There is light beyond the cloud of enterprise mobile challenges.
A recent article in BigThink listed the 7 components of a mobile first strategy. The one that most resonated with me was ‘Make it easy to work for you too’. It speaks about “Rather than have customer service reps tied to a computer at a counter, you can give them a tablet with key apps that enable them to help customers on the floor in real time.” This means that empowering your employees with Mobile apps helps in customer engagement directly or indirectly. A survey on mobile strategy revealed that most CIOs have not got a prioritized mobile strategy. ‘6% of CIOs responded that they use a blend of apps and mobile-friendly web pages, and 11% favor creating mobile-friendly web pages over apps’. Clearly there is a need for prioritizing mobile as the pressure from employees and business is increasing. In a recent report, Gartner mentioned ‘Through 2016, mobile devices and applications will continue to offer many opportunities for commercial and technical innovation.’ And the pressure for innovation is heavy on today’s CIO more than ever before. How does the IT department deliver ‘efficiencies inside the organization and at the same time deliver innovate products and services for customers?’ They need to act fast and with cost efficiencies to increase employee productivity, company revenue and in some cases gain new customers. But, the world of mobile is complex – with multiple devices, network providers and the vicissitudes of mobile technology. Once it is deconstructed with the following three foundation stones, the implementation becomes fast and most efficient. BYOD or company provided devices? Every employee dreams of the day when they can do most job functions on their phone without being tethered to a company provided laptop. A manager wants to approve vacations on the fly, a sales person wants to submit expense reports while on the move and a field service person wants to update inventory as they dispatch goods. The foremost question is should the company incur the cost of providing and maintaining devices or should the employee be responsible for their own devices (BYOD). While the former might mean that each employee has to toggle between their personal devices and that of the organization, it would also provide organizations with complete control over the devices and the data – PII data, Customer/revenue information or any other propriety details. On the other hand, it would mean tedious user experience for employees and loss in productivity as they switch between devices. But is it possible to protect company data and information on an employee’s personal device? The answer is Yes. Today, there are technologies available in the marketplace (Good Technology, Air Watch, Mobile Ironhttps://www.mobileiron.com/en etc.) that segregates personal information of the employees and the company data in two separate containers. The employee must agree to the organization terms of control over the company data. They should also be assured about how their personal information cannot be accessed by the organization and once they quit the organization, the employer container would be deleted. Having said that, one should be aware about the increasing cost of supporting multitude of devices and versions of devices. A good place to start is to limit it to two major devices (iphone and Android rule the market) and (N-2) versions ( eg, iphone 6 and iphone 5s etc.) In case of employer providing the devices these principles of enterprise device management, the actual devices and versions supported still hold true. Reference Architecture/Dev tools for Applications In order for IT to deliver the capability on a mobile device, they need to understand 1. What do they want the user to do on the user interface? 2. What does this application integrate with? And 3. Will the user have Internet connectivity at all times? There are multiple ways to build the application user interface 1. By coding in a language that the device can understand for eg, iOS platform for iPhones and Android platform for any Android based devices – this is called native application development. It would also mean that transportability across devices is expensive since once you start coding for an iPhone, you would stick to an iPhone in future since the cost of switching to Android is prohibitive. Is there a less expensive way to go about achieving this? The answer lies in a platform agnostic mobile development that is extensible. What this means is that you can develop your application in a language that can be understood across iphone or Android devices. It also means employing development tools and techniques that are widely adoptable in the industry and have easy integration protocols. It can also be used as a platform that easily supports both disconnected and connected use cases. HTML5/Angular JS are the trending development tools in this category. But, a prototype of building your use case with this will determine what other native app components are required. There are also limitations of this platform since it does not support all native application functionalities for example, it cannot use the camera of your device. In case your application needs the camera of your phone then a little bit of native code needs to be written. This is termed the Hybrid approach – where most of the application is developed in a standard device-agnostic development platform and incorporate a little bit of native code for specific use cases. Blueprints for ImplementationImplementing an enterprise mobile platform requires at a minimum the following components 1.Single Sign-On –Enterprise Single Sign-On enables user credentials across local and network boundaries so that end users do not have to remember different login credentials for different apps. MDM tools like MobileIron Tunnel have the capability to work with your identity management system and enable this functionality 2.Security standards – Ensure device access control that protects the device and requires successful recognition of password, pattern swipe, biometric scan etc. Data Loss Prevention software uses encrypted on-device data storage (“containerization”), policy-defined cut-and-paste controls (to prevent data “leakage”), and/or website access control via URL filtering to restrict the intentional or inadvertent non-compliant sharing of protected content. For Application security, the MDM tool provides the ability to whitelist or blacklist the applications that are secure or unsecure. Location Sensing and network – As Gartner states “Over the next three years, demands on the Wi-Fi infrastructure will increase as more Wi-Fi-enabled devices appear in organizations, as cellular offloading becomes more popular and as applications such as location sensing demand denser access-point placement.” Enterprises need to consider the capabilities of the network provider and ensure they support the necessary demand and provide upgrade paths.Conclusion: Every organization needs to lay out the three key elements of Mobile Strategy for faster turnaround time for business requests. Understand and incorporate a device policy – BYOD or Organization provided devices along with standard Device management tools (MobileIron, AirWatch etc)An enterprise Application Platform – This platform should be device agnostic that will help in reducing Total cost of ownership along with easy switching between iPhone and Android devices.Having a standardized template for implementation will help you to be agile and nimble. Security, single-sign on, network and device management are needed for every implementation and it would be ideal to have them in place and tweak according to the use case at hand.Enterprises that embrace the mobile era are winning the game. There is something for everyone in it – whether it is the CEO who looks towards innovative growth or the employee, whose least worry is to fill administrative forms tethered to a laptop.