Enterprise mobility evolved

S FLEXIBILITY.gifAnalyst firm Aberdeen Group published its latest enterprise mobility report, which noted that the market is gradually transforming as mobility becomes a core enterprise enabler, rather than being a niche play for certain job roles and dominant in certain vertical markets. Interestingly, some of the trends seem to go against what would be best-practise for enterprise IT departments, although the companies identified as "best in class" were often those who had taken a more open approach to enterprise mobility, rather than those attempting to hold back the tide.

The headline advice was that as the device hardware and software picture becomes more complicated, "organisations must implement a comprehensive management strategy that acknowledges the realities of today's mixed mobile platform environment". Of the 200 organisations that participated in the study, more than 70% support more than one mobile platform -- and there has also been an increase in the number of personal devices used for work purposes.

The growth of employee supplied devices has in-part been driven by the recession, with companies seeking to reduce capital costs related to mobility by transferring support costs to operational budgets, and the equipment acquisition and operator access costs to the end user. As mobile devices are seen as personal productivity tools, there is an argument that these should be chosen by employees based on their individual needs and not necessarily the needs of the larger organisation.

Among the best performing companies surveyed, it was noted that "mobility management has become the essential tool for top performers to drive down support costs, improve the performance of their mobility infrastructure, and increase the security and protection of their organisation's data". An enterprise mobility management strategy should incorporate complete mobile lifecycle management from procurement to decommissioning, including outsourced support services where appropriate, mobile data and transmission security policies and enforcement, and adherence to government, regulation and compliance requirements.
Aberdeen Group also noted the emergence of new models for mobile application software, which it said are "distinctly different from the models of the past". Rather than "simply" being middleware enabled bridges to back-end legacy suites such as sales or service automation or enterprise resource management applications, the emerging model "scrapes" highly-targeted information from wherever it may be stored, whether behind the firewall or across the public internet, with these lightweight apps being "particularly adept at delivering specific information exactly where and when it is needed".

There is a lot of difference evident between best-in-class enterprise mobile deployments (the top 20%) and the laggards (the bottom 30%). For the best-in-class, total cost of ownership of mobility initiatives is $213 per user, compared with $752 for the laggards. This may in-part be impacted by economies of scale, with technology costs spread over a wider user base -- best-in-class companies provide mobile access for 83% of employees, compared with 28% for the laggards.

Among the best-in-class, there is also an increased focus on making mobility a core driver for internal process change, with 34% of respondents stating that this is a strategic goal, compared with 23% for mid-tier and laggard companies. Interestingly, the leaders are also less worried about controlling the types of devices with enterprise access, (31%, compared with 42% in other businesses), with Aberdeen noting that "organisations with lesser performance were trying to hold back the influx of mobile devices through restrictive compliance measures that reduced the business value of their enterprise mobility investment without delivering the operational effiencies that the best-in-class have captured".

Aberdeen Group's comprehensive report, Enterprise Mobile Strategies 2010 -- More Productivity, Same Budget, can be downloaded here.
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