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Implementing an effective mobility road map to mitigate risk and increase revenue


Note: This article is the second in a series about adopting and managing an effective mobility strategy. Read the first article from the winter 2012 Technology Bulletin, “Five reasons to re-evaluate your mobile security policy.”

The integration of mobile devices into organizations is increasing, allowing instant access for employees to work from anywhere at any time and stronger relationships with customers. However, many companies do not know where to start when implementing a comprehensive mobility plan and what facets must be included. The following are the basic elements of an effective mobility road map, designed to protect an organization against risk, streamline processes and increase sales.

1. Mobile device user policy
The first step is to implement a mobile device user policy, firmly establishing boundaries to protect the organization. Many businesses have begun to look at having a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, allowing employees to use their personal phones or tablets to access the company network. Security risks arise when users leave to pursue another job or when a device is lost or stolen, and business information is not removed. A clear understanding with the employee must exist that no matter whether it is a company-provided device or a personal device, that the device can be monitored and wiped out if necessary.

2. Mobile device management platform
Once you have your usage policies in place, implement a mobile device management platform to monitor devices and maintain security measures. Many employees use their devices for email, and practical controls should be implemented to protect against threats when a device is synced to the company network. Several device management solutions are available, such as MobileIron and Good Technology, but a platform must effectively work within the environment and controls you want to establish.

From a security perspective, a key differentiator between mobile device management platforms is in the ability to provide a containerized approach to delivering corporate information. Good Technology, for example, has been very successful with government entities and businesses that require higher security due to their containerized environment. That means email and other company documents are all stored in a separate container, and data cannot be moved to other local apps on a device.

The benefit of this strategy is that a container can easily be erased, removing all information at once and preventing data leakage from documents that are viewed through other apps. There are flaws, as users can forward emails to a personal account, but companies can monitor this administratively.

Another concept you must be aware of with mobile device management is the threat of jailbreaking. Users jailbreak their phones to add customizations or tether other devices, but this can present a significant security risk. While the setup of the device is changed, malware or other dangerous applications may be installed. If a user is running malicious software, each time they access the corporate network could potentially be used by a hacker as a backdoor into the organization. However, mobile device management software packages can check the status of phones to detect jailbreaking through a series of tests.

3. A mobility strategy for your organization
A mobility strategy also must define how technology is used to enable employees. Many organizations only use mobile devices for email and calendaring; that is useful, but those capabilities have existed on laptops for quite some time. Mobile devices can provide a higher level of functionality, bringing additional value to the business and better serving customers.

Mobile devices can provide instant access to document sharing repositories, allowing employees to work collaboratively on a real-time basis. Leading customer relationship management (CRM) providers such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM have introduced Chatter and Yammer respectively, social applications that allow increased communication between employees. The level of collaborative abilities has never been higher, if enabled and configured correctly. These features can generate more sales and revenue by increasing access to and visibility of critical information.

Field force enablement is another potential component of a mobility strategy, as employees working remotely can record information instantly on a mobile device rather than with hard copy reports or by carrying laptops. Functions such as asset and inventory control are becoming more streamlined, transmitting information quickly and easily. Another example is the transformation of many retail stores, eliminating lines at registers where every employee is a salesperson. This strategy builds a better and more direct relationship with the customer.

The level of convenience mobile devices provide for employees cannot be understated. Mobility allows people to work from anywhere. The office has become an airport gate, a hotel or any other location where a connection exists. The ability to utilize mobile technology breaks down barriers and allows work to be done effectively in or out of the office.

Finally, a mobility strategy must consider applications that enable your customers to do business with you easier. Mobile applications for airlines are a good example, as apps allow customers to instantly check in to flights; choose a new seat; change flights; and plan future trips. It is easier and less time consuming to perform these tasks with a few clicks on a mobile device, rather than managing them through a series of web pages or at an airline customer service desk. Ease of use, robust information and integration of services generally equate to increased sales.

4. Mobile application development
So how can your business learn from the airlines to build a similar presence? Several factors must be discussed to bridge the gap between the concepts and information you want to provide and launching an app. Companies face a difficult decision of hiring a consultant or training their own staff, when a combination of the two strategies is often a good fit.

Most companies have IT staff with Web development capabilities, and an app can be created using HTML and Java script. Open source technologies such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium allow companies to leverage a much less expensive asset pool to create apps that are compatible with Android, Blackberry, iOS and Windows. Another positive with working with these open source technologies is you are not betting on which mobile platform will be dominant over time. The application generates the code to work on all mobile platforms.

With the increasing capabilities of mobile technologies, many executives struggle with determining the right processes for their company and understanding how to implement an effective mobility strategy. Overlooking important aspects of a mobility road map can result in increased risk exposure or lost opportunities for additional revenue.

Execution is critical when developing a mobility platform for your organization. Many companies know what they want to do, but putting those plans in action is often the challenge. A trusted advisor can help craft an overall strategy, as well as deliver effective customer-facing apps at the end of the process.