The Mobile Workplace: 5 Things to consider

Do you remember a time that when you made a phone call, you called a house instead of a person?  If you were a teenage boy you dreaded the thought of getting that young lady’s father on the phone. I have yet to experience that type of terror in my adult life, but I digress.

A little later on when home Internet became somewhat common, the ‘Internet’ was usually accessed on a computer set up in a corner of the family room.  One would ‘go’ to where the Internet was, and usually have to wait your turn to get online.

Nowadays, we don’t call houses, we call people. We don’t ‘go’ to the Internet, it’s in our pocket or purse and follows us around, and with the exception of a number of hotels I stayed at recently, is pretty much everywhere.

In my home, there are a number of devices that all play together well.  I can browse the Internet, control my thermostat, share media, print from the comfort of my couch while playing music wirelessly over Bluetooth.  We have ‘cut the cord’ on cable television and home phone services.  We just pay for Internet and our monthly communications bill in the house has dropped by over $100.
In my experience, the average technology in the workplace has lagged behind the features and functionality of consumer electronics due to a number of things including security, compliance, scalability and a number of other significant factors.

As you see below, I’m of the opinion that implementing a mobile strategy is not a choice, but something that needs to be on your organization’s project list.
Here are five things to consider.

1. Your boss likely expects it.
As I mentioned above, your boss likely experiences a high level of mobility and integration at home.  Keynote speakers at the conferences she attended described this environment as normal. She doesn’t care about it being difficult to work on an enterprise level. That’s why she hired you.  She will likely channel Jean Luc Picard and tell you to “Make it so”.

2. It’s a lot of work.
If only technology were as simple to implement as the marketing people would have us believe. We CIOs know all the reasons why enterprise level mobile solutions are infinitely more complex than a home office. Mobile computing is more than laptops, smart phones and tablets.  It impacts your network, your development, your applications, practically every way you do IT is impacted.  The convenience of having your corporate information available anytime/anywhere is offset by challenge of ensuring it’s not available to anybody.  This was easy when the access points to the information was locked down on employee’s desktop computers, but not so much when the access points can be anywhere.

Today’s successful CIO cannot let complexity get in the way of moving forward – that’s why we hire smart people and keep their skill sets current.  In addition, I hope you have a great relationship with your CFO, as your budget will definitely need to be adjusted for implementation.

3. Everyone else is doing it. 
Having secure anytime/anywhere access can enhance productivity in your workforce and enhance your interactions with your customers, but don’t expect that you will differentiate your company by implementing a mobile platform.

I you don’t do it however, you will set your company on a course to obscurity and falling behind the competition.

4. When things go bad, it will still be your problem.
A good mobile strategy will likely leverage a number of cloud based resources (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS). Make sure you deal with reputable organizations and ensure you have solid Service Level Agreements in place (especially the clauses about response time during failures).   When you lose access to your ERP, you can bet it’s not the vendor the CEO will call.

In addition, you are still responsible for all the NBN stuff.  This is an acronym I have made up – Nasty, but Necessary.  In this category are all the things you cannot ignore, even though they may not be fun to do. They have incredible punitive implications.  Things like security, compliance, privacy, etc.  If you don’t account for it up front, you may have significant problems after you have rolled out your mobile solution.  Take this NBN stuff seriously.  Bring in the experts if you need to, but my sure you CYA (you know what that acronym stands for).

5. Things will break, get lost and be shared. Deal with it.
The trouble with mobile devices is, they are mobile.  They are easily lost, stolen, broken and even more insidiously, are treated like personal devices.  On the same device as your monthly sales data are the selfie shots of the last vacation.  Phones and tablets are handed to bored children in Chick-Fil-A so parents can pretend they have a semblance of adult conversation at the end of a meal.  Having corporate computing devices at such risk does little to warm the cockles of a CIO's heart.

But in this new world of IT, of which anytime/anywhere access is the norm, you and your team need to have strategies in how you manage both devices and access to your system.  Do you virtualize all your apps to isolate them from the personal data and applications on the device?  Is little Suzie able to play in your sales forecast spreadsheet?  If an employee’s phone or tablet is lost, how soon can you identify it and wipe it if necessary (assuming you’ve already protected unauthorized access to your corporate systems).

You can’t control these things, but you can certainly manage them through proper implementation.

If you are not well on the way to implementing a corporate mobile strategy, I have probably created more angst than you had before you read the article.  In my case, I have strong people on my team that have the skills and aptitude to handle the questions and the issues I've raised. That makes my job easy.


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