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Microservices Expo: Article

Has Mobility Rendered Your IT Organizational Structure Out of Date?

The impact of enterprise mobility on day-to-day business operations

To say that mobility is affecting the way enterprises do business is akin to suggesting the planets revolve around the sun. These are not unproven theories, they are undisputed facts. However, while the modern model of the solar system was established long ago, the effects of enterprise mobility on business practices have only much more recently become overwhelmingly apparent.

From interacting with customers to improving employee productivity, mobility - in particular, the use of smart mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets - has proven its mettle as an effective business tool. In fact, a Symantec survey found that many companies are going all in on mobility, with 59 percent of respondents reporting that they are now making their line of business applications available on mobile devices. An even more impressive 71 percent of businesses are looking at implementing a customized corporate "app store" just for mobile applications.

However, for all the benefits of mobility there are clear and present challenges associated with the technology as well. In the same survey, nearly half of the organizations that responded - 48 percent - said they see enterprise mobility as "somewhat to extremely challenging." As a consequence, mobility in general is requiring significant effort to manage. Indeed, an average of 31 percent of IT staff at the organizations surveyed is involved in some way with mobility.

All this begs the question - why are companies finding mobility to be so challenging? There are numerous point answers to this question. These include dealing with employee demand to use personal devices for work and the need to support a fractured market, made up of many operating systems and device manufacturers. However, all these lead back to one overarching reason companies are struggling with mobility: most enterprises are trying to implement mobility while otherwise leaving their IT organizational structure unchanged.

In other words, companies are trying to fit the management and security of enterprise mobility into their existing IT organizational chart. This traditional structure has been well suited to managing PCs and laptops for the past 20 years, but just as Galileo's now famous telescope rendered the notion of a geocentric solar system - or one in which the earth is at the center of the solar system - archaic, so too has enterprise mobility rendered the traditional IT organizational infrastructure inadequate.

To better understand why this is the case, consider the segments that make up a typical traditional enterprise IT organization:

It all begins with a chief information officer. Under the CIO are a number of teams such as network operations, desktop or endpoint operations and application development and deployment. Working in parallel to the CIO is the chief information security officer. Under the CISO, the endpoint security team develops policies and puts technology in place to effectively secure the company's information.

Where does enterprise mobility fall? Regardless of whether we are talking about company-owned or personally owned devices, the answer, unfortunately, is into the gaps between these groups. The very nature of modern mobile technology causes it to span across the traditional IT boundaries.

For example, the desktop or endpoint operations team must be involved with managing mobility because, after all, at the end of the day we are talking about endpoints. However, mobile devices rely on a high degree of connectivity to the network and the cloud, much more so than traditional endpoints. Thus, the network operations should have a say as well. At the same time, mobile devices are nothing without the apps that make them so productive. The application development and deployment team is also in the mix. And we cannot forget that the endpoint security team must be involved to enforce mobility-related security and compliance policies.

In reality, what is happening in most organizations is that no single group is being given charge over mobility, because each plays a part in the mobile environment in some way or another. Even when one of the above teams is given responsibility to oversee mobility, that particular group typically has vastly different priorities than the others that must also be involved. The result is a lack of efficiency and cohesiveness when it comes to enterprise mobility. Or, in other words, the result is nearly half of companies finding mobility to be "somewhat to extremely challenging" as the survey discussed above concluded.

What is the solution? The companies that are most successful at implementing mobility have adapted their overall IT organizational structure to meet the demands of mobility, not the other way around. This begins with a chief mobility officer who operates side by side with the CIO and CISO, or alternatively a director of enterprise mobility who reports directly to the CIO. Either way, under this individual is an enterprise mobility group with the sole mandate to implement, manage and secure mobile technology.

Such an enterprise mobility group oversees all aspects of the mobile environment, from the devices to the apps to the connectivity. This team also enforces CISO-developed policies. There are a few recommendations for developing and operating such a group that are nearly universally applicable. These include:

  • Think strategically when building the organizational model. An ad-hoc enterprise mobility team is not the answer and will only result in partial success. To be highly effective, enterprise mobility groups need to be organized strategically. An organizational model for the team should include details on how to resource the group and the specific mandate or charter they will operate under. In addition, it should also cover the particulars on how they should approach the challenge of overseeing the company's mobile initiatives. This includes the technology and tools - such as mobile device management and mobile application management - they should use, how to segment the user base and identify the needs of each segment, how to implement scalable solutions, how to plan for centralized management and how to phase in integration with existing technology and networks.
  • Involve line of business decision makers. To make an enterprise mobility team successful, business stakeholders must be given direct access to the group's leadership. Doing so will ensure that the policies and strategies the team develops and implements are in line with what those that have feet on the ground actually need. Many companies struggle to achieve the full return on investment possible through mobility because they do not have a clear understanding of what they are trying to accomplish when it comes to mobility.
  • Make improving the user experience a primary goal. Enterprise mobility is a complex topic, but it all boils down to one thing: user productivity. Thus, the user experience must be a focus of the enterprise mobility group. Every facet of the mobile user experience must be accounted for, from on-boarding to app delivery to access and data manipulation. It's all about helping users work smarter and making personal and business activities coexist as seamlessly as possible. Related to this is defining and measuring a new mobile service-level agreement that the team will be held to. It should include users' ability to access to data and apps quickly, the use of a wide variety of platforms and the capability to access data from anywhere.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. One of the worst things that can happen once an enterprise mobility group is created is to allow the team to operate in a vacuum. As previously discussed, mobility crosses over the various divisions within a traditional IT infrastructure. As such, it is imperative that the enterprise mobility group maintains a close working relationship with the rest of IT. It will be difficult for them to effectively do their job if they do not.

It is important to realize that many companies are exploring how they can best take advantage of and streamline mobility. The companies that figure out quickly the benefits of creating a dedicated team to manage enterprise mobility will have a significant advantage over those that do not. In addition, it is important to note that regardless of how far down the path of enabling mobility a company is, it cannot be guaranteed that employees are not already using mobile devices for business. By establishing a team to oversee this use, companies can make sure it happens on their terms.

In short, one doesn't need to be an astronomer to see the impact enterprise mobility can have on day-to-day business operations. Creating a dedicated enterprise mobility group is the next step in maximizing these benefits.

More Stories By Jon Kuhn

Jon Kuhn serves as Director of Product Management for the Enterprise Mobility Group at Symantec, responsible for the mobile security and management products and services. In his role, he focuses on both the enterprise and service provider routes to market, building solutions for on-premises, cloud and carrier deployments. Jon more recently served as Director of Core Security, responsible for Security Suites and Mail & Web Security product lines.

Prior to Symantec, Jon led the product management and marketing teams at SonicWall, a network products and services company and leader in the network security market. There he was responsible managing all aspects of program management and marketing with full P&L ownership. Jon joined SonicWall through the acquisition of Ignyte Technology, a IT consulting company where he was a founding member. With over 14 years in the IT industry, Jon has held a number of roles in product strategy, sales engineering leadership and managed teams in both business and technology consulting.

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