Roundtable Reveals More Mobile Challenges Ahead

By  Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — January 15, 2013

Security; big data; BYOD; development; finding talent; keeping up and getting ahead — does this sound familiar? For a first-hand account of what top mobile challenges the enterprise is facing in the coming year, we turned to our Editorial Advisory Board in a virtual roundtable Q&A. Their collective experience is huge, as they all have worked through the advancement of technology in various roles over the years.

And, it’s likely that what’s affecting their businesses when it comes to mobility is also affecting yours. Brendan O’Malley, VP Mergers and Business Process Integration, Flowers Foods, sums it up, “The good news is that current mobile challenges are part of ongoing evolutionary struggles so that isn't something new. These are familiar battles and the tools that we have to fight them are improving. The bad news is that none of these challenges are simple — they involve complex technical issues combined with evolving cultural demographic issues.

Security On Top
Nearly every board member, as well as those who responded to Mobile Enterprise’s executive survey, put security on or near the top of of the list but each had their own take.

O’Malley looks at the intersection of consumerization/mobility and security and jokes that since it’s been part of the discussion for the last few years, the problem must be solved by now, right? “I don't think so,” he says. “The number of devices, applications and connections is multiplying, and BYOD is only making this worse. BYOD commits IT to supply data to applications on devices outside the enterprise.”

He concedes that there are many new solutions available to help with the security challenges, but points out that the bigger issues lies in developing the right set of policies, getting other departments (HR, legal, purchasing, finance) to agree and then educating users about these policies. This will challenge IT, he says.

Patricia Smith, CIO, Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., is also worried about security awareness, but for a different reason. She explains, “We are seeing heightened activity in malware and viruses with several notable bank breaches. I anticipate more activity in the mobile world with malware and more vigilance will be needed by IT management to keep it contained.”

More BYOD
Joe DeChow, Manager, IS Infrastructure at Munson Medical Center, says that his organization is trying to decide where it wants to be in the BYOD space. “Device selection is a big thing for us these days. Getting everyone to agree on which tablet is like getting a unanimous vote in Congress. With the technology moving so fast, how do you settle on a device and make it last 3-4 years so you can get your investment out of it? It’s impossible for a small hospital system to change much more often than that.”

He says they are looking at multi-functional devices that can do, for example, bar code scanning and voice calling. As a healthcare institution, he also faces more than the usual security and compliance issues and a fragmented workforce with endless use cases.

He says, “We already have many people using their smart device and tablet to get to corporate email via ActiveSync and this isn’t too hard to do, but our security practices haven’t caught up yet to really make us feel good. And with the sheer number of choices around MDM suites, for which I am constantly solicited, it is hard to decide what the solution should be.” He struggles with the costs of solutions, some of which he says add 30 to 40% to the monthly cost of the device.

DeChow is also up against legacy devices. “Since we are a hospital, we are one of the institutions that still heavily uses traditional pagers. We foresee the need to migrate to other devices, and often to a personally owned one, over the next few years."

This presents an unusual dilemma somewhat unique to his industry. The users are more concerned with actually turning off while off. “I have found a number of folks who don’t want to give up their pager in favor of the company provided cell phone for text messages (pages) from the hospital. They feel that they can turn the pager off when they aren’t on call or at work, but the phone is their personal device too. People in this ‘business’ want to have control of their personal time, which seems to be contrary to some other industries where people want more and more connectivity and always be reachable,” he says.

Device notwithstanding, DeChow points out that the issues he mentions come even before they begin to address enterprise apps and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) – which he calls “the king of beasts.”

Intellectual Property – Another Matter of Security
Greg Lush, Sr. Vice President, Learning & Quality, ABM Industries would take an entirely different approach to security. He says, “For years we have focused on protecting servers and physical components of our environments to prevent theft of intellectual property. However, I would argue that we were building walls around the wrong things.”

