Enterprise Mobility: The Future is Now
by Brian Duckering of Symantec
Throughout the modern history of business, there have been countless technological innovations that have improved the way companies work. However, a few stand out from the rest in their capacity to disrupt the status quo. Perhaps the most obvious recent examples of such technological advances are the PC and the Internet. For younger generations, it is nearly impossible to imagine doing business (or anything for that matter) without these technologies, and for older generations, it is painful to imagine ever going back to the way things were before them.
We call these "disruptive technologies" and we are now witnessing another such technology firmly entrench itself in the business world: mobile devices. Smartphones are now being used by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world to access corporate information to keep up with today’s 24/7 business cycle. Indeed, the current generation entering the workforce and future generations will wonder how business was ever done without such devices.
To learn the extent of mobility’s reach into the enterprise and organizations’ perception of the benefits and challenges of the ever increasing swarm of devices flowing into and out of their infrastructures, Symantec recently fielded a survey of 6,275 organizations of all sizes in 43 countries. The survey shows that we have reached a tipping point in the business use of mobile devices. However, this all comes with a price, both in terms of resources and risks. Despite this, most organizations feel the benefits are worth the risks.
The enterprise mobility tipping point
The survey highlights how mobile devices have become essential tools for doing business. Employees are seeing significantly improved productivity by being able to access business resources from anywhere at any time and as a result, 59 percent of respondents to the survey said their companies are now making line-of-business applications accessible from mobile devices.
Even more impressive is that mobile device enablement is commonplace enough that nearly three out of four businesses are now looking at implementing a corporate “app store” for mobile applications.
Just why is it that so many organizations are going all-in on mobility?
The survey asked about the most important business benefits companies hope to achieve from mobility and the top answers were a desire for increased efficiency, increased workplace effectiveness, and reduced time required to accomplish tasks. Taken together, these represent major business agility gains.
Ask any IT manager and they will tell you that such expectations of implementing a new technology are rarely ever matched by the results. Amazingly though, when it comes to mobility the survey shows that expectations much more closely match reality. For example, about three-quarters of businesses expected to increase efficiency through mobile computing and 73 percent actually realized that gain.
Interestingly, the survey showed that these results largely held true for both small businesses and enterprises alike; with efficiency being the top goal across the board. Enterprises were slightly more optimistic in the benefits they would realize but did do as well as they expected. SMBs, on the other hand, had slightly lower expectations that were exceeded. The main difference was that smaller businesses were less likely than enterprises to have plans regarding custom apps or corporate app stores.
Mobility is consuming significant IT resources
For all of mobility’s perceived and realized benefits, the survey also demonstrates that it is also creating challenges for IT as they try to balance it with other critical focus areas. In fact, nearly half of the organizations who responded to the survey said they see mobile computing as “somewhat to extremely challenging.” As a consequence, mobility in general is requiring significant effort to manage. In fact, an average of 31 percent of the IT staffs at the organizations surveyed are involved in some way with mobile computing.
And just what is it that is demanding so much of their time and resources? They reported their top priorities to be security, backup and dealing with lost or stolen devices.
When the survey asked where mobility ranks in terms of IT risk as compared to other contemporary technology trends, it was cited as one of the top three risk areas by 41 percent of respondents -- more than any other trend or initiative, including virtualization, Web 2.0 and even public cloud computing. IT’s top mobile-related concerns include device loss, data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware infection.
In this brave new world of enterprise mobility, organizations are grappling with some very real challenges. However, mobility also offers tremendous opportunities for organizations of all sizes. Businesses should be exploring how they can take advantage of this trend and develop a phased approach to build an ecosystem that supports their plan.
The simple truth is that employees will use mobile devices for business one way or another but, by getting out ahead of the curve, companies can make sure that use is on their terms. This all comes down to companies thinking strategically, enforcing appropriate policies and managing and securing devices and data efficiently and comprehensively.
Brian Duckering is a senior manager, Enterprise Mobility at Symantec. Brian is responsible for product marketing of Symantec’s mobility initiatives, covering everything from mobile management and security to protecting the networks that mobile devices rely on. He has over 20 years of industry experience as an engineer, product manager, marketing manager and technology evangelist, developing and bringing to market innovative technologies for enterprises and small businesses.
At Symantec, he promotes the idea of an information-centric view and anytime, anywhere productivity. Brian is an oft-requested speaker internationally on a wide range of topics, technologies and trends, from virtualization to mobility. He has held executive level positions at both business- and consumer-facing companies and has multiple degrees in engineering and technology management.