Q&A: Navigating a changing enterprise mobility landscape

Businesses of all sizes have been becoming more and more mobile for a while now, with the increase in the number and performance of mobile devices driving this shift.

Re recently got the chance to speak to Carl Rodrigues - CEO of SOTI - about how the enterprise mobility market is changing and what businesses need to be aware of.

1. What are the main issues in the enterprise mobility market?

More mobile workers, more makes and models of devices, increasingly capable devices, connected “things”, and an astronomical number of business-critical mobile applications and content have driven the evolution of the enterprise mobility market.

IoT in the enterprise will add further complexity and increase the mobility management challenge exponentially; experts are predicting as many as 25 billion ‘things’ in use by 2020, so I see the first key issue is making sure companies are prepared to embrace the opportunities and be equipped to manage their connected enterprise – if they don’t, they won’t be competitive.

The sheer volume of mobile devices, applications, content, connectivity, and connected “things” organisations are tasked with managing, upgrading, troubleshooting, and securing will continue to grow at a staggering rate. Managing multiple endpoints can become difficult and time consuming, and companies rarely have in-house enterprise mobility management (EMM) experts or mobile IT support specialists to call upon. With mobility being so pervasive in organisations of all sizes, the lack of internal expertise can impact the business in many ways including missed opportunities, reduced productivity of a mobile workforce, frustrated customers, and even lost revenue. Therein lies the biggest challenge: the expertise in deploying the right solution – including hardware, applications, software, configurations, and much more to meet the unique requirements for each use case across the organisation. One size simply does not fit all.

And of course, content is king in any connected enterprise. In any connected business, guaranteeing a mobile workforce can access company files, documents and corporate content they need to do their jobs anytime and anywhere is critical. Enabling access to the content in real time while also having a clear way of reporting and logging what was accessed, by whom, from which device and when is another key requirement that is overlooked far too often.

2. IoT is becoming ubiquitous – what do you see as the main concerns for the enterprise?

IoT is a buzz word – people are enamoured with it. However, it’s been around for decades; think controlling the Mars Rover from Earth or even the tag technology we use when on motorways. The possibilities IoT creates for the connected business are limitless. But with any gift horse such as this, there are best practices and pitfalls that we see that someone with less experience may not have considered.

The concern I see, is that some organisations are building device and IoT ecosystems to connect data, but are uncertain of how to use the data once they have access to it. Businesses need to think about the reason to connect a device and not become embroiled in the next wave of innovation, just for the sake of it. The insights of the connected data have the potential to immensely benefit the business, but without context, it is still simply just data.

In retail for example, IoT is enabling new types of customer interactions that will increase customer satisfaction and drive an increase in revenue per customer. The insights gained in the process, if interpreted and managed carefully, are very powerful.

However, the main concern is that if mobility and IoT is a secondary strategy, businesses face losing out not only on the monetary boost, but also a diminished long-term customer experience.

Ultimately, any size business can benefit from IoT, but in order for those benefits to have a real business impact, a strategy needs to be in place to ensure endless hours and resources aren’t spent bogged down in trying to get to grips with the management complexities.

3. How can organisations plan for this change in device usage and what will the benefits be?

The most efficient way for organisations to plan for the tremendous growth in IoT technology is to create and enforce standards from companies supplying hardware, as well as implement policies to protect the business, employees, partners and customers.

To plan for the $25 billion connected devices over the next four years, companies must work to manage mobile devices and their applications, content and security. It doesn’t matter what make, model or operating system.

Ultimately, more mobile devices and connected peripherals means more complexity, more IT headaches and more risk. However, effective EMM can alleviate those issues. Through an EMM solution, a mobility strategy can be implemented quickly and smoothly, and will scale along with the company’s increased adoption of mobile and IoT technologies.

Companies can manage any device from a single screen and easily access a wide range of data. Lost or stolen devices can be remotely wiped and locked down. Upgrades can be managed remotely and users can access remote support. Shadow IT can be circumvented with real-time helpdesk capabilities, malicious applications can be blocked, and two-factor authentication helps to keep company files and information safe.

4. Security will always be an issue, but do you see any other areas IT departments need to closely manage?

Device and data security are very important issues for IT departments. They need to know sensitive company content will always remain private. The remote mobile helpdesk, diagnostics and support are critical in supporting the mobile user. Many enterprises work all over the world, so the ability to provide a virtual helpdesk to fully support its mobile employees and business-critical devices and applications saves time and increases productivity.

Remote management is not only used in support, but from every element of a user’s requirements; from provisioning a new device or new member of staff, to efficient retirement and everything in between, especially if customised policies are needed.

The particularly pertinent area IT departments need to control are the device features – especially security conscious organisations or those operating in compliance industries. The granular control of what device features the users have access to is not just a good idea, but required by law. It’s crucial the IT administration can configure the inventory of devices exactly as the company requires.

5. There’s lots of talk about mobility device management and that it may not be fit for purpose any more. Do you agree and if it’s not, what next?

I completely disagree. MDM is a functionality subset of device management; in the enterprise many devices are personal and therefore whole device management is just not possible.

Gartner has also recently cited a change in how IT leaders will see a shift in focus in the variation and capability of MDM, and how will add to the complexity of device management technologies.

We will see complexity increase in a variety of ways: just think about the types of mission-critical changes ahead, such as having electronic boarding passes on devices; the device is not dedicated, but imperative for boarding. There is the need for dedicated devices for environments such as transport or retail, but there will be greater intricacy and interaction.

6. What three pieces of advice would you give an organisation planning to implement an enterprise mobility strategy?

Firstly, companies must really understand what the needs are: one type does not fit all. Find out what you are trying to achieve and why; don’t just think about immediate needs, but know in a changing environment, the future will need to be considered too.

Secondly, understand the technology and resources available to you; we talk about disruption in industry, but this cannot be achieved without a detailed evaluation of technology, people and customers.

Finally, talk to customers, partners and peers who have been in similar situations and find out what points of pain they encountered and their vision for a distributed enterprise. Enterprise mobility is set to continually change and question the way we work, interact and do business; it’s an exciting environment and by really understanding what can be achieved, you will have the recipe to change the world.