Managing the Mobile Enterprise: It's a Balancing Act

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February 2012
In This Issue:

"Continual miniaturization of computing, sustained demand and innovation in the mobile telephony space, and a maturing global infrastructure have all converged to land us squarely in the era of ubiquitous computing and connectivity."

-- Joseph Feller, Editor

Lately, my family has been watching a lot of films from the 1970s and 1980s -- a parenting endeavor in order to educate our growing kids with a little insight into our own youth. Some films are as good as I remember, others have dated poorly, and some, I must admit, were obviously never any good. But they all have something very much in common: phone booths and big tabletop phones abound -- there is not a Bluetooth headset or smart device in sight!

It's a sharp contrast to the world of 2012. Continual miniaturization of computing, sustained demand and innovation in the mobile telephony space, and a maturing global infrastructure have all converged to land us squarely in the era of ubiquitous computing and connectivity. This is a definitive example of disruptive technology, changing the way many of us live both in our personal and professional lives.

In this issue of Cutter Benchmark Review, we seek to get a grasp on how organizations are responding to ubiquitous computing and connectivity. The current issue grew out of insights from two prior CBR issues. First, last year (Vol. 11, No. 5), we explored tablet adoption and use. It was obvious then that our respondents were generally excited about the newest members of the smart mobile device family. It was also clear that we neither really knew what to use them for nor how we could effectively integrate them into enterprise infrastructures, policies, and workflows. These same insights were reinforced in this year's annual IT trends issue (Vol. 12, No. 1), where again we saw how the rise of truly mobile computing was challenging organizations to meet new IT infrastructure and management challenges.

As regular readers of CBR know, for each issue we enlist two authors, one from academia and the other from industry, to craft a survey and help us make sense of the results. To aid us in understanding how organizations are managing today's mobile revolution, we were fortunate to get two contributors with a rich and diverse range of experiences in the enterprise mobile space. Together, they previously coauthored an article on the mobile Web for a 2010 issue of Cutter IT Journal (Vol. 23, No. 8), where they examined the "Web as platform"; based on that article, I was eager to get them both on board for this issue of CBR.

Our academic author is Simon Woodworth, a colleague of mine and lecturer in business information systems at University College Cork, Ireland. Simon is an interesting specimen of scholar, having come to academia after 15 years working in the telecom sector. In my experience, this background is obvious, as Simon consistently brings to bear a concrete, no-nonsense practicality to both his teaching and research. He is also a tinkerer at heart; there are enough tablets and smartphones on his desk to rival an electronics storefront, and he has explored the limits of each -- particularly in terms of integration with enterprise systems -- to the fullest.

Simon opens his article with the provocative question, "What happens at the edge of your enterprise?" For me, this cuts to the chase: mobility and ubiquity are disruptive because they blur the boundaries of the organization and its enterprise systems. As we've seen in the past (think e-business/e-commerce), when the boundaries blur, innovation and growth are close behind. After examining this issue's survey responses in terms of platform adoption -- and the possible market pressures behind the numbers -- Simon looks at virtualization. He argues that although virtualization may allow us to manage the platform challenge better, the survey indicates that awareness of this potential is still a bit low. His analysis continues with the assessment of two key tradeoffs: (1) convenience versus security and (2) native apps for devices versus the mobile Web. In both instances, Simon paints a clear picture of the survey data and offers excellent advice and insights. Next, he explores infrastructure issues, development decisions, and the emerging role of the cloud, before concluding with some practical advice for managers and strategists on connecting the edge of the enterprise back to the center.

Our practitioner author, also from Ireland, is Rohan Beckles, cofounder and VP of Technology at UniVirtua Ireland Limited. Rohan draws on 14 years' experience in industry, particularly his work with UniVirtua's Majic Mobile Platform, to help us understand the survey data. Although both authors broadly agree in what the survey explicitly tells us, Rohan's article complements Simon's well with a rich collection of insightful analysis and practical advice.

After discussing survey data on platform preferences, and his own predictions on where the market is heading, Rohan looks closely at what the survey reveals about enterprise policies and toolkits. He offers solid advice on mobile device management (MDM) tools, "bring your own device" (BYOD) management policies, and, most of all, the comparative advantages and complementary roles of different security mechanisms. Rohan follows this with a compelling discussion about the intersection between mobility and other technology spaces, including virtualization, open source software, the cloud, and the Web. In each instance, he is not afraid to make predictions or provide straight-talking recommendations for what CIOs should be thinking about as they tackle the mobile challenge.

For me, as the title of my introduction suggests, our survey paints a picture of organizations struggling with a wide range of balancing acts. Specifically, they must balance: their legacy platform investment with consumer demand and future platform trends; enterprise security with employee and customer convenience; device proliferation with robust centralized management; the cost of developer resources with the value created by apps; multiple simultaneous forays into the cloud, virtualization, and mobile spaces; and so on.

The data in this issue, and the keen insights provided by Simon and Rohan, should help your organization handle these balancing acts. The survey provides a useful snapshot of what your peers are thinking and doing, and our authors have done an excellent job in exploring both the antecedents behind and the implications of our data. I hope you'll agree!

ABOUT THE EDITOR

In this issue of Cutter Benchmark Review, we seek to get a grasp on how organizations are responding to ubiquitous computing and connectivity. Our survey paints a picture of organizations struggling with a wide range of balancing acts. The data in this issue, and the keen insights provided by Simon Woodworth and Rohan Beckles, should help your organization in managing today's mobile revolution. The survey provides a useful snapshot of what your peers are thinking and doing, and our authors have done an excellent job in exploring both the antecedents behind and the implications of our data.