Mobilizing Companies in Asia-Pacific: A Look into the Enterprise Mind

Tim Dillon
Tim Dillon

Summary Bullets:

  • BYOD is a distraction that prevents companies from thinking clearly about mobility.  Companies seeking to drive benefits from mobility within the organization are those that have moved beyond the ‘which device are you using?’ discussion.  Instead, the ones creating efficiencies, competitive advantage and positive change are those that have concentrated on mobilizing business processes – sales, marketing, suppliers, internal communications and executives.
  • Organisations still struggle with business cases for mobility; for many, the starting point has been a CEO lasciviously fondling an iPad and wanting to use it at work.  For an effective mobility deployment, companies need to create employee profiles, risk assessments and use-case scenarios that are holistic in nature and span devices, policy, infrastructure, applications and security.

As Advisory Analyst in Asia-Pacific to the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, I had the pleasure of chairing the two-day inaugural Asia-Pacific event held in Singapore during April 2013.  This post attempts to capture the key areas of discussion and highlight important takeaways for all IT managers struggling with the challenges of mobility.

Asia-Pacific enterprises are no different than their global cousins,  and yet…: As you will read, many of the issues confronting Asia-Pacific companies are similar to those being addressed by others elsewhere.  What does make Asia-Pacific different as a region is the exhilarating growth in smart device activations, the ridiculously huge size of the market and the relatively young population base under 30 in many countries throughout the region.  These factors push Asia-Pacific to the front of the mad rush to embrace mobility around the globe.

Mobility excites and frustrates in equal measure: The ubiquitous and personal nature of mobile devices brings a different dynamic to enterprise technology decisions and deployments, making it harder for companies to assess mobility initiatives pragmatically.  For many employees, the smartphone and/or tablet are integral to their private life; apps, communications, access, media, cloud and compute are wrapped within varied degrees of personalisation.  These devices create challenges as they move into the enterprise environment, particularly when the instigator of the deployment is a senior executive or CEO clutching their personal device and demanding to use it at work.  Regardless, there is an implicit (sometimes irrational) belief that mobility, even if poorly executed, will bring benefits to the organisation; some are just not sure what or how.

IT does not always ‘own’ mobility: For many companies, the genesis of a mobility strategy is outside the IT group; the owners are line-of-business executives or groups that do not always have an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of technology deployments and issues.  Instead, these groups are focusing on mobile deployments to meet a business need; traditional IT business cases and architectures are not always considered and reflected in deployments.  There was a considered view that CIOs and IT directors need to be more proactive in managing the mobility landscape (similar to other parts of the IT environment) rather than reactively picking up the mess when it goes wrong.

Mobility is not about mobility… it’s about the business: There was a clear understanding that true value lies in supporting the business, particularly when focused on mobilising processes around one or more of the following:

  • Customer engagements – e.g., delivering services to customers outside of normal office hours or to their own homes;
  • Internal efficiencies – e.g., processing vendor invoices or employee forms;
  • Bringing new products and services to market – e.g., using mobile applications and delivery to create disruptive services;
  • Improved communications & collaboration – e.g., enabling true work-from-anywhere architectures for employees and customer engagements.

BYOD and CoIT: No discussion on mobility is without reference to the trend around BYOD (‘bring your own device’) and the ‘consumerisation of IT’ (i.e., the entry of consumer technology into the business IT environment), a polarising topic with delegates either embracing it wholeheartedly or seeking ways to arrest its progress inside their company.  However, for all organisations present, BYOD was a legitimate force impacting on their organisations.  A pragmatic approach was favoured by many present: assess their business priorities; determine which roles and functions were best suited to mobility; and develop employee policies that support either BYOD or corporate-liable device environments.  Regardless, many acknowledged that CoIT had heightened the expectations placed upon their IT groups and functions, creating greater operational stress.

Apps, not security, the biggest challenge: Companies face a range of issues from effective policy to security and business case development.  However, for many present, the most significant issue was that the rapid pace of development within the mobility space renders projects and initiatives obsolete – even when using an Agile apps development model.  Couple this with the poorly understood lifecycle management requirement of mobile apps and it is unsurprising many companies expressed concerns regarding the effectiveness of their mobile apps strategies.

Hybrid apps rule: The mobile apps discussion flowed into related territory around whether native or HTML5 was a more effective development option.  The majority present favoured a hybrid approach with critical, high-performance applications being developed natively (mostly in-house) and less performance-demanding apps based around HTML5.  In response to the costs and complexities of apps development, many present were keen on discussing the concept of ‘disposable apps’ for non-core initiatives.

Security: MDM is rapidly commoditizing, and for many players, it is a race to the bottom.  Businesses expect security, but unless their operating environment requires it (and by this I mean legally demands it), too often security is a box ticking exercise.  At least, it is until the solution is deployed, costs far more than expected on a per-seat basis and typically degrades the user experience.  Then it is a nuisance.

Organisations need to approach mobility with a focus on business outcomes rather than treating mobility as an isolated technology solution.  They must be clear around business value and outcomes, create measurable metrics around KPIs and TCO, and ensure that any vendor assessment process is robust enough to ensure longevity of supply in a rapidly changing environment.  Mobilization of business processes will become the most critical component of enterprise mobility.

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