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At this point, it's safe to say enterprise mobility -- from BYOD, wireless connectivity anytime and anywhere, smartphones, tablets and cloud -- is well-established. Mobility is at the center of IT strategies in organizations everywhere, and it's well-supported by a huge range of devices, mobile operating systems, apps, management tools and a variety of services. Costs have never been lower. So, what could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, plenty. Wireless and mobility have come a long way over the past quarter century, but there are still problems that arise from fundamental strategic errors when organizations miss what should be considered the basic requisites for success in the mobile era. Here are some of the major mobility challenges facing IT today, and a few strategies to avoid falling victim to them.
Lacking organizational alignment
It's important for IT administrators to ask themselves regularly what their organizational mission is and what they're working toward. As the old mantra of the design world states, form follows function; likewise, an enterprise mobility strategy must be applied in a manner commensurate with overall goals and objectives.
Despite the prevalence of wireless, a key rule here is if a given network requirement can be addressed via wire, it should be. Mobility challenges arise due to a number of variables that can affect cost, security, integrity and even productivity. Admins must think carefully about why a given activity needs to be mobile and how the resulting capabilities will aid in achieving organizational goals.
Basic policies and agreements IT should have include a security policy, an acceptable-use policy, and a BYOD policy and End-User License Agreement. Policies should also advance overall organizational goals while placing only the absolute minimum burden on users.
Any policy must also be in concert with local compliance regulations. The right policies should foster mutual, organizationwide understanding around any mobility strategy, while avoiding operational errors, many security issues and unanticipated costs down the road.
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Leaving operational details to end users
Users aren't IT experts; they're usually not technologists. They just want simple, reliable tools to help them get their jobs done. Mobile capabilities, therefore, need to be transparent and easy to use, with appropriate support, education, reinforcement, automation and tracking in the form of monitoring and management visibility. Common activities, such as updates and data backup, should be invisible beyond regular connections to the organization's network.
Having too many device choices
It's vital that IT departments limit acceptable and supported user device choices to specified combinations of device and mobile OS releases, with older combinations dropped as newer, more secure, more manageable, more functional -- including newer Wi-Fi and cellular technologies -- and more supportable products appear in the marketplace. All mobile devices go to heaven eventually, and limiting users' device choices dramatically lowers risks and costs for everyone in the organization.
Not having a backup plan in place
When it comes to implementing an enterprise mobility strategy, admins must think about everything that can -- and will -- go wrong, and have a plan to deal with the undesirable possibilities in place from Day 1. IT should have remedies for lost or stolen devices, service outages, compromised access credentials and many more all too common situations, and keep these remedies on the books, publicized as appropriate and carefully tested well before any actual problems occur.
Not using the right tools
Enterprise mobility management is now well-established as the preferred vehicle for IT to control mobile devices, information and overall mobile operations. The containerization of organizational data and assurance of proper device configuration easily justifies the price of admission here -- which, thanks to a very competitive market, is quite low. And IT can also easily and broadly implement enhanced security protocols. Cloud-based tools can also ease the management burden and provide on-demand scalability.
It's also important to understand that IT itself continues to evolve at a rapid pace. What works this year might begin to be a bit long in the tooth in the relatively near future. Organizations should conduct operational reviews no less than twice a year. It is also important for IT to maintain regular contact with vendors -- both current and potential -- to remain appraised of the most current state of the industry.
Mobility, then, shouldn't be a free-for-all, anything goes, we'll-worry-about-it-when-it-breaks affair. The core concerns of IT and overall organizational management remain. Properly executed, though, the gains in workplace productivity -- and beyond -- will offset initial mobility challenges.
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