COO View: Mobile Data Opportunities and Challenges, Pt. 2


CEOs and COOs are having to get their hands dirty with technology decisions formerly left up to their CIOs.  In a recent strategy engagement with a Fortune 50 energy company, the CEO, not the CIO was the driver behind integrating iPads into the operation.  The COO was caught in the middle, and struggled to rationalize the opportunities of iPad devices with the risks (and implementation challenges) of making their Windows-based enterprise work with Apple products, while migrating off of Blackberry devices, too.

As I cautioned in my last post on this subject, the place to start an enterprise mobility (EM) initiative is not with a vendor shoot-out, or a purchasing meeting to get the lowest bid on a ship-load of tablets. Rather, the place to start is with a with a thoughtful strategic and operational analysis of what mobility has and will mean to your company, and to IT’s mission to support the business.   In short, it starts with a conversation– with your executive team, and with your business unit managers, and with your field staff.

There are tons of options to choose from, but in winnowing down your short list, consider the following organizational implications:

  • What opportunities can EM bring?  How, specifically?
  • What is the burning business need for this change?  (surprisingly often, there is none!)
  • What value would accrue from a successful enterprise mobility initiative? Get input here from people across the company, at all levels, and even outside your industry.
  • Which options are best for your particular goals?
  • What risks do you face?
  • How can you best communicate all this to stakeholders- employees, managers, executives, board members, vendors, and customers?
  • What limitations or challenges will this change impose?  Drill down to daily functions here.
  • What are the costs, including TCO- sunk costs, migration costs, staffing, support, and ongoing subscription and license costs?
  • What legal implications exist, particularly in “bring your own device” (BYOD) environments?
  • How will your company comply with “e-discovery,” Sarbanes-Oxley, and Homeland Security regulations under the new environment?
  • What’s the deadline for implementation?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • What are non-competitor, best-in-class companies doing?

The impact of mobility for the consumer is apparent.  Apple and Google’s success is driving the adoption of consumer devices inside the enterprise in a way that has never been seen before.  This trend is different from previous computers-in-the-field efforts, which focused either on low-value operational or transactional data or on laptops, with fully-locked down security measures. Today, enterprise mobility (EM) efforts focus on knowledge workers and executives demanding interactive access to high-value data anywhere, anytime.

Form follows function: The CIO/CTO view

Many large organizations are being forced into adoption of “BYOD” (bring your own device) policies not because they want to, but because they have to. One CIO called us for consultation after a senior executive left their iPad, laptop and cell phone in the back seat of an airport limo, where they disappeared. Both contained sensitive corporate data.  Corporate data is being shared, stored, and, in some cases, lost on ultra-popular consumer devices like the iPad and Android phones- that’s a risky proposition, but it’s a fact. Now, corporations have to figure out how to mitigate that risk.

Other companies see opportunity in mobility.  Ubiquitous devices mean more working hours per employee, for no extra cost; faster customer response times; and more impressive sales presentations, with lower per-device infrastructure costs.

Best Practices?

Despite what research companies like Gartner and Forrester may have you believing, there are no best practices yet that we have see, because EM is so fluid that each enterprise must successfully scope, plan and implement their own mobility solution.  One reason for this is that each company has it’s own array of infrastructure, applications, data centers, users, and business needs that has grown slowly, organically, often over decades.  Even for companies in the same industry, the IT ecosystem can be as different as the Serengeti desert and the Amazon rain forest.

A second reason companies must tailor their EM solution is that the mobility landscape moves at consumer speeds, not enterprise speeds- light years faster.  It will be a fluid space for the foreseeable future. As proof, I regularly consult with companies that are still (11 years later) running Windows XP, and email and database servers that are between 5 and 10 years past their end-of-life.  In contrast, Apple silently pushes iOS  versions about once every three months, or more.


What can you do to protect yourself and your organization from poor decisions?   Email me for a free white paper with my ten key recommendations from our experience in the trenches of Fortune 100 companies.

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