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Issue of January 2006 

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Enterprise mobility - Not a packaged solution

Individuals have acquired mobility in the past 10 years, thanks to mobile telephony and its phenomenal growth in India. Parijat Chakraborty, General Manager, Research, IDC (India) explains how it has become the turn of the enterprises and their activities to go mobile.

All commercial enterprises across verticals are facing the increasing pressure of higher efficiency and better utilisation of resources. Both manpower and infrastructural resources are being optimised across segments. Enterprises need to get better returns, in terms of efficiency and productivity, from these resources. Mobilising the work force and providing them with the option to stay in touch with the enterprise system is the mantra of resource mobilisation and optimisation these days.

No Standard Approaches

However, enterprise mobility is not a standard application. Every enterprise faces a unique degree and dimension of challenges during the planning and implementation of mobility in their environment. Sometimes it leads to inadvertent delays in the implementation. In worse cases, it may lead to a complete setback to the process. A logical and structured approach towards the enterprise mobility project can reduce these surprises on the way.

As with any new technology/solution, it is important to match requirements with the benefits and limitations of the solution. This is more important in the case of an enterprise mobility project as it potentially transforms the organisation’s established processes and the way it runs its business.

Focus On The Dimensions

IDC suggests focusing on eight dimensions of enterprise mobility. Thoroughly comprehending these dimensions and doing your homework well in advance leads to a successful implementation of a mobility project and ensures a smooth ride. It also helps the CIO/CTO in deciding if mobility is right for an organisation and if it is, how best to implement it to optimise returns. These dimensions of enterprise mobility are infrastructure, applications, standards, security, training, support, quality management and technology monitoring.

Time For A Detailed Look

Infrastructure: This is the first homework one needs to do, starting with a complete assessment of the present infrastructure. Mobility solutions usually require relatively better infrastructure. The initial infrastructure must be compared with that required for the mobility project to understand the investment, complexity and procurement plans.

Applications: This is one of the most crucial dimensions for the optimum utilisation of enterprise mobility. One needs to study all the applications and processes running in the organisation to decide what is to be mobilised, for whom and when. There should not be a blanket approach towards mobility, if one is serious about optimising the benefits. If one company is mobilising a particular application/process, it does not necessarily mean that everybody in the same segment needs to follow suit. One must take a call depending on the specific requirements of the organisation.

The approach towards the applications and processes can be staggered, if need be. With proper scalability built-in, a staggered approach significantly reduces capex requirements.

Standards: Selection of technology is another important dimension to make it future-proof. Investment in enterprise mobility is seldom short-term; hence, the CIO/CTO needs to study the solutions available in the market. This is essentially to be done after taking feedback from the vendors, either independently or with the help of independent consultants. The objective of this exercise is to understand for each solution the availability in the market, scalability, compatibility with current infrastructure, and suitability to the applications planned. One cannot ignore the cost and credibility factors. It has to be a judicial call after evaluating all pros and cons.

Security: This is another extremely important dimension of enterprise mobility. With the opening up of applications and processes towards mobility, the organisation invites manifold increase in the security threats. A multi-layered security system is the basic platform in this premise. The security system has to be robust enough to fight the challenges of remote access, guest log-ins and so on.

Training: Proper training and education of all stakeholders can make the implementation process smooth on various levels. It helps to manage users’ expectations and ensures minimal misuse or abuse of the system. The sensitised users are less likely to misuse or abuse the system, intentionally or otherwise. Proper training and sharing of facts with the users also reduces the resistance which generally comes from certain quarters of employees, especially those whose regular way of working is hampered by the implementation.

Support: Mobility essentially means availability of the service anytime and anywhere. A round-the-clock support system for troubleshooting and assistance to the users is essential for proper return from the investments towards mobility. Remember, not everybody in the organisation would be in favour of the enterprise mobility concept and resistance from the affected people to any such change is more of a norm than an exception. Absence of a proper support system can only strengthen the groups opposing the drive.

Quality management: Quality management is an innate part of any project implementation, more so for high value projects such as enterprise mobility. Trials and piloting play a significant role in this context. Proper documentation of the process of implementation, followed by reports on usage and user experience, provides the opportunity to identify problems and measure the benefits against expectations or initial goals. One needs to look at minute details at this stage and plan for further improvement and modification.

Technology monitoring: The last, but not the least, is regular monitoring of all technology aspects. A mobilised enterprise is generally more heterogeneous and complex in its technology infrastructure. The heterogeneity is due to its multi-mode, multi-standard and multi-technology characteristics arising out of differences in client devices, applications, networks and so on. Therefore, it demands a round-the-clock monitoring of these aspects to ensure seamless operation across geographies.

At the end of the day, it is important to appreciate the benefits of enterprise mobility but a smart person would also recognise the risks and challenges. The success of an enterprise mobility project would depend on how smartly the organisation addresses the challenges with proper homework and a methodical approach.

Five Basic Points

To address security challenges, the CIO/CTO needs to act on five basic points:

Secure the device

  • Enforce strong power-on password protection that users can’t bypass or turn off
  • Remotely lock devices that are lost or stolen
  • Proactively wipe data from devices when necessary
  • Encrypt sensitive data
  • Manage, distribute and install security patches transparently via an administrator
  • Regularly back up key data from mobile devices to the corporate network
  • Educate users about the importance and the means to protect their information

Guard against malicious code

  • Distribute and install anti-virus updates and software patches
  • Monitor and enforce system and application settings each time a device connects to the LAN, keeping track of who accesses information

Secure connections to corporate networks

  • Authenticate users and devices during each connection to the corporate network
  • Automate an inspection that verifies compliance with security standards for anti-virus software, patch levels and personal firewall settings before allowing a connection

Block network-based intrusion

  • Distribute, install and maintain personal firewalls transparently via an administrator
  • Enforce software settings
  • Monitor intrusion attempts at every connection from the front lines
  • Identify and correct weak network points to limit intrusion, with systematic reporting and alerts via an administrator

Centralise control of policies

  • Implement centrally managed security policies complete with established written policies and corporate directories
  • Audit security policies and ensure they are enforced with the use of consistent reporting
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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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