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Taking advantage of the next generation of mobility

TECHNOLOGY BULLETIN  | 

As the workplace expands further beyond the office, embracing mobility has become a necessity for businesses of all sizes. Mobility is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution, and your organization must maintain a comprehensive, flexible policy to account for technology advances and evolving user expectations. The new wave of options requires more oversight and presents challenges for IT, but the right strategy can greatly improve efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction.

Current workplace mobility trends
Many businesses are implementing a hybrid mobility model to align with evolving employee demand. In this scenario, employees can take advantage of a "bring your own device" (BYOD) option, but a catalog approach is also available, with multiple company-provided devices and operating systems to choose from. With this hybrid approach, workers can choose whether they want corporate data on their device, or physical separation between their work and personal phone.

In building a catalog of choices, this approach actually creates a "choose your own device" (CYOD) option, creating choice for employees for their device and mobile support, depending on their needs and situation. To account for the different possibilities, IT must map different technology options for different user personas and different types of employees.

In addition to creating options, companies also have increased their reliance on IT to maintain a high level of data protection, application standardization and a seamless user experience across multiple devices. The new mobility demands require IT staff to take on additional responsibilities to manage multiple operating systems, and the various nuances between different devices and versions of mobile software.

Supporting multiple device standards (or no defined standard at all) requires additional complexity and burden at the corporate IT level, elevating it away from the employees. Users are typically only concerned with simplicity and the devices and apps functioning as intended. Across increasing levels of fragmentation, IT must ensure that corporate data is deployed and managed securely across all devices, and that the solutions are adding value to existing business processes and general productivity.

The importance of a modern mobility policy
A general enterprise mobility policy embraces advanced technology and reduces the reliance on working in a specific place. Without an enterprise policy, the perception, or possibly the reality, may be that the only place to work is in the office. Times have changed, and so have employees and their expectations. Your mobility policy must evolve to support the "work from anywhere" mindset that many employees are adopting, and that brings more efficiency to the organization.

A strong mobility policy can also protect your organization. For instance, some companies may think they have a thorough BYOD policy by simply enabling the technology, but actually have not created any human resources (HR) or security restriction policies to protect the data, and therefore, the liability of the company. A comprehensive mobility policy extends beyond data security to the liability for any deployed solutions. In other cases, companies will provide employees with mobility options, give users what they want and then back away. However, a true mobility strategy must include significant input and support from the legal, HR and IT teams.

Mobility risks and challenges
With breaches on the rise, data protection is very important; without the right solutions in place to protect employee or corporate data, as soon as a device leaves the building, any control stops. In many cases, corporate IT no longer has any visibility of data once it is downloaded onto the phone.

Any data security vulnerabilities could trigger compliance failures, especially in the financial services, insurance and banking industries. Several compliance requirements dictate that organizations must have control of any sensitive data that enters any type of device, regardless of the owner. In the event of a data breach, you won't know if data has been lost or stolen unless you have full visibility into data on all devices that can access it.

An insufficient mobility policy could also cause personnel issues. With current employee expectations, the best talent typically won't stay at a company with a subpar mobility policy. Technology has also become a key factor in campus recruiting, as new members of the workforce take innovation for granted and are dependent on technology. Companies suffer significant consequences because of outdated technology and processes, and they may not even realize they need to adapt to changing user demand. Users will find a way around policies, sometimes to the detriment of security, or they will find another company to work for.

Implementing a modern mobility policy
When developing a mobility policy, you must start with a high-level view of the departments that must be engaged and what the strategy seeks to accomplish. The technology selection comes later; if you start with technology first, it is extremely difficult to backtrack once devices are in the field and change how employees work by implementing controls and adding more protections.

Your organization must define its requirements up front, and establish employee expectations. Thinking through the policy from an HR and IT standpoint and what information should be secured on the phone is important before developing any type of implementation road map. Setting clear expectations helps show that you understand how critical mobile devices are and also helps garner trust when employees know that they are supported.

Implementing mobility solutions such as Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) can integrate additional security, controlling everything from a particular email message to any attachments included. This platform includes single sign-on to different cloud applications, mobile device management and a higher level of information protection. Implementing EMS before enabling email and other work functions provides full visibility and control of company information on any device, allowing your organization to protect its data and audit against the desired level of access.

Unfortunately, many companies do not have the staffing or experience on staff to implement a thorough mobility policy. Consulting with an experienced advisor can help your business understand its needs and capabilities, involve the right departments, provide a barometer of the success of mobility strategies at peer organizations and map out a comprehensive strategy.     

The future of mobility
The common technology structure with a desktop or laptop computer serving as an employees' sole device is going away. Workers use smartphones as their primary device more often, especially if they travel frequently or work remotely. Tablets are also becoming more than just consumption devices with the integration of more robust software suites, and new hybrid devices provide the functionality of a laptop with the mobility of a tablet. As time goes by, employees may only go back to a desktop or laptop for significant document edits.

With employees wanting to use their own device, and with differences in mobile platforms and devices, the demand for mobile developers will continue to increase. Additionally, a new breed of talent is necessary to map applications and devices to user personas and businesses processes, while developing new strategies to increase efficiency through mobility.

The need for mobility is not going away; worldwide smartphone usage is projected to double by 2020, with 70 percent of the population utilizing devices.1 Therefore, you must carefully evaluate employee and organizational needs when designing a mobility solution and involve several different parties to increase security and reduce liability. Focusing on the strategy before the technology, and performing the proper due diligence first, can help develop a mobility approach that dramatically increases access and productivity.

1 "Ericsson Mobility Report: 70 percent of world's population using smartphones by 2020," Ericsson, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.ericsson.com/news/1925907.