Consumerization of Enterprise Mobility

The lack of a strategic approach to the Consumerization of Enterprise Mobility creates security risks, financial exposure and a management nightmare for IT.

Employees around the globe are increasingly becoming more mobile as wireless devices and mobile data networks become ubiquitous, simple to use and affordable. The business benefits of extending enterprise data and applications to mobile workers are already apparent. These benefits include higher productivity, higher customer satisfaction and higher talent retention, to name just a few. Many recent studies from Gartner, IDC, Forrester and others point out that almost half of the U.S. workforce is already mobile and away from the primary work location for more than 20% of the time. Typologies of mobile workers may include road warriors, field workers, day extenders – checking email from home before going to the office, business travelers, tele-workers and so on. In fact, it is probably fair to say that every worker is already an occasional mobile worker as the traditional boundaries of the office have blurred into homes, hotels, conference centers, airports, busses, trains, airplanes and many other commercial venues such as coffee shops and malls.

Increasingly, a company’s ability to compete depends on enabling these mobile workers so they can be productive wherever they are. However, this is much easier to say than to do. Enterprise mobility comes with its own unique blend of strategic and operational challenges:

  • For one, these new mobile technologies are rarely deployed horizontally across the corporate as the result of a well thought IT plan. With the notable exception of selected initiatives often driven by specific lines of business – i.e. sales automation or field services – the bulk of the enterprise mobility revolution is happening in total anarchy. It is driven directly by end-users taking mobility into their hands outside the scope of any centralized IT plan, often openly in contrast with IT mandated policies. End-users buy their own devices, procure their own service subscriptions, install they own software and then figure out creative ways – more or less secure and orthodox – to connect to corporate resources to access email, corporate directory and various corporate assets such as customer record, product specs, price lists and so on.
  • In addition, most of these devices and plans are often not corporate liable and therefore procured at higher retail rates. True that employees pay out of pocket for their “personal” devices. However, more often than not they get some of that money back in the form of stipend, allowance or expense report. In the end, the organization as a whole loses bargain power, pays more for the same service and receives in return lower or non-existent SLA. The true collective costs of enterprise mobility end up buried in expense reports hidden from IT budget and control – Gartner’s Eric Paulak refers to this as the “black budget” of mobility.
  • To make the matter worse, in addition to security risks and financial exposure, the consumerization of enterprise mobility is a colossal management nightmare for IT. Contrary to many other IT-procured devices and services, such as desktops or laptops, IT and Help Desk have little or no ability to support the multitude of disparate employee liable devices that access corporate resources. It is not unusual for a global enterprise to have operations in tens of countries around the world, each served by two or three wireless operators providing two or three new devices per month. The total number of mobile hardware and software configurations that IT and Help Desk have to confront every day on a global basis can easily grow into the hundreds. Even when IT deploys new management  tools to seamlessly support multiple mobile solutions, it requires installing some sort of software agent on the target device to secure and protect device, data and IT infrastructure. This is extremely hard for an end-user to accept given the personal nature of the device and of the personal content accessed  through it.

About Cesare Garlati
Co-Founder, Hex Five Security, Inc. - Chief Technologist prpl Foundation

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