Towards enterprise mobility: making the right moves

by CXOtoday Staff    Jan 14, 2011

Todd SchofieldEnterprise mobility is the new buzzword in business, particularly in consulting and financial services, and organizations are investing heavily in it. In fact, according to a new report by Global Industry Analysts, the global enterprise mobility market may reach US $168 billion next year, observes Todd Schofield, global head of enterprise mobility, Standard Chartered Bank.

Additionally, enterprise mobility has been quite resistant to corporate cost-cutting resulting from recent global financial market difficulties; in fact, large organizations as a whole have increased their year-on-year enterprise mobility investments. For example, a recent Forrester survey shows CIOs and IT leaders are making mobile expansion a priority, with 16 percent of them calling it ‘critical priority’ and another 46 percent calling it ‘high priority’.

Furthermore, enterprise mobility also reflects a larger trend in business and society - our increasing usage of, and dependence on, smartphones that allow us to utilize a wide array of applications anywhere and at anytime. As employees continue to become more mobile in their personal lives, and as work and home spheres continue to intersect and even overlap, it’s only natural that employees will also become more interested in trying to fit their office in their pocket, briefcase or handbag, as they already do with their social and personal lives.

However, while enterprise mobility is all the rage, it is also quite complicated to implement, especially at larger organizations with multiple locations, divisions, IT systems, security protocols and the like. It is also quite time- and resource-intensive and not something to be taken lightly. Therefore, rather than getting caught up in trying to follow trends, perhaps it’s better to ask some fundamental questions to help determine if the investment is right for your organization.

Analyse your workforce
Lost sometimes in all the clamour is probably the most fundamental question - is this really a benefit for your staff? Not every organization needs to be mobile. Even at Standard Chartered, for example, there are a number of positions that must be on site, ranging from branch operations to IT, audit, administration and more. Is your organization largely sales-based, or do the majority need to be in the building on a daily basis? A few influential people pushing for smartphone accessibility is not always the best reason for upending your IT department and spending months fitting all of your critical software and functionality into a device, no matter how cool it may seem.

Choose a platform
At Standard Chartered, we chose to go with iPhone for a 15,000-person global deployment. This was not because the iPhone is ‘trendy’ right now. Our decision was based on an honest assessment of the functionality and security we required, coupled with the ability and commitment to make bespoke apps to help financial consultants work better. For each organization, IT leaders have to be honest and stringent about their selection of device, because it is the single most important piece of the puzzle. What device is best suited for how your employees work? What software is critical to your operations? What security frameworks do you have in place, and what devices work best - or don’t - with those frameworks? Right now Apple, Android and BlackBerry are all creating compelling platforms and solutions. Make sure your organization goes with the device that provides employees the best tools to get their jobs done, not just the flavor of the month.

Research your customers and your employees
What type of applications do your employees need in order to better serve their customers? What applications are best left to being done on a full-size computer? Again, be realistic. Sometimes paperwork and authentication are more easily minimized to a three-inch screen than complicated spreadsheets. Are offsite needs likely to be simpler transactions or more complicated? Sales calls will only be more efficient if the salespeople can access everything they need while onsite with their clients. Otherwise they just have a fancier briefcase.

Innovate in Applications
Once your organization has decided to make the leap, don’t just expect that the job is done. Just as on the Internet, without good content, users are not fully engaged, and it’s unlikely that the perfect apps and tools for your specific organization are out there already. So work with creative agencies, the enterprise development community and other leaders in the industry to create applications that best match your systems and processes and to collaborate on best practices. At Standard Chartered we admittedly went a bit above and beyond in this department, as we have not only created consumer apps with Frog Design, but have actually founded our own application studio in San Francisco to make customized apps for our employees and organization. Not all enterprises may want to go this route, but it’s important to keep all doors and possibilities open when looking for ways to make tools and applications which are as useful to your workforce as possible. It’s also important to keep applications easy to use and sensible.

Evolve continuously
Finally, to make this work, it has to be a long-term commitment. Organizational buy-in is key, not only for the excitement of the launch, but over several years as your mobile strategy goes through its phases. As your enterprise continues to grow and develop, so does your enterprise mobility strategy, and new applications, devices and structures will be needed to ensure employees continue to benefit - and continue to use the system. This evolution will not only keep the enterprise engaged, it will also allow it to refine and improve over time, making a stronger organization and team. While implementation is the first step, it is only a step - like in nature, evolution is constant.

In summary, a move to enterprise mobility needs to be carefully considered from all sides before going forward, as there are certainly a number of problems that can arise if not taken seriously. If done correctly, however, and with the right commitment and participation from the top, it can be a true game changer for an organization and its employees, and create real, tangible benefit in terms of operations, services, employees and ultimately the bottom line. And focusing on those points is not simply a trend - it’s at the heart of any business.