Is today’s business mobility driving a wedge between business executives and IT management? It’s a question worth asking because information technology infrastructure is the backbone of all business activity.
A recent article (“Expect conflict in 2012 as consumerisation raises security alarm bells for CIOs”, CSO, December 2011) illustrates one aspect of this issue. This article points out that many IT executives believe the BYOD (bring your own device) trend has gone so far that it puts the enterprise information assets at risk. The article cites a survey that shows “77 per cent of CIOs said consumerisation of IT is creating unacceptable business risk”, and that “67 per cent of business mobility projects are proceeding without the ‘full involvement’ of the IT organization.” It’s important to keep in mind that in many cases it was executives and line of business managers, as early adopters of the latest smartphones and tablets, who started the trend toward BYOD.
This is just one example of the rift between IT management and mobile business operations. With the declining cost of mobile applications and new tools for more easily visualizing corporate information assets on mobile devices, today’s business mobility makes it easy to bring new business applications into the workplace. Many business managers are enthusiastic supporters of apps that make their operations more efficient. Yet ad hoc mobile solutions that start out being quick, effective, and productive can become massive headaches for IT departments tasked with supporting all these apps, securing them, and integrating them so dependent business operations can share the data they produce. It is no wonder IT departments often feel under siege from the rest of the company that is demanding more expansive mobile operations. In many cases, business mobility moves ahead without them.
This is not a good situation, especially at a time when the advantages of mobility are obvious, and companies are moving rapidly to mobilize key business processes. There are, however, a few simple rules of the road that can quickly get IT and the rest of the company on the same mobility page. These include:
• An enterprise should standardize on one application development platform. This does necessarily mean purchasing and deploying such a platform. But it does mean all applications, whether they are purchased from third parties, developed internally, or custom developed by third parties, should be compatible with a platform standard. This will simplify application management, and it will ensure that data and functionality integrates between different mobile applications.
• An enterprise should adopt a robust device and application management platform that works with all mobile devices and is compatible with the application platform standard. When I say “robust”, I mean this platform has enterprise grade controls that support self-service application portals, application pre-configuration and deployment based on job roles and device types, automatic updates, rigorous security controls, automatic triggers and alerts based on usage parameters, and detailed device tracking and reporting. This platform should provide one set of controls for all devices and applications supported by the company.
With these basic infrastructure building blocks, companies can use technology to define and enforce mobility policies that keep data secure without impinging on operational efficiencies. This will make management and IT happy, and it will make them natural allies in pursuing common business objectives.