The Rise of the Mobile Center of Excellence

By Spencer Shearer, Vice President – Services, AppCentral — June 29, 2012

It's no secret that little more than a decade ago, the title, "CIO," was nonexistent. Nowadays, we’re witnessing an evolution in the role of the CIO, whereby companies are creating "Centers of Excellence" to support emerging areas like mobility. As such, how are these new groups supporting businesses and what has been mobile’s impact on the C-suite?
 
Today, more and more employees are using smart devices in the workplace. IDC reports that over 80 million new smart devices entered enterprises in 2011 and forecasts that number will reach over 140 million by 2013. Those aren’t all corporate devices - more than half of companies allow the use of employee-owned smart devices , primarily to enable higher productivity; however, enabling the broad use of these devices in a business context is a challenge for many large organizations. 
 
Despite the rapid adoption of mobile, creating an effective enterprise mobility strategy hasn’t been easy for many companies. Today’s CIO is tasked with trying to get their arms around a plethora of often conflicting, sometimes redundant, mobile projects that have sprung up within individual business units. Because funding and leadership for these initiatives usually lies within the business unit and most internal organizations are interested in quickly solving their specific business problems, most don’t want the unnecessary overhead or involvement of IT.

With no clear mandate for divisions to collaborate, sharing of mobility tools and best practices is non-existent. Add in overlapping development efforts and conflicting processes, and the results are highly customized mobility strategies that don’t do what’s best for the overall organization.
 
At the same time, CIOs recognize that they need to develop an enterprise mobility strategy that can accommodate the requirements of employees as well as other members of the corporate ecosystem, such as partners, contractors and customers. Such a strategy factors in requirements for applications, policy control, application distribution and management and devices.
 
To accomplish this, many businesses are creating Mobile Centers of Excellence (MCOE). These COEs serve to provide a central, unifying function for leveraging mobility throughout the enterprise. Any MCOE should:
  • Institutionalize mobility best practices especially around app development, security and governance
  • Define policy for control of mobile apps and process for distribution and management of apps
  • Establish consistency across mobility tools
  • Provide expertise on mobility initiatives
  • Further adoption of mobile solutions throughout the enterprise
Membership in the MCOE should include cross-functional representation, especially from the various divisions that are currently implementing mobility, not just from IT. That might also include members of the security, enterprise architecture or governance groups. That said, the MCOE must not end up being the place where decisions suffer death by committee. The MCOE should enable teams to quickly achieve their mobility needs, while attempting to instill consistency across the enterprise.
 
A key priority for the MCOE will be the standardization of technologies to control the access to business information from mobile apps and for the distribution and management of apps. By getting a handle on application management, the organization will be able to support the broadest use of devices in its ecosystem of employees, partners, contractors and customers. Enterprise application stores are becoming increasingly popular means for centralizing browsing and acquisition of applications while allowing IT to maintain control over policy and user management.
 
MCOEs are essential to the development of common enterprise mobility solutions both now and in the future, and the long term costs of operating a federated model are often lower than allowing decentralized mobility governance to run rampant. Establishing an MCOE can be an invaluable tool for any enterprise looking to enable internal business units as well as the greater corporate ecosystem to quickly deploy mobility solutions while instilling consistency across the business.

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