Alternatively, he suggests that assets should be protected — “which are valuable, digital collateral.” He points out that enterprise-based information is everywhere, on corporate computers, tablets, smartphones, in remote sessions and on home computers. “We may believe that we have this under control; however, that simply is not the case. Apply digital rights management to all intellectual property and stop caring where it is stored. You could then turn to cloud based inexpensive storage solutions like Dropbox or SkyDrive.”

Sean Poccia, a longtime IT Executive, reluctantly agrees. He says, “As much as I didn’t want to carry this over from 2012, I still believe businesses are careless with how business intelligence, consumer data and other forms of digital content is served up and consumed by the business.”

He adds to this equation. “Combine this with cloud accessibility and a litany of mobile devices, both corporate and BYOD, this leaves IT leadership having to instill GRC (governance, risk and compliance) measures that may not be popular with executive leadership as they are often perceived as restricting and a tactical nuisance.”

His recommendation goes back to what O’Malley was saying and urges the enterprise to ensure that end user policies are both current and adhered to. He also says you have to understand the data within your enterprise and apply risk factoring techniques to each source and consumer of IP. Sometimes you also have to make the hard decision to, “hold your ground with the business leadership when necessary as data security is quintessential and IT leadership should be considered the gate keepers.”

Creative vs. Technical
As O’Malley pointed out earlier, organizations are facing issues that are not merely technical, but have to do with merging traditionally siloed cultures to make mobility work across the enterprise. He says, “IT is good at tackling the technical issues and I am sure these will be resolved — it’s the cultural issues that most organizations will struggle with.”

His example is that of building relationship with marketing and big data. IT has essentially bridged the gap that once existed between the business and itself. There is a convergence with functions that are more operational like HR, finance and manufacturing. But there is a natural disconnect with IT and marketing as there’s often an innate difference between the creative and technical mindset.

Yet, marketing plays a huge role in what mobile does and the enterprise can often apply lessons from consumer facing mobility. He says, “Marketing people are different than IT people. They think differently. They solve problems differently, and right now marketing is leading the charge into areas like big data and other types of advanced analytics. They want information and insights; they want to understand consumer behavior and see what drives sales. IT is still struggling to figure out the right tools to store, manage, extract, analyze all this data and needs to work hard to cultivate this user group and deliver business relevant information.”

Talent
With the rapid changing pace of technology and the cultural challenges that can ensue, Smith is also concerned about getting the right people for the job. She says, “Recruiting and keeping IT talent is a top challenge. The marketplace has really heated up for HTML5 and JQuery and mobile app development in general. Several local CIO’s have approached me recently looking for talent.”

This is echoed by Brenda Lewis of Transactions Marketing. “I see continuing difficulties in getting well-trained mobile developers for mission critical solutions. People who know app building are easy enough to find, but RF engineers who know networks are not. I am personally working with the University of Connecticut Engineering program to expand its RF faculty.”

Keeping Up and Getting Ahead
Poccia also frets about “business inertia,” especially around mobility. IT organizations are finding it difficult to maintain the pace and still have the time and resources to introduce and implement innovative business solutions. He says, “It’s a balancing act: IT must be proactive and continuously drive measurable value back to the business that aligns with core business objectives and in parallel, maintain exceptional stewardship for existing responsibilities.” He notes that this can be extremely challenging with constraints such as budgets, headcount and a lack of internal skill sets.

He says, “Make certain that IT leadership has a seat at the executive roundtable. It’s critical that IT have a venue to proactively level set expectations with the business and offer options that can be achievable and sustainable and still meet the goals of the business.”

Del Ross, VP Sales & Marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group, offers a final comment about getting ahead. He says enterprises need to avoid the "Innovator's Dilemma" — going from nimble and responsive solution development to cumbersome, expensive and slow as innovative new solutions mature to enterprise-grade platforms. “This conundrum leaves big companies vulnerable to new companies and makes it much harder to incorporate new trends into their business practices,” he says.

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