It’s a unique time to be a Chief Information Officer. Today’s CIO office is constantly being asked to do more with less. Budgets are constrained while technology is becoming more complex and harder to manage. Ultimately, recruiters say the CIOs who show new managers that they can align their IT strategy with the business are well-positioned to drive the digital transformations their companies are formulating.
Oracle CIO Mark Sunday summed it up in a recent Forbes article: “This is the most challenging time in history to be a CIO, because in order to survive, organisations need to embrace new technologies at an unparalleled pace. But by the same token, CIOs have never had a better opportunity to add value to their organisations—if they embrace the challenge.”
One of the key IT challenges today is effective management of an increasingly mobile workforce. In the Small to Medium Business (SMB) segment, there is a continuing trend toward allowing employees to work remotely. A recent SpiceWorks survey found 54 per cent of SMBs support employee-owned smartphones and 42 per cent support tablets through Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) initiatives. SMB’s support BYOD almost by default since they don’t have the resources for a full-fledged mobile strategy. Limited budgets have forced many of these companies into a BYOD strategy and BYOD adds another layer of complexity that makes management and security of devices and data that much more difficult.
Keeping budget in mind
As a result, businesses are required to provide employees with anytime/anywhere access to company resources and services. But most of these organisations lack the in-house resources and budgets to manage such programs effectively. To get around this, IT is increasingly turning to Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions – much like the IT world embraced Software as a Service (SaaS) in the previous decade.
A CIO’s budget can be fully spent at the beginning of the year, which constrains the office’s ability to embrace new technology when it is appropriate for the enterprise. This has led to an increase in “shadow IT” where a line of business used its own budget to secure the solutions right for their business without consulting the CIO’s office. In the management of mobile devices, BYOD is a perfect example of Shadow IT, which puts downward pressure on the CIO’s IT budget. The mobile telecommunications industry is quickly changing. The key mobility trends that CIOs are now confronting are:
- Most companies suffer from mobile policies that are obsolete or do not apply to mobile consumption today
- Carriers are moving toward incentivising relationships between corporate buyers and equipment manufacturers
- Companies are looking at alternatives to employee BYOD and stipends that provide greater control over security and corporate data, but maintain cost efficiencies
A MaaS solution enables IT to rethink its role, both in terms of what it is delivering to information consumers, and how it is doing so. MaaS enables companies to outsource the management and budget control of their mobile devices, carrier plans, security and mobile logistics, enabling them to focus on their core business goals.
With MaaS, a CIO can centralise the company’s mobile technology oversight to make sure that the business is enabled and the budget is optimised. CIOs must be adaptable, thinking for the first time about relationships with smartphone manufacturers. MaaS gives them the leverage they need to demand reliable devices that last longer than the next over-hyped “upgrade.” Carrier-agnostic MaaS allows companies to switch from carrier to carrier without penalty and to repurpose a smartphone without being subject to an early termination fee. For instance, a salesman in Connecticut leaves his firm, handing in his smartphone that was with Verizon.
His replacement lives in an AT&T area, but with MaaS his phone can easily be repurposed, saving the costs of retiring and purchasing a new device. And from a global perspective, MaaS gives CIOs the opportunity to secure, centralise and manage costs around the globe much more effectively.
CIO’s also face the challenge of improving productivity in their major technology initiatives. The market intelligence firm IDC predicts that by 2017, 60 per cent of digital transformation initiatives will not be able to scale due to lack of strategic architecture. When asked to select the top goals that are driving major technology investments for the next five years, the number one selection—according to 49 per cent of more than 200 executives polled in the United States—is improving productivity.
Next is enabling better, faster decision making, followed by improving service levels and protecting corporate data. These guidelines can help CIOs and IT departments move up the mobile maturity curve:
- Be proactive and empower users. When there are problems, provide advice on how to resolve them, whether through improved training and education or bringing in experts to work on best practices. Provide tools that enable employees to understand their usage and spending. Allow for BYOD, yet standardise on hardware versions to control complexity.
- Share usage data with everyone, including developers. Beyond Finance and Operations, IT is an important stakeholder. Developers and tech support benefit enormously from understanding usage patterns and common user issues. That information can mean faster improvements to mobile apps and services and influence future product roadmaps.
- Don’t forget about IT retirement. When devices are ready to be retired and replaced, companies can profit by selling them back to secondary markets. Having visibility into the rolling cycle of device replacement is important for budget planning as well.
According to a recent Gartner survey, nearly 8 in ten people believe that the skills and knowledge their organisations will have in ten years will bear little resemblance to the skills and knowledge they have today. IT has got the message loud and clear—to remain relevant in the enterprise, IT must be more responsive and more attuned to business needs.
Confronting the challenge of cutting costs while creating value, a CIO does not have a lot of margin for error. But a CIO who embraces MaaS as a corporate best practice will realise quickly that he or she can take back control of or corporate mobility and devices, while reducing or eliminate variability in mobile costs – a win-win solution for the entire organisation.
Craig Riegelhaupt, Tangoe
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