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How Enterprise Mobility Can Run You Into a Brick Wall in 2017 — and How to Go Right Through it

December 14, 2016

It’s no secret that mobile devices simplify our lives in countless ways, and that number seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. That’s good news for enterprises, because by using mobile to provide their employees greater flexibility and mobility, they can tap into this unique opportunity to cut costs and improve their bottom line.

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While we’ve all been accessing work emails from our phones for some time now, there are newer developments for bringing mobile in the workplace: like using cloud storage to share files across time zones or tablets to participate in video conference calls (or even as ultra-portable laptops). And just as any new development has its challenges, so does enterprise mobility.

1. Security

The biggest challenge any workplace faces is security. As the world’s economy has shifted from physical manufacturing to services, the intellectual property of businesses has become their most valuable asset. Allowing your employees to access that intellectual property from anywhere in the world does make working outside of the office more convenient, therefore helping employees with their productivity. However, it also greatly increases the likelihood of access for malicious purposes. Every mobile device becomes a risk for malware, ransomware and hacking — not to mention good old-fashioned theft.

As employees become more reliant on their mobile devices to do their work, what happens if those devices are stolen or compromised? First you need to worry about protecting the company’s assets, but the employees also end up being effectively useless until they can get a device replacement.

And government data regulations and class action lawsuits mean companies need to be aware of where their data is being derived from and stored, how secure its encryption is and who is able to access it and under what circumstances. All of these issues need to be rigidly enforced, which can be a challenge when employees refuse to follow basic security guidelines around the strength of their passwords, take extra-care of their devices or activate remote lock and wipe features in the case of loss.

2. Integration with Legacy Systems

To truly take advantage of enterprise mobility, businesses need to be able to integrate them with their legacy systems. With some systems that were implemented more than a decade ago, and designed in a time when a smartphone was a regular phone with a QWERTY keyboard, this can be a huge challenge. Fundamentally, these systems were never designed to handle the kind of interactions that are being forced upon them by the ever-changing front end.

While mobile plays a role for 73% of organizations, nearly half of businesses identify back end integration (43%) as a top challenge for mobile app development, according to new research from Red Hat. Upgrading these systems and integrating the back end is one of the most substantial challenges that enterprises face, and ensuring that whatever they bring in as a replacement is capable of being upgraded is equally important as future mobile development is likely to continue to advance in unpredictable ways.

3. Cross-Platform Support

While upgrading the back end, an important point to consider is what devices you need to be capable of supporting. Employees are increasingly using a combination of smartphones and tablets along with their regular desktops/laptop PCs. This means there is a rapidly expanding combination of operating systems, devices and apps that businesses need to support, making sure that none of these has security flaws or usability issues.

To address this multitude of devices, employers need to develop a mobile strategy which outlines which apps and devices they are going to use and support. Part of this solution will also mean deciding on their policy regarding who provides the devices. The most common solutions are:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), where employees own their device
  • Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), where employees own their device, but select from a range decided by the business
  • Company-Owned Personal Enabled (COPE), where employees are provided with a device that they may use personally, outside of work

Each of these possible solutions has a litany of risks and rewards that will need to be considered for your organisation. BYOD provides employees with the greatest freedom, but will place the highest burden on your technical support. COPE eases the burden on technical support and ensures greater reliability and security, but employees may have uses for their device outside of work that aren’t supported by the device provided. COPE also raises concerns around privacy, as the business may unwittingly have access to the employee’s personal information. CYOD may be the compromise that solves the problem, or the worst of both worlds. Every organization needs to figure this out for themselves.

Once you have decided how you are going to support the devices, you can then build your strategy around standardizing your governance and standards for app development and usage.

4. Inelegant User Experiences

The final layer to consider on top of this strategy is the user experience (UX) of enterprise mobile apps. Developing an app for organization-wide adoption will be a complex task as it involves a large number of stakeholders. It’s important to treat enterprise apps the same way as consumer apps and provide employees and customers with the same polished, intuitive user interface (UI) that a user of a consumer app has come to expect.

Enterprise apps don’t have the best reputation – they’re known for being slow, impersonal and complex to use. One potential solution to this problem is to allow commonly-used applications in the business to be personalized by each work area, and even down to each employee. But being able to achieve this ‘consumerization’ requires testing various usability patterns, studying what actually drives mobile app engagement and understanding how end users like to interact with their mobile devices.

Stay Motivated and Tackle your Mobility Challenges

The most important challenge that businesses will face with enterprise mobility is exactly as it sounds; the challenge of being mobile. Businesses will need to be agile, welcoming change and willing to adapt to the latest technology. They will need to embrace these changes to remain competitive. There’s no point going through all the work to develop a mobile platform if it doesn’t help transform the way the employees work.

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