Five tips for an effective enterprise mobility strategy

Once upon a time, the IT team at a large U.S. healthcare institution got a call from the shipping department saying that several cases of Wi-Fi-enabled devices had arrived on the loading dock. IT knew nothing of the shipment, since the devices had been ordered by nursing administrators.

Once upon a time, the IT team at a large U.S. healthcare institution got a call from the shipping department saying that several cases of Wi-Fi-enabled devices had arrived on the loading dock. IT knew nothing of the shipment, because the devices had been ordered by nursing administrators.

That rogue purchase is an extreme -- but true -- example of what can happen when companies don't have a clearly articulated mobility strategy. Here are five steps toward an effective mobility strategy.

1. Define requirements.

"Understanding how the workforce needs to work -- not only how they want to work, but also how they should be working, based on job functions and responsibility -- is a remarkable way to make crystal clear what the mobility requirements should be for that organization," says Ben Gibson, senior director of mobility solutions at Cisco.

2. Be selective when planning and prioritizing mobility projects.

"Companies need to ask, 'Is this really the thing that's going to give us the edge we need? Are we doing it in the most cost-effective way?'" says Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group.

3. Establish who's in charge.

Forrester Research analyst Chris Silva recommends designating a mobile operations professional who can coordinate and align efforts related to device management, security, mobile application development, carrier relationships and mobile network deployments.

"You're likely not going to find one person who is your RF engineer/network architect/mobile device management guru, but at least designate someone who can sit at the top of a pyramid organization and has some familiarity with the different domains," Silva says.

4. Commit to documenting mobility policies.

"People need to spend time and energy getting the right people to write these policies, review them, approve them, and educate the employees. Then they have to get the technology in place. It's a multi-year effort, but companies have to understand that it's strategically important to them," analyst Paul DeBeasi says.

5. Constantly evaluate your mobility projects.

"The technology continues to evolve at a fairly rapid rate," Mathias says. "If you're in the middle of a multiyear implementation of something, by year two you may need to go back and look at whether or not what you're doing is still optimal. Is it still the best thing for you?"

Some companies already do such things: They've established cross-functional teams that produce policies which are enforced enterprise-wide. Some are using standards such as ITIL to formulate their management policies and procedures for mobility, DeBeasi says.

For the rest, a rude awakening could be in store. "Something is going to shake people up. They'll either be motivated to be more centrally controlled about mobility because they want to lower expenses, or some kind of security breach will cause them to get more organized about this," DeBeasi says.

-- Ann Bednarz

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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