Visit any contemporary organization, and the vision of an extremely connected, mobile workforce becomes a reality. More and more employees are using mobile devices – be it smartphones, tablets or even wearable technology like smart watches. Additionally, employees routinely access cloud services as well to conduct their day-to-day work. Combine these two and what you get is Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) – the set of people, processes and technology focused on managing the increasing array of mobile devices, wireless networks, and related services to enable broad use of mobile computing in a business context.
An enterprise mobility implementation means a radical shift in the standard business paradigm. The traditional concept of a 9-to-5 workplace involving desks and workstations is no longer relevant: a manager can access employee data, review and approve an important resource requisition request while travelling to the Airport or just before an important client meeting. While employees gain from the flexibility of not being restricted to a physical location, the organization benefits from always available, fully productive resources.
However enterprise mobility is not without its fair share of challenges, and it is imperative to understand these for any organization eager to embark on a first time implementation. Let us explore these challenges in more detail.
Strategic Challenges One of the first questions that should be playing on a CIO’s mind when looking at a mobile implementation is extent: Enterprise mobility initiatives can range from primitive to extremely advanced, and can be broadly segregated into three levels.
- Ability to view and respond to content (E-mails)
- Ability to Approve/Reject (Managing Workflows)
- Ability to Conduct day-to-day business (full utilization)
While the ability to access and respond to e-mails is already available over the mobile platform, a few organizations have already experimented with replicating workflows. Workflow Management is one of the few ubiquitous activities that can easily become showstoppers, and thus are good candidates for a mobile implementation for executives on the move.
Organizations which intend to grant complete flexibility to their workforce can opt for advanced implementations. For example, travel and hospitality organizations can utilize mobile applications to enable customer facing employees. An airport mobility management enabled customer representative can help airline travellers check in at the Airport without queuing in front of a counter. At the other end, housekeeping staff at a hotel chain can check their roster and update their status on a mobile app.
Another strategic factor that will help qualify the extent of an enterprise mobility initiative is scale: the number of employees that will be enabled is a key factor in deciding how much effort to expend. A tiered, phase wise approach can be taken to resolve this – While the leadership can be enabled to start with, the middle management and the complete workforce can follow later.
Mobile device adoption should be thoroughly analyzed to analyze the impact on an organization’s business processes. A major challenge can arise for organizations where content created by employees as a part of their day-to-day work is a major asset (E.g. code repositories in IT firms), as portable devices encourage crisper responses and remarks. These might turn out to be detrimental to a firm’s cause in the long run, as employees keep adding less value over time.
Relevant questions to be put to data administrators and Infrastructure support groups revolve around security challenges. Mobile devices will almost always operate outside an organization’s VPN/closed loop network and data integrity and security will be top concerns.
Finally, the CFO would require some convincing evidence to fund a multi-million dollar mobile initiative. Apart from the development and support headers, the cost benefit analysis also needs to factor in network access and device ownership expenses for a realistic estimate.
“Most strategies can be considered good, provided they are executed well”.
When the leadership has approved an enterprise mobility initiative and sorted out most of the strategic challenges, the team steering the engagement can surely cheer, but not afford to rest easy. Operationally, the mobile platform has the capability to throw up quite a few questions to ponder on. On a broad level, the following challenges are most likely to be encountered on the operational front.
- Usability: A mobile device signifies convenience, and an employee base spoilt for choice with intuitive iOS and android apps is going to put a heavy premium on the usable aspects of an enterprise mobility implementation. Factors such as look and feel, the number of clicks and seamless access across different mobile networks need to be catered to. An important point to note is that the focus for any employee is on doing his or her job, and the platform should be there to enable it. The learning curve for any application should be small.
- Security: This particular aspect is an anti-thesis to usability: it has been generally noticed that robust applications are rarely user friendly, and vice versa. For example, a mobile app requiring an 8 digit single sign on password (with a combination of alphanumeric and special characters) in might create headaches for an employee trying to make a call! Security aspects also raise questions for scenarios where data is of utmost sensitivity, as it will frequently leave the organization’s area of control. Also, what needs to be the policy for employees who separate? While desktops and laptops are returned to the organization, in a BYOD environment, the individual might be using his own Smartphone and would not consent to getting it formatted. Controlling usage and managing unauthorized access is another major issue. Fortunately, newer mobile devices have incorporated biometric authentication mechanisms, which should be instrumental in solving some of these challenge
- Platforms to Support: Some of the decisions to be taken include choosing the relevant:
o Devices – Tablets / Smartphone / Wearable Technologies
o OS – iOS / Android / Windows, AND
o Application type – Native App / Mobile Websites with RWD / Hybrid
Performance, ease of use and cost factors would be some of the areas to look at to resolve these dilemmas.
Managing enterprise mobility can be complex. While it does come with its set of unique advantages, it inherits all the complexities of a wired environment while adding some more of its own. An agile and focussed team led by a supportive leadership can help enabled organizations conduct business from anywhere, on any device, while still meeting security and compliance mandates.
About the Author:
Manu Agrawal is currently working as a Consultant at IGT. A dedicated professional, he has exposure to diverse business domains spanning across all stages of a Project: from acquisition of an engagement to its delivery. He works at the intersection of Travel & Technology, and would be delighted to explore it further. Feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org