Most companies have been substantially increasing their mobile workforces over the past year or two as mobile technology (i.e., laptops, smartphones, wireless connectivity) has become less costly and more capable. In fact, we expect 75% of enterprise workers to be mobile at least 25% of the time within the next couple of years. Despite this increase in mobility, less than 35% of companies have an Enterprise Mobile Strategic Plan in place. The vast majority of companies undertake individual, one-off projects to fill specific requirements when it comes to deploying mobile apps to end users, generally without regard to the impact on overall capabilities within the wider organization. Not only is this not very cost effective, it ultimately prevents the company from being proactive with newly available technologies and capabilities that could be used across the entire organization. This practice dramatically limits the company's options and, ultimately, its competitive position.
Organizations should get out of this end-user- or line-of-business-driven reaction mode and focus on more strategic issues. They should begin immediately to craft a true enterprise-wide mobile strategy. This strategy should take into account not only what is available from a technology perspective -- now and in the next two to three years -- but should also focus on defining what the business needs are, what users need in order to do their jobs, and how the user/business requirements will change over the next few years. Indeed, the whole point of the strategy is to focus not on today but on where the company needs to be in the future in order to remain competitive and function effectively. Areas to explore include the diversification of devices and user needs (no one device fits all needs); which technologies will enhance business processes (and which will add true ROI to the company, not just cost); and how the mobile technologies, users and components can be effectively integrated, managed and secured to prevent data loss, assure compliance and provide for application updates, provisioning, antivirus, firewalls and so on.
IT groups generally focus on technology solutions but often fail to take into account what the long-term (i.e., three to five years) business needs might be and how the business climate could change. For this reason, any strategy committee/effort must include a variety of representatives from diverse groups within the company (e.g., IT, line of business, HR, support, telecomm, legal) and should obtain key management buy-in. The resulting strategy must also be coupled with any other technology strategies within the company (e.g., networks, telecomm, security, help desk).
One of the best ways to achieve a mobile strategy is to create a mobile strategy committee and conduct a strategy workshop as a first step. We have worked with a number of companies to facilitate strategy sessions and have found through experience that key elements of the agenda for this mobile workshop should include:
- Line of Business (LOB) Mobility Requirements
- Inventory of existing mobile solutions by business group
- Three-year vision of LOB future needs
- Mobile Technology Trends and Opportunities
- Overview of major trends in mobility
- Existing infrastructure vs. future needs
- Securing the mobile business
- Technology/budget/resource requirements/suggestions
- Strategic Plan
- Define objectives, results, risks/opportunities
- Recommendation to management
Once the initial workshop is completed, the strategy group should have enough content to flesh out the complete strategic plan and present it to management for approval. Once approved, this plan becomes the basis of a mobile strategy for the entire organization that will maximize ROI and corporate efficiency while setting the company's long-term direction. Companies must understand, however, that mobile technology is still changing quite rapidly, and therefore the strategy must be evaluated and revised on a regular basis. Nevertheless, a mobile strategy is the company's best defense against competitive pressures and a rapidly diversifying workforce.
About the author: Jack Gold is founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, a Northborough, Mass.-based analyst firm focusing on wireless and mobile issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.