Opinion: Mobility – a death knell for the idle enterprise

Opinion: Mobility – a death knell for the idle enterprise

There are several mobility trends that will hasten the death of the idle enterprise:

Today’s IT departments no longer deal with just standard-issued company desktops running on the same operating systems. They deal with a slew of devices from desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets – all with different operating systems, apps and security risks. This BYOD enterprise isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s business as usual and it’s time for the IT community to start treating it as such. It’s no longer a matter of if enterprises will implement mobile policies, it’s when and how.

There are several mobility trends that will hasten the death of the idle enterprise:

Enterprise apps will become the new operating system

The value of applications is fast outpacing that of operating systems. Instead of hearing, “I want a Mac,” we hear, “I want Photoshop.” IT must give employees the applications they need to be productive, without regard for which operating systems or devices (or how many) they’re accessing apps from.

With enterprise apps playing a much larger role in the organisation, IT needs to prioritise mobile application management solutions to track the use of apps to ensure they are accessed properly and utilised effectively by end users.

According to Gartner, “By 2014, most organisations will deliver mobile applications to workers through private application stores.” Many licensing, security and technical challenges face IT in the app-hungry environment, but these tools are critical to productivity. IT needs to shift how they’re managing apps to ensure a secure enterprise, and a seamless user experience.

Managing mobile devices won’t just be giving employees what they want

Gartner predicts that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide in 2013, and only 20 per cent of handsets sold by 2015 will be Windows phones.

Windows may rule the desktop enterprise, but a definitive champion of the mobile enterprise has yet to emerge. Considering BlackBerry’s lack of innovation, Android’s failure to meet compliance concerns, Windows’ success with enterprise desktops and iPhone’s preference among consumers, experts aren’t fully able to predict who will rule the mobile enterprise. BYOD concerns are still growing, and IT administrators are looking at how to secure each different mobile device, the different features of each, and which devices will cause the worst IT headaches.

Before the first iPhone, BlackBerry was long considered the preferred mobile device for power business users. However, BlackBerry’s lack of innovation has put it far behind competitors, but the new BlackBerry Z10 device may put the company back in the running. However, the key for IT departments is to support multiple devices by implementing flexible procedures so that policies do not need to be overhauled each time a new device hits the market.

According to Gartner, many users have [mostly reluctantly] already moved to synchronise their data with Internet-based cloud file synchronisation systems. As the basic offerings were not explicitly meant for enterprise data, they represent numerous security risks for organisations; a factor which IT departments need to take on board when developing their security strategy.

IT will continue to be consumerised

The consumerisation of IT continues to pose a threat to organisations that aren’t making their enterprises BYOD-ready. As users become more technology savvy, they are developing sophisticated preferences in technology – which applications they use on what devices, as well as where and when they conduct work. What started as a few executives asking for policy exceptions for iPads has become a fundamental shift in the relationship between IT and the workforce they serve.

Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda also sees more uptake of software services in the cloud, which will fuel the bring-your-own-application (BYOA) trend.

“This trend in consumerisation will extend to software, in addition to devices," Gedda said. "More consumers are using increasingly sophisticated, cloud-based software to manage their information – everything from document and photo management to social collaboration. This is giving rise to the bring your own app revolution."

The power has been handed to the people, and IT must find a way to keep up. Trying to give users the freedom of choice, while covering your corporate assets to protect sensitive data, competitive IP and client contacts, can be a tricky balance. But an incremental approach to achieving this is possible.

Gartner predicts the end of a Windows-dominated enterprise, as it becomes one of many platforms that IT needs to support. What may be secure for a Windows platform may differ greatly from what is secure for an Android device, and when corporate data is mobile, security risks are much greater. IT is tasked with implementing policies and solutions that can be applied to all platforms, apps and devices.

There is a lot more for IT to juggle in 2013 than there was even two years ago, but with these new devices and technologies, new management tools become available as well. Today’s business environment makes it imperative for IT staff to stay one step ahead of the mobile workforce. Implementing proper solutions and policies to manage these technologies can help ensure a secure enterprise, and as we quickly approach the death of the idle enterprise, IT departments need to act now to make certain corporate data is protected.

Chris Gacesa is a technology specialist at Novell.

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