction capabilities to provide context-aware experiences.
- Integration architecture: A rethinking of the integration architecture is also required to fully enable enterprise applications for mobility. The new architecture must be scalable and capable of handling thousands of low-latency micro-transactions, interface with an array of new technologies and support complex event processing in real time.
- Testing and quality assurance: Business applications should be deployed through an enterprise app store which tests for compatibility across different personal and company-owned devices and at least the five major operating systems and device capabilities. For example, some devices may only be able to receive and send messages. The store should also support wireless updates for applications, and handle remote wipes and de-registration of devices when they are either lost or compromised.
A safe journey to enterprise mobility
In today’s new mobile world enabled by near-universal connectivity options and a multitude of mobile devices, organisations have an opportunity to do business at any time, from anywhere and through any network. It’s a transformation that is radically changing the way organisations interact with customers, employees and partners.
Connectivity is now a necessity for enterprises that recognise it enables faster, more accurate and efficient business operations. But a clear, all-encompassing strategy is needed to address the many challenges. This comprehensive approach will help ensure a smooth journey to true, robust enterprise-class mobility solution.
Roger Kermode is chief technology officer, Communications, Media & Entertainment, Enterprise Services, HP South Pacific