Mobile access to corporate data is one of the biggest business challenges and opportunities the modern enterprise has to face. It has to balance the benefits of access to corporate data from anywhere, anytime with the security issues this raises. In other words, can the corporation secure its most precious assets while boosting productivity and employee satisfaction?
It’s no surprise that employees and customers are more mobile than ever: they work wherever they’re using devices that they either acquire themselves (BYOD) or which are provided by the employer. This raises a number of questions: can the enterprise provide access to corporate data while retaining control over access from multiple devices, over some of which it has limited control? Is the ROI worth the effort and cost entailed in securing mobile access? And what are enterprises doing today to address these key issues?
To address these questions, my company asked 200 CIO and IT managers from UK-based companies in multiple sectors with at least 1,000 employees for their attitudes towards investing in enterprise mobility schemes. We found that the drive towards mobility is happening quickly in most organisations because of the business benefits it brings, and that it can sometimes override security concerns.
Who Is Investing?
Enthusiasm for enterprise mobility is widespread, with most of those surveyed either investing or planning to invest, with smaller, more agile companies leading the way. 76 per cent of organisations have discovered clear benefits to investing in mobility and velocity is high, with most enterprises planning to invest in the next two years. This degree of urgency shows that firms recognise the benefits of increasing employee mobility – and the difficulty of resisting it.
The requirement and the will to do so are near-universal across all industry sectors, with manufacturing & production leading the way at 95 per cent. Although some ambivalence within the retail, distribution & transport sectors possibly suggests confusion over the definition of enterprise mobility, perhaps because mobile technologies – for example stock scanners, wireless networking and other location-aware devices – have been in use in this sector for decades.
The attractiveness of enterprise mobility is explained by the wide range of business-related problems it helps to solve, making the pain of transition worthwhile. For example, respondents said that it helps to generate a more flexible workforce, improve both recruitment and retention, data accuracy and help the business remain competitive. In utilities, reducing paper-based processes was a strong motivator, suggesting that some organisations may be struggling to digitise their data and are seizing the opportunity that the growth of mobile devices offers.
Who Is Driving Demand For Enterprise Mobility?
The results show that the greatest demand for mobility is coming from within the organisation itself, as staff are looking for ways to make their job easier and improve their productivity. This is particularly evident with employees that spend the majority of their time on the road meeting with customers and prospects who want to better utilise the time between meetings and business days.
Interestingly, the demand for mobility schemes is so high that many employees are contravening corporate policies to access business information on personal devices, putting confidential business information at risk. Many organisations that don’t allow employees to access corporate data on their device are aware that this policy is being overlooked or ignored.
63 per cent are aware of employees accessing business emails on their devices, 15 per cent customer/ client information and 14 per cent company reports. A better approach is to invest in business apps, mobile device fleets and BYOD schemes to enable secure access to the data employees are demanding.
As we’re seeing greater demand for mobility from employees, our report shows that organisations are investing accordingly; 71 per cent are investing in mobile applications for staff, compared to 59 per cent investing in mobile apps for customers. Businesses are predominantly focused on rolling out personal productivity apps along with those that support job-specific functions, such as expenses, timesheets or document management, with a view to helping employees access corporate data and remain productive on the move.
The numbers of applications enabled by mobility is large and wide ranging. The highest proportion of respondents said that email and calendar was the most common application (57 per cent), followed by sales support (52 per cent) and personal business admin (45 per cent).
Security is indisputably the highest barrier to the adoption of enterprise mobility schemes. In the report, of those that haven’t yet invested in mobility, 46 per cent cited this was due to security concerns. Corporate reluctance can be impacted by stories of confidential business data getting into the wrong hands or the recent NSA scandal, but these issues don’t necessarily have to do with mobility.
Mobile security has vastly improved – both with regards to devices and device management and how data is stored and transmitted, but also to internal processes concerning how users and user passwords are managed. The new iPhone 5s was released with fingerprint biometrics as an extra layer of security on the handset, which will give businesses extra peace of mind.
Enterprises’ responses have been either to restrict or to disallow access from employee owned mobile devices. However, such measures are only partially successful, with a majority of respondents aware of access to corporate data despite restrictions. Companies are undoubtedly aware of this, and the strong uptick in sales of tablets to enterprises suggests that they are buying hardware for their employees.
How Will Mobility Evolve Over The Next 2-3 Years?
Understanding people’s behaviour in general is a must when you want to predict what impact mobility will continue to have on businesses. It’s no doubt that mobility will have a big impact on UK businesses in the coming year. Today we see quite traditional ways for users to interact with the business software using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. But this will change and evolve.
Predicting the future, mobile intelligence will be captured and consumed in new ways:
- Interaction with mobile devices will be through less touchy interfaces but instead through non-physical interaction such as the eyes, voice, location and gestures. Display formats and form factors will also change. Mobile interfaces to both private and business information will be anywhere, anyhow and at any time, such as the mirror in the bathroom can hold a display, the head-up display in the car or the TV to mention a few places.
- Data capture and consumption will be more me-centric as devices and user behaviour will know who and where you are, what type of information you might need in a particular situation. In the consumer business, you see wearable devices such as bracelets and wearable transponders to capture pulse and walking distance. As we get more used to these types of devices and services, they will be introduced in the business environment too.
The Internet of things will generate mobile data from devices and services that today are captured manually or not captured at all. This can be meter readers to capture temperature, qualities, quantities, friction etc. These types of devices might be available today but are not affordable – tomorrow they will be.