Has Mobility Rendered Your IT Organizational Structure Out of Date?
The impact of enterprise mobility on day-to-day business operations
By: Jon Kuhn
Mar. 11, 2013 07:00 AM
To say that mobility is affecting the way enterprises do business is akin to suggesting the planets revolve around the sun. These are not unproven theories, they are undisputed facts. However, while the modern model of the solar system was established long ago, the effects of enterprise mobility on business practices have only much more recently become overwhelmingly apparent.
From interacting with customers to improving employee productivity, mobility - in particular, the use of smart mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets - has proven its mettle as an effective business tool. In fact, a Symantec survey found that many companies are going all in on mobility, with 59 percent of respondents reporting that they are now making their line of business applications available on mobile devices. An even more impressive 71 percent of businesses are looking at implementing a customized corporate "app store" just for mobile applications.
However, for all the benefits of mobility there are clear and present challenges associated with the technology as well. In the same survey, nearly half of the organizations that responded - 48 percent - said they see enterprise mobility as "somewhat to extremely challenging." As a consequence, mobility in general is requiring significant effort to manage. Indeed, an average of 31 percent of IT staff at the organizations surveyed is involved in some way with mobility.
All this begs the question - why are companies finding mobility to be so challenging? There are numerous point answers to this question. These include dealing with employee demand to use personal devices for work and the need to support a fractured market, made up of many operating systems and device manufacturers. However, all these lead back to one overarching reason companies are struggling with mobility: most enterprises are trying to implement mobility while otherwise leaving their IT organizational structure unchanged.
In other words, companies are trying to fit the management and security of enterprise mobility into their existing IT organizational chart. This traditional structure has been well suited to managing PCs and laptops for the past 20 years, but just as Galileo's now famous telescope rendered the notion of a geocentric solar system - or one in which the earth is at the center of the solar system - archaic, so too has enterprise mobility rendered the traditional IT organizational infrastructure inadequate.
To better understand why this is the case, consider the segments that make up a typical traditional enterprise IT organization:
It all begins with a chief information officer. Under the CIO are a number of teams such as network operations, desktop or endpoint operations and application development and deployment. Working in parallel to the CIO is the chief information security officer. Under the CISO, the endpoint security team develops policies and puts technology in place to effectively secure the company's information.
Where does enterprise mobility fall? Regardless of whether we are talking about company-owned or personally owned devices, the answer, unfortunately, is into the gaps between these groups. The very nature of modern mobile technology causes it to span across the traditional IT boundaries.
For example, the desktop or endpoint operations team must be involved with managing mobility because, after all, at the end of the day we are talking about endpoints. However, mobile devices rely on a high degree of connectivity to the network and the cloud, much more so than traditional endpoints. Thus, the network operations should have a say as well. At the same time, mobile devices are nothing without the apps that make them so productive. The application development and deployment team is also in the mix. And we cannot forget that the endpoint security team must be involved to enforce mobility-related security and compliance policies.
In reality, what is happening in most organizations is that no single group is being given charge over mobility, because each plays a part in the mobile environment in some way or another. Even when one of the above teams is given responsibility to oversee mobility, that particular group typically has vastly different priorities than the others that must also be involved. The result is a lack of efficiency and cohesiveness when it comes to enterprise mobility. Or, in other words, the result is nearly half of companies finding mobility to be "somewhat to extremely challenging" as the survey discussed above concluded.
What is the solution? The companies that are most successful at implementing mobility have adapted their overall IT organizational structure to meet the demands of mobility, not the other way around. This begins with a chief mobility officer who operates side by side with the CIO and CISO, or alternatively a director of enterprise mobility who reports directly to the CIO. Either way, under this individual is an enterprise mobility group with the sole mandate to implement, manage and secure mobile technology.
Such an enterprise mobility group oversees all aspects of the mobile environment, from the devices to the apps to the connectivity. This team also enforces CISO-developed policies. There are a few recommendations for developing and operating such a group that are nearly universally applicable. These include:
It is important to realize that many companies are exploring how they can best take advantage of and streamline mobility. The companies that figure out quickly the benefits of creating a dedicated team to manage enterprise mobility will have a significant advantage over those that do not. In addition, it is important to note that regardless of how far down the path of enabling mobility a company is, it cannot be guaranteed that employees are not already using mobile devices for business. By establishing a team to oversee this use, companies can make sure it happens on their terms.
In short, one doesn't need to be an astronomer to see the impact enterprise mobility can have on day-to-day business operations. Creating a dedicated enterprise mobility group is the next step in maximizing these benefits.
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