Why CIOs shouldn’t be afraid of mobile devices?

Posted on: June 6, 2012 by

The lag between the enterprise and the consumer market in the workplace arena is not new.

Back in 2006, one key selling point for Windows Vista was that, for the first time ever, CIOs would be able to deploy a new version of Windows before it was available on the consumer market. This meant that they could offer their employees a workplace environment that was more up to date than what they had at home.

Looking back, few CIOs took the opportunity. And furthermore, it is likely that next Christmas lots of people will buy their new home PC with Windows 8 while still working all day long at their office on a 12-year-old Windows XP environment.

Should we blame our CIOs for that?

No, because most enterprises take rational decisions where 'good enough' and 'cost-effective' take priority over 'glossy' and 'popular'.

No, because employees make a difference between their professional and personal environments.

No, because the real productivity benefits of having nice, semi-transparent browser windows, or the ability to do finger swiping on the screen, are impossible to demonstrate ; or if they are, they might be overwhelmed by the joint ability to install the joke of the day desktop gadget or addictive birds against pigs apps!

Should CIOs keep worrying about that topic?

Yes, because the corporate desktop or laptop is one of the windows through which the employees ‘sees’ their enterprise. It matters in term of ’image’, internally, but also externally - Customers will notice whether the sales rep comes with an old standard laptop or a brand new tablet.

Yes, because the border between 'Personal' and 'Professional' is disappearing. Providing tools with a mixed usage that enable one to work anywhere anytime bring benefits both to the employees (more flexibility) and to the enterprise (people work more).

Yes, because employees using their personal devices to access sensitive enterprise data is a reality. Better to control and manage it rather that ignoring the privacy and security risks it implies, with potentially complex legal and liability issues.

So what should we do?

The answer is rather simple: make sure that your IT architecture become ‘agnostic’ and that any type of device can be safely accepted and securely access the IT services. This has already been done in the network where connectivity from outside is unavoidable. Here the corporate network has been ring-fenced and remote accessibility is fully accepted but controlled and secured. Such "Device-less Corporate IT" would focus on providing IT services, applications and data access that can run from any device and security controls that are also separate from the device.

Such an approach is far from being unrealistic today. The strong trend to move to Cloud and Software as a Service will accelerate the shift from legacy applications requiring heavy clients to light apps that can be accessed from anywhere. The latest infrastructure technologies enable the provision of virtual desktops at an affordable price. Biometric tokens and other new security tools enable the strengthening of security without complex requirements on the device. User maturity is also increasing, with new generations who have grown up with electronic devices that are able to manage, almost autonomously, their machine. And a large awareness of the security risks also ensures behaviors that enable businesses to maintain a reasonable security level without strong controls.

What's next?

Well, it opens up multiple new ways to manage the workplace. All large computers vendors have 'enterprise' product lines and 'home' products lines. The main difference is that enterprise-class products guarantee component stability and availability of management tools without which rolling out and maintaining standard configurations is almost impossible. This also comes with a 20% to 25% price premium that could be easily cut as long as uniform central workplace management is not needed anymore.

BYOD (Bring your own Device) is another possible approach. But behind the flexibility it gives to employees, it also means 'Buy your own’ and raises the temptation to move costs to end-users with limited allowance compensation - if any.

An intermediate approach is CYO (Choose your own), where employees will be given a large, but not unlimited, choice of devices among a catalog pre-negotiated with preferential prices.

So if you are a CIO, do not distribute new iPads to your Board just to hide your difficulties in catching up with the innovations available on the consumer market. Change the rules, move your services to an Enterprise App Store and integrate a corporate Device Store where each user can choose what terminal best suits them.

And if you are an end-user, stop complaining about your company laptop. Cherish this golden period where everybody get one. On a day, it will become, like company cars, a privilege. And who knows, you might not be among the happy few!

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