CIOs Talk Mobile Strategy

By  Pat Brans — November 04, 2013

For CIOs supporting a mobile enterprise, 2013 has been busy—new OSes, new devices, new solutions—more complexity.  

Vendors started offering more features to help tackle BYOD issues and it was also the year of the tablet.

The top CIOs featured in the 2013 issues review mobility in their enterprises over the last 11 months and project what’s next.

Mobile Currents
According to Rear Admiral Robert Day, CIO of the U.S. Coast Guard, “2013 was the year that many organizations started to take mobile security seriously and really analyze all of the factors related to developing an enterprise strategy to provide a secure platform. And it is a good thing we did, given the sharp increase in threats targeting specifically the mobile environment.”

He noted that many organizations realized that just having an MDM solution and perhaps some anti-virus and anti-malware was not enough. “You have to tackle the full spectrum of managing mobility,” he said.

This includes development of detailed HR policies to address who gets mobile access, what the appropriate use is and what is required of users to protect information, according to Day.

“Thankfully,” he said, “The marketplace is providing the tools needed to help IT organizations efficiently manage the technical side of the equation, once the policy and HR issues are decided.”

Global CIO of Readers Digest Association (RDA) Joe Held said, “We’ve created digital downloads of all our magazines and we have a good representation of our products across devices, particularly tablets and eReaders.

The rate of digital growth has slowed across the industry. This may be the result of a maturing tablet market. At RDA, we have no plans to abandon our print products. But we do want to continue to grow and evolve our digital offerings.

Something disruptive (such as flexible LEDs or more interactive content linked with social media) will be required to ignite faster growth in digital magazines.”

Phil Jordan, Group CIO of Telefónica, says, “In 2013, many businesses raced to become ‘digital’— a revolution where social, cloud and apps dominate both personal and (increasingly) professional life and mobility remains the great enabler.”

Mobile has always been the core of his business, but in 2013, he said, it has become a more open platform —“a multi-purpose collaboration tool, somewhere to integrate cloud services, host applications  and enhance employee productivity. Now IT has to be on the front foot, enabling, rather than justifying, cost.”

Karen Austin, Senior Vice President and CIO at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), said, “Our overarching mobile strategy takes into account four usage scenarios: customer, field worker, office worker  and plant worker. We saw a strong uptick in demand across the board in 2013.”

“Take for example, one of our customer programs, called ‘Channel of Choice’, which allows customers to choose different access points (including mobile) to get up-to-date information on outages, bills and other aspects of their service. We saw a big increase in that program, because a lot more customers have become comfortable with mobile access in 2013.”

She cited another example in the field, where the company has increased productivity and streamlined information collection by allowing gas operations technicians to capture data at the point of inspection via their mobile devices.

Mobile Begets Mobile
Day said the top challenge remains the explosive growth in devices and apps, which he attributes to consumerization.

“Figuring out how to leverage the consumer device and services into an enterprise architecture that mandates that its information be handled and protected at much more stringent levels is challenging for even the most savvy CIO. And it’s especially challenging when we’re talking about government use.”

He continued, “Most device users don’t really care about security. They view security features as an unwanted restriction on the device.” He is often asked questions like: “Why can’t I load Candy Crush on my government-issued iPhone?”

Held agrees. “We are certainly experiencing the added cost and the gymnastics involved in supporting different devices, operating systems, displays and content formats. It reminds us of the early days of PCs and mid-tier devices. The good news for us is that our customers are giving us good feedback on our mobile products,” he said.

Austin pointed out that mobile leads to more mobile. “It’s due to the success of our initial mobile services that we’re now faced with the challenges of prioritizing to keep up with mobile demand from our business areas. We’re now working to build a standardized mobile platform that allows us to quickly and efficiently roll out and support new capabilities across our enterprise.”

Mobile Futures
Day had hoped to start “breaking ground on providing mobile access to my key legacy operational systems” in 2013.

However, budget impacts and the need to better secure the platform prevented him from moving forward.  

“In 2014, despite the even worsening Federal budget environment, I hope to be able to demonstrate how investment in these mobile apps can actually reduce costs and significantly enhance productivity. The demand for these capabilities is off the chart. Unfortunately, very few of my customers have the resources needed to make the required investments, because many of the legacy systems will require some degree of architectural changes to enable modern mobility. But I am hoping that several of my key customers will take the leap. If they do, they will likely be rewarded handsomely —not only through efficiency, but also by praise from the work force for finally getting it.”

With the mobile “noise” getting louder, Held said, “There has been an ongoing debate on whether buzz will be based on the loudest, attention-getting voice  or from voices associated with trusted brands. We would certainly win the trusted brand argument.”

He believes that the future is in customer experience, which can be applied to both external and internal customers.

According to Held, “Customers are expecting better integration of apps, content and context to make lifestyle or business decisions, and to generally improve their digital experience.”

On the audience side of things, “We can see our digital publications becoming more interactively linked with social media and willl need to improve our digital analytics and marketing to find new customers next year. We expect to remain relevant on mobile devices with our exceptional brands —Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home, The Family Handyman, and more — focusing on improving the experience across all platforms.”

Reversing Trend
Jordan says, “I would be surprised if 2014 doesn’t herald a far deeper mobilization of corporate applications, as businesses demand a cloud and apps consumption model and intuitive interfaces from smartphones and tablets. I also forecast we will see a reverse BYOD trend, as the big consumer device providers attack the enterprise, and identity and persona management develops fast enough for IT to provide the best consumer devices to the workforce in a secure way. This will negate the need to bring your own.”

Mobilization of the workforce and customers will be a continued factor in almost every one of the 11 business enablement themes for PG&E said Austin. “By providing expanded services such as outage reporting for our customers, document management and training services for our business, and time reporting and SharePoint access for our employees, we’re expanding the number of users who will benefit from doing their work anywhere, anytime.”

Her company is also developing Big Data initiatives that will synthesize and deliver information more effectively to both the workforce and customers. “This combination of mobile and analytics will help us continue to drive value in 2014 and beyond,” she said.

“Designing for a mobile workforce also allows us to streamline both our business processes and our applications to better fit a mobile paradigm. With mobile, clarity and simplicity are critical — and we are able to build these same attributes into our applications and business processes.”

To that end, Jordan believes that moving forward there should be a shift in perspective when it comes to mobility. He said, “CIOs should not be asking ‘what can mobile do for the business?’ but ‘how mobile can my business be?’”





Pat Brans is a mobile technology and productivity consultant and author of the book Master The Moment: Fifty CEOs Teach You the Secrets of Time Management.

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