It's not easy being a CIO or head of IT at the best of times, but especially when it comes to devising and rolling out a company-wide mobility strategy. The person responsible needs to factor in issues like BYOD, network and device security, and must also justify the entire investment in terms of improved productivity and business performance.
Workers today expect to use a variety of different devices – smartphone, tablet, laptop – running a variety of operating systems – iOS, Android, Windows – for connecting to and accessing the apps, files and data on their corporate network. At the same time, the threat from malicious external or internal attack continues to rise.
Coming up with a mobility strategy that is secure, and which also enables the improved performance and productivity promised by mobility, is no easy feat. An independent study commissioned by Synchronoss earlier this year of more than 500 UK and US enterprises found that many companies still struggle to do so.
The study findings were framed in a four-tier Mobility Maturity Model, which ranked companies in four different stages – “Entry Level”, “Opportunistic”, “Additive” and “Transformational” – according to three criteria – security, contextuality and productivity.
These three criteria - security, contextuality and productivity – are the key components for an effective enterprise mobility strategy. They are critical if an organisation wants to enjoy the promised operational benefits and commercial advantages.
So how well are enterprises and their current mobility capabilities doing at meeting these criteria?
Security is the cornerstone of mobility, and should cover all touchpoints of an enterprise's mobility offering - device, apps and data. If an organisation cannot put in place adequate measures to secure its mobile assets, and instead relies solely on native OS security features, it leaves itself and its data vulnerable to external and internal threats.
It's therefore disturbing that 38 percent of enterprises in the Synchronoss study, as well as only using mobility for basic tools like email and calendar, also have no firm requirement to secure their staff's devices. They are seemingly content with existing built-in on-device measures – that is, if these measures are even turned on.
Without adequate security as the foundation for mobility, organisations struggle with more advanced mobile capabilities, such as apps, file-sharing, and on-device data collection and analysis. This in turn undermines the productivity and other performance benefits that mobility would otherwise enable.
An enterprise mobility strategy should include the collection and analysis of usage data for devices and apps. By collecting and analysing contextual information on where and when employees are using their devices, which apps are most popular or useful, and how data is shared, organisations can build a holistic view of their mobile workforce.
They can then identify the habits and practises of their best performing employees and replicate them across the wider workforce, as a means to boost efficiency and productivity.
Furthermore, an organisation can use this contextual data to boost security. It can take data like the location of the device, or the time of day it's being used, and use this to create a contextual fingerprint of a user's typical interactions with the device.
If the employee's usage falls within the bounds of this context they only need to complete simple security procedures; in contrast, any extraordinary usage outside of the usual context triggers additional factor authentication. This contextual authorisation removes the friction - frequently reported from front line users - between excessive security versus the need to use the device to be more productive.
But enterprises are constrained by rarely collecting this usage data. Only 19 percent of the surveyed companies do so. The remainder don't go beyond gathering Telecoms Expense Management (TEM) data and occasional, manual reporting.
Mobility's central tenet is to improve staff productivity - but this is dependent on organisations supplying the means for employees to be able to complete their day-to-day jobs on a mobile device when away from the office. In today's digital workplace of file-sharing, collaboration and data analytics, simply providing remote mobile access to email, calendar and PIM is not nearly enough.
The concern is that if an organisation doesn't provide adequate - and importantly, secure – mobile access to apps, tools and files, employees might take matters into their own hands. If they use an unsecure network to access sensitive corporate data and files on an unprotected device, they'll put this data at risk to loss or theft.
For mobility to be effective, therefore, organisations should provide their employees with a broad range of mobile-enabled tools, integrated with each other, that allow them to be as efficient as they would be at their desk in the office.
It is this integration step that is key: the sharing of data between apps and enabling a greater ease of use on the device provides tangible, commercial benefits. The more advanced 19 percent of companies who are collecting contextual data have also deployed PIM apps and integrated them either with each other, with standard device apps (eg cameras) or even with proprietary apps. As a result, they are 15 percent more productive than those at the very earliest stages of mobility maturity, and 29 percent more profitable.
Many organisations have some way to go before they reach mobility maturity and become truly transformational in their mobility strategy. By focusing on security, contextuality and productivity as the key elements of mobility, organisations can meet the growing demands of their workforce, properly secure their data, and benefit from improved productivity and profitability. It's clearly worth the effort.
Contributed by Dave Schuette, EVP & president, Synchronoss Enterprise
*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media or Haymarket Media.