Top 5 Considerations for Driving Enterprise Mobility

Mobility is the key theme of 2014. Whether we’re talking about employees and embracing mobile workstyles to address user expectations and work/life balance pressures, or thinking more broadly about a “Mobile First” strategy for IT, Mobility is definitely top of mind.

Mobility can deliver massive benefits across a number of different areas, and depending on the organisation in question mobility can mean different things.  What we’re providing through mobility is a path to deliver increased efficiency and effectiveness to business, by transforming where, when and how users can work and transforming the workplace for the 21st century.

What does Mobility mean to you?

Now this may sound strange, but the first thing to do is to define what you mean by ‘mobility’ as it’s a very broad term and increasingly is encompassing many different things.

Are you talking about being more mobile within the enterprise environment? Perhaps your definition of mobility is focused on the ability to seamlessly roam within the office with Desktop Virtualisation solutions, or benefit from consistent WiFi connectivity allowing you to use our laptop seamlessly whether sat at a desk, or in a meeting room or collaborative area?

Perhaps mobility for you is the ability to work outside of the enterprise, so mobility becomes Remote Access to our corporate systems and applications, meaning you can work from home, customer premises, or airports and coffee shops

Maybe you want to capitalise on the smartphone and tablet trend and provide a solution to our users that lets them consume and create content so that they’re consistently within reach of the services and tools they need to be productive? Or does mobile offer new opportunities to the business to deliver line of business services or revenue generation services to your customers that previously were not possible?  There are so many different scenarios, it’s important to know which provides the maximum opportunity to your business or what your key challenges need to be resolved

What devices do you need?

Now you’ve defined what Mobility means to you, it invariably leads to a device selection.  Mobility can extend beyond all form factors, ranging from traditional devices such as thin clients and thick clients (laptops) to the newer smartphone, tablet and “ultramobile” form factors.  The opportunity and potential for mobile workstyles spans all of these devices, and we recognise that users won’t have just a single device. 

But critically these days, it’s not just a one-stop Microsoft shop.  With the dominance of Apple and Android in the consumer environment, we’re already starting to see significant adoption of these platforms in the enterprise, not just from a BYOD perspective but from mainstream enterprise adoption.  For IT this poses a new set of challenges as to how to provide service to a wider platform environment

Manage the Device or Manage the App?

The first generation mobile solutions focussed on Device Management (MDM).  This provided full device policy control and restriction which was at odds with trends such as BYOD, where users did not want to sacrifice full control of their device and personal content in order to exploit the technology for work purposes.

This led to the emergence of MAM (Mobile Application Management) solutions, which “containerise” or “sandbox” the business applications and content away from the personal content.  Policy and controls are applied only to the specific business content, and personal data is left untouched and safe from risk of policy restrictions, or worst case data wiping.

However it’s not just from one solution to another.  MDM still offers significant value particularly in certain sectors.  The security control and restrictions that can be applied, such as Geo-fencing offers key benefits for certain use cases.

Developing and Delivering Applications

There are broadly two approaches for mobile applications, the first is developing platform specific mobile applications- which can be feature rich, intuitive and slick, versus HTML5 based applications, which are more platform agnostic but can provide a slightly less integrated user experience.

The reality is that most enterprises will typically employ both approaches.  Many ISVs are developing the feature rich mobile applications that most users would want, but that in a hybrid platform environment could cause additional complexity.   HTML5 has come a long way and is wholly appropriate for the mobile era, offering the flexibility required at a relatively small feature/user experience penalty.

Whilst wrestling with these decisions for new development, there is clearly the issue of mobilising the legacy applications upon which businesses run.  Some applications will be withdrawn over time and replaced with new solutions as explained above, other legacy applications are more prominent and delivering true mobility to key users requires approaches to serve these out to the new mobile devices, including sourcing new applications and capabilities from the cloud to further capitalise on mobilising business processes that was previously not possible.

Delivering Content

The final, often overlooked consideration for delivering a true mobility platform is how you deliver data and content to users.  Many organisations are dependent on “unstructured data” sources and repositories to drive key business processes, and to any user, a mobile device can only truly be functional if they can access the data and content they access through their more traditional desktop or laptop device.

As new devices have entered the enterprise via BYOD initiatives we’ve seen the emergence of consumer solutions to address this need.  Consumer “sync and share” data tools that cause issues over data sovereignty and compliance are not the answer, but users expect the same intuitive usability and the sophisticated but subtle features and functions to be provided by IT.

Conclusion

Mobility isn’t about working locations, it’s not about devices, mobile applications or accessing content.  True enterprise mobility is finding the harmony of all these things, allowing businesses and users to transform working behaviours and business processes to capitalise on the technology enhancements, presenting opportunity to manage our work/life balance and maximise our efficiency and effectiveness.  Most importantly, our users now have vastly different experiences and expectations from IT based upon their consumer technology experience, and enterprises need to recognise the significance of this trend and accommodate it across all decisions that affect the end user interaction (both employee and customer) with the business. 

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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