How to best manage enterprise mobility

Aberdeen study identifies best practices for mobile projects

A new study by Aberdeen Group finds that companies can improve the success of mobility projects, extend mobility to more employees, and control costs with a set of inter-related best practices.

Managing enterprise mobility means more than keeping track of who uses an iPhone and who uses a BlackBerry. For a group of companies, best practices are cutting costs, extending mobile access to data for more employees, and decreasing lost or stolen mobile devices.

That's a summary of results in a recent study of enterprise mobility management by Aberdeen Group, an IT consulting group. Last April, the company created an online survey, used by 210 enterprises, drawing on IT managers and directors and senior IT executives. A subset of the respondents was engaged in in-depth, follow-up interviews.

The companies were from a wide range of industry segments but the most respondents were from, in order, IT consulting, software, telecommunications services, financial services and government/public sector. Just over half were from the Western hemisphere, the rest from other regions. In size, about 25% of the companies were over $1 billion in annual revenues, about 40% classified as small businesses (less than $50 million, and the rest in the middle range).

The study was partly underwritten by three mobile software vendors, BoxTone, Good Technology, Integrated Mobile, and Zenprise. The underwriters and Aberdeen are making a free copy of the $399 report, "Enterprise Mobility Management: Optimizing the Full Mobile Lifecycle", available to Network World readers, through July 31. There is a short registration process, which asks for an e-mail address.

Aberdeen says it uses a complex methodology to judge enterprise behaviors in specific business processes. This creates a benchmark to measure and compare the performance of different companies. Based on those measures, Aberdeen places a company in one of three classes: best in class, the top 20% of companies whose practices are significantly better than the industry average; the next 50% fall into the industry average class; and the remaining 30% are laggards – companies with practices and performance that are well below the average.

The new study found that for the top 20%, the average annual total cost of ownership for mobile employees was $198, compared to $247 for the middle group, and $588 for the bottom group. A major reason for the difference is that best in class companies are taking various steps that drive down the cost of supporting mobile workers, even as they increase that population, says the study's author, Andrew Borg, senior research analyst with Aberdeen's Wireless & Mobility Practice.

For the best in class, 84% of employees had secure mobile access to data; but only 46% of employees in the average group, and just 33% for the laggard group. The best in class are increasing their rate of mobilizing employees (at 22%, which is about double compared to both other groups), and they're doing it cost-effectively, according to Aberdeen: for the best in class, the total annual mobility budget grew just 7% year to year; but the budget grew 8% for the average group, and 11% for the laggards.

The top group also reported a 7% year-to-year decrease in unrecovered lost or stolen mobile devices. For the average group, it was 2%, and the laggards reported no decrease (or increase).

How do they achieve these results?

One somewhat surprising answer: by turning mobility management over to outsiders. The best in class companies are much more likely to consider outsourcing some or all elements of mobility. Aberdeen found that 37% of this group are doing a cost-benefit analysis of this option (compared to 26% of all others); 40% have identified outsourcing candidates (compared to 23% of the others); and 45% of best in class companies are making use of one or more third-party managed service. This group is far more likely than either of the other to outsource mobile helpdesk, device procurement and device support, and to do so to the wireless carrier or telecom services provider.

The best in class also are far more likely to outsource mobile application deployment and support to an outside firm, with 29% saying they already do this. Only about 14% of the other respondents outsource application support. About 17% of best in class outsource device management and mobile application development. Only 5% of the other groups do so for device management and none do so for software development.

The primary goal in enterprise mobility is increasing the company's operational efficiency, and to a lesser degree increasing employee productivity. Better efficiency was identified by 44% of all respondents; better productivity by 34%.

In general, the best-in-class companies rank higher in a wide range of characteristics than the average and laggard groups.

For example: IT standards for mobile device management: 85% of top performer, vs. 62% for the average and 57% for the laggards.

Secure end user and device authentication for network access: 75% of top performers, 73% of average, 53% for laggards.

Support for more than one mobile platform: 74% of top performers, 65% of average, 45% of laggards.

Track the level of mobile network and data access: 74% of top performers, 56% of average, and 41% of the bottom group.

In a host of other, inter-related areas, the best in class consistently embrace these to a higher degree (sometimes a much higher degree) than those in the other two groups: pilot programs to test and evaluate new mobile projects; enforcement of device and software compliance policies; inventorying of all mobile devices with network access (and 40% of the best in class extend this to employee-owned devices); in-house mobile support skills assessment (for IT and helpdesk staff); over-the-air, centralized management of mobile devices; trouble tickets for mobile-related problems; the ability to track the number of mobile devices in full compliance with all IT policies.

It's the cumulative, "end-to-end" impact of these separate steps that apparently create a self-reinforcing virtuous circle for enterprise mobility performance, according to Borg.

"For the best-in-class companies, enterprise mobility management – the full life cycle of managing all the processes involved in using mobile devices – has become a core part of IT," he says. The best in class have greater visibility into mobile hardware and software, greater centralized management, higher and more effective levels of support for mobile users, and the ability to monitor and enforce mobility policies.

One reason for this over-arching approach is the growing awareness of a company's fast-growing potential financial risk in the case of mobile security breaches. "By setting policy and enforcing it, they can minimize that risk," Borg says.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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