Enterprise mobility demands an innovative approach to IT organization

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Perhaps nowhere else in IT is the opportunity to innovate as rich as it is with enterprise mobility. Smartphones and tablets offer the chance to improve everything from employee productivity to how you interact with customers and achieve competitive advantage. But most enterprises are trying to implement modern mobility strategies using existing IT organizational structures.

These traditional structures were well suited to managing PCs and laptops, but today it is the IT equivalent of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. To better understand why this is, consider the segments that make up a traditional enterprise IT organization.

[ BACKGROUND: Slew of new smartphones shed light on enterprise mobility evolution ]

It all begins with a chief information officer. Under the CIO are teams such as network operations, desktop or endpoint operations and application development and deployment. Working in parallel to the CIO is the chief information security officer. Under the CISO, the endpoint security team develops policies and puts technology in place to effectively secure the company's information.

So, where does enterprise mobility fall? Regardless of whether we are talking about company-owned or personally owned devices, the answer, unfortunately, is it falls into the gap between these groups. The very nature of modern mobile technology causes it to span traditional IT boundaries.

For example, the desktop or endpoint operations team must be involved with managing mobility because, after all, we are talking about endpoints. However, mobile devices rely on a high degree of connectivity to the network and the cloud, much more so than traditional endpoints, so network operations should have a say as well. At the same time, mobile devices are nothing without the apps that make them so productive, so the application development and deployment team is also in the mix. And we cannot forget that the endpoint security team has to be involved to enforce mobility-related security and compliance policies.

In reality, what is happening in most organizations is that no single group is being given charge over mobility, because each plays a part in the mobile environment in some way or another. Even when one of the teams is given responsibility to oversee mobility, that particular group typically has vastly different priorities than the others. The result is a lack of efficiency and cohesiveness when it comes to enterprise mobility.

So, how can companies innovatively solve this problem? The answer is adapting their overall IT organizational structure to meet the demands of mobility, not the other way around.

This begins with establishing a chief mobility officer who operates at the same level as the CIO and CISO. Alternatively, at the very least it involves creating a director of enterprise mobility position that reports directly to the CIO. Either way, under this individual is an enterprise mobility group with the sole mandate to implement, manage and secure mobile technology. Such an enterprise mobility group oversees all aspects of the mobile environment, from the devices to the apps to the connectivity. This team also enforces CISO-developed policies.

[ ANALYSIS: Chief Mobile Officer: A job title now timely? ]

Here are some recommendations for developing and operating an enterprise mobility group:

* First, think strategically when building the organizational model. An ad hoc enterprise mobility team is not the answer and will only result in partial success. An organizational model for the team should include details on how to resource the group and the specific mandate or charter it will operate under. In addition, it should cover the particulars of the technology and tools -- such as mobile device management and mobile application management -- that should be used, how to segment the user base and identify the needs of each segment, how to implement scalable solutions, how to plan for centralized management, and how to phase in integration with existing technology and networks.

* Next, line of business decision makers across the company should be involved. To make an enterprise mobility team successful, business stakeholders must be given direct access to the group's leadership. Doing so will ensure the policies and strategies the team develops and implements are in line with what the LOB folks actually need. Many companies struggle to achieve the full return on investment possible through enterprise mobility because they do not have a clear understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.

* Third, improving the user experience must be a primary goal. Enterprise mobility is a complex topic, but it boils down to one thing: user productivity. Every facet of the mobile user experience must be accounted for, from on-boarding to app delivery to access and data manipulation. It is all about helping users work smarter and making personal and business activities coexist as seamlessly as possible. Related to this, companies need to define and measure a new mobile service-level agreement that the team will be held to. It should include users' ability to access to data and apps quickly, the use of a wide variety of platforms and the capability to access data from anywhere. [Also see: "A sampling of BYOD user policies"]

* Finally, companies must keep the lines of communication open. One of the worst things that can happen once an enterprise mobility group is created is to allow the team to operate in a vacuum. As previously discussed, mobility crosses over the various divisions within a traditional IT infrastructure. As such, it is imperative that the enterprise mobility group maintains a close working relationship with the rest of IT. It will be difficult for them to effectively do their job if they do not.

In closing, companies seeking a competitive advantage must look toward innovation. It is also important to understand that many companies are already exploring how they can innovatively leverage enterprise mobility. Thus, the companies that figure out quickly the benefits of creating a dedicated team to manage enterprise mobility will have an important head start.

Kuhn serves as director of product management for the Enterprise Mobility Group at Symantec, responsible for the mobile security and management products and services.

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies