Mobility claims its seat at the boardroom table
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the method of choice to communicate, both socially and professionally. As a result, mobile operators across Africa are benefitting immensely from the increase in both voice and data traffic across their networks.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, we have gone from 250 million Internet users globally in 2000 to two billion this year, largely owing to mobile use (five billion subscriptions this year) and we are seeing the fastest growth in mobile Internet use, which is set to overtake desktop use very soon.
Enterprise mobility refers to the rapidly evolving ecosystem of devices, applications and offerings that provide highly mobile services and capabilities to both knowledge-based organisations and the consumer world.
The world we live in today is characterised by a high level of digitisation of content and business processes. Importantly, individuals want and need to be highly mobile. Businesses need access to real-time information to make decisions and stay a step ahead of the competition. Historically, we’ve often said ‘information is power’; however, this paradigm has shifted to ‘who knows how best to use the information they have, has power’.
In the past, employees expected their organisations to provide them with communications tools. Now, the corporate consumer is also a personal consumer, and expects to make use of the same communications tools at work as they do in their personal life, which increasingly comprises mobile devices such as smartphones. But beyond device convergence, there’s also network convergence – the network to which you connect to perform work-related tasks is the same one to which you connect to interact with friends on Facebook.
Organisations recognise that the mobility boom is here, but are unsure of where to start in developing their mobility strategy. In order to officially empower employees to be mobile, they need to make certain that all the moving parts in this new ecosystem of devices and applications are secure, of high quality, available, cost effective and relevant to their employees.
Enterprise mobility framework
Our advice is to develop a flexible framework that is independent of the mobile device type, which will enable them to keep pace with the rapid change. The best way to approach mobility is via an enterprise mobility framework, which covers four key pillars of mobility: connectivity, applications, operational support, and security.
The first element focuses on connectivity and converged technologies, that is, the networks (including telecommunications and carrier elements). Apart from selecting the correct carrier partner with the appropriate plans and coverage, companies need to look carefully at their Wi-Fi connectivity options.
Applications cover three core areas: infrastructure, productivity and social. These applications need to be managed (patched, updated, etc.) in a simple way for administration and from the user’s point of view.
Operational issues focus on the challenge of managing and supporting the influx of mobile devices into one’s business. It covers mobility service management, change management, operations management and user adoption. It is important to ensure that highly mobile businesses that are reliant on their mobile devices and applications have the correct support in place.
Last, but certainly not least, effective security represents the final pillar of an effective enterprise mobility strategy. Organisations need to consider how to wrap security around every mobile requirement, device and application. Another key consideration is: where does the data live? Is it on the device; in the cloud or within the organisation?
When looking at endpoint security, organisations need to step away from device-specific requirements and instead develop a framework that lists the endpoint security needed to access certain applications. This removes the never-ending requirement to update the supported device list and instead provides a simple framework that allows end users to ensure their new mobile devices meet security requirements.
Managing the growing complexity of the mobile ecosystem is a growing IT challenge. New devices and platforms continue to proliferate. The key is to find a way to integrate the proliferation of devices and applications and the convergence of different networks into your organisation securely. Bear in mind that one size does not fit all. What works best for your organisation will depend on the nature of your applications and devices, the culture of your internal user community, and to what extent each user group expects to or would benefit from advanced mobility.
Success requires that organisations work collaboratively with their telecommunications and integration partners to plot the optimum way forward and turn this new mobility ecosystem into a true business enabler.
Mayan Mathen, Chief Technology Officer at Dimension Data for Middle East and Africa