Thursday, October 11, 2012

Confessions of a CTO: focus can be the biggest enemy of enterprise mobility

As tablets appear in the enterprise, the pressure is on IT. 
Sure, there are a bunch of clear and compelling reasons to officially bring tablets into the enterprise application environment (like, say, because your employees love to use them enough to buy iPads themselves).
However, employee interest and the resulting “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon are putting increasing pressure on IT managers to reel in these new mobile devices and make them official clients of enterprise applications.
But saying “yes” to enterprise tablet usage is not simple for IT. 
There is a lot to consider:  effort and speed of application deployment, managing data access, support, security, network complexity, device management, operating system diversity, and the cost of all this, just to mention a few.  Even business-level decision makers – gung-ho about the iPad and other tablets – have to take a hard look at what needs to be in place before this is going to work flawlessly.
All in all, it seems pretty daunting.  Yet, enterprise mobility is something that IT has to be working on right now – no excuses.  Users – and the upper execs – are demanding it.
Amid all of this uncertainty, we thought IT teams could use some pragmatic advice from one of their own – from someone who has been there and done that.  In that spirit, Framehawk’s CTO and co-founder Stephen Vilke let us pick his brain for his suggested dos and don’ts for those taking the leap and enabling the use of enterprise applications on tablets.
In case you don’t know Stephen, he has spent most of his working life in IT, tackling security, application development, and mobility challenges.  In addition, he spent the early part of his career at NASA, working on communication with distant spacecraft – a really intriguing bit of personal experience that turns out to have some great parallels with the challenges that enterprises currently have using their existing applications from mobile devices.
The result of our brainstorm with Stephen?  Some no-holds-barred commentary from a veteran IT guy and former CIO on the ins and outs of enterprise mobility. 
We’ll publish some of the highlights from Stephen’s suggestions here on the blog, including word-for-word commentary where relevant.  Think of these posts as a launching point for a critical area of discussion around mobility for IT.  Feel free to chime in with comments, questions, disagreements, or other suggestions in the comments section.
To get things started, one of the most important things I’ve heard Stephen talk about is not really even related to mobile application access, BYOD, or technology at all.  Instead, it’s about one of the crucial pieces for any IT project, and something that’s especially important in high-profile projects (like those with the iPad always seem to be).  It’s about focus.
Dos & Don’ts for Bringing Existing Enterprise Applications to the iPad:
DO be very careful about your focus. It will be one of your biggest challenges.
Regardless of what advice you take, notes Stephen, focus is really at the core of any successful IT project.  Are you trying to deliver mobile access for one application – or many? Bringing tablets into the enterprise environment is no exception:
“In my IT career, I’ve found that one of the first things to figure out is what your focus should be. Scoping is one of the biggest challenges. What are the handful of items that are going to make or break our project?  How do we attack them? What is the timeline?”
According to Stephen, focus is also where many IT organizations get themselves into trouble.
“If your goal is to deliver one and only one application via mobile devices – and it’s your flagship application – you’re going to probably focus a lot of your money, effort, and time on that one.  However, if you’re like most organizations, you will have several dozen applications that employees want to access from their mobile devices immediately.  And you probably have a long list of other applications vying to get attention.
“So, to get as many of those applications accessible from employees’ mobile devices as possible, as quickly as possible, be sure to be ruthless about what you will focus on.”
Check back here on the blog regularly for the next few weeks for specific enterprise mobility dos & don’ts from Stephen.  In addition, he’ll be presenting a live InformationWeek webcast on this topic on Oct. 24.  Go here to register.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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