Digital Spotlight: Mobility in NZ - preparing now for the future

Mobility can improve employee productivity and deliver financial benefits; however, many NZ organisations lack a strong mobility strategy

Mobility, when correctly implemented and controlled, can help organisations improve employee productivity and deliver financial benefits.

“Mobility, and a mobility strategy, is about stepping away from the day-to-day business and evaluating what these new tools, both devices and software, can mean for your business, and the way your business manages its processes,” says Gen-I’s head of mobility, Richard Adams.

“It’s important to understand the distinctly different objectives of BYOD [bring your own device] versus mobility. BYOD has stemmed from users directly engaging with the software tools they need, that typically the IT part of organisations have been unable to deliver in a timely fashion — Salesforce is the poster child of such behaviour.

“BYOD stems from an explosion of employees with personal smart devices seeking to connect to their organisation’s infrastructure,” says Sundhar Annamalai, executive director, advanced mobility solutions at AT&T Business Solutions. “Originating as an offshoot of a larger consumerisation trend, many organisations now embrace BYOD as a key mobility strategy."

However, despite its potential benefits, enabling mobility among a large employee base can be painful, complex and even dangerous for organisations.

Path to mobility

Mobility, and BYOD as a method to achieve that, is fuelled by the disappearing line that separates personal life from employees' work profiles, and the demands of a modern workforce that wants to have personal choice and increased liberty in accessing work through smart devices.

As employees take to different devices, organisations can choose to deal with increasing mobility in two broad formats. The first involves providing and controlling devices for workers. The second involves allowing them a choice of devices, while ensuring comprehensive access methodologies and data safeguards to protect organisational information.

“From an enterprise perspective, we are seeing a big mix in the enterprise market,” says Matthew Ball, MD at Blackberry ANZ. “There are a lot of customers out there who either provide their devices or allow selection. The thing to remember is that no matter the policy, whether it by CYOD [choose your own device] or BYOD, you need to have a management plan in place to control and restrain those devices.”

John-Paul Sikking, security specialist, Cisco NZ believes that there is no intrinsically right or wrong way to enable mobility.

Read more: Citrix and Fujitsu eye A/NZ mobility market together

“The business needs (and the BYOD policy) will dictate the best solution for a business,” he states.

Rodger Campbell, enterprise mobility specialist at Dimension Data (DiData) New Zealand states that the firm normally recommends a CYOD or 'corporate owned, personally enabled' (COPE) model to clients, and says that such a policy must control the level of support an organisation provides and what processes are available.

“Access control or NAC [network access control] is certainly a solution that can provide significant benefits to a mobility deployment and can in fact provide other significant benefits to any organisation, but is not a solution in isolation,” says Campbell.

“Access control is only one aspect of how you manage organisational data. You certainly need to know who has access, from what device, from where, over what type of network. But you also need to have clear policies and tools to ensure data in transit is secured as appropriate, and that any data ‘at rest’ is secured as appropriate,” says Gen-I’s Adams.

“The technology used to achieve this will depend largely upon the use case and the way users and devices need to work with the systems in question — i.e. legacy systems are being virtualized and delivered to an iPad will have great access control potential, but are likely to have a very non-optimal user experience.”

Read more: Case study: How NIWA bounced back from an attempted supercomputer hack

Many in the industry believe that employee devices will lose value as individual elements in the future and encourage firms to focus attention on the backend, to ensure appropriate access and higher security levels for important data.

Ultimately, the method that an organisation chooses for its mobility initiatives is best driven by a strong strategy. Policies designed around strategic objectives should also be in place to ensure consistency across any initiatives.

Unfortunately, though many NZ businesses enable mobility for their employees in one way or the other, these often do not tend to be supported by appropriate policies or a clear strategy.

“Many New Zealand companies we speak with – particularly larger organisations – are putting mobility strategies in place, but formal mobility strategies are not that common here, no less than anywhere,” says Kevin Greely, channel manager for ANZ at cloud service enabler Parallels. “According to IDC, only around 43 per cent of New Zealand’s IT decision makers plan to develop a mobile strategy to support their business in 2014.”

Brett Moorgas, business development and marketing manager for APAC, Endace division of Emulex says that “organisations have just scratched the surface when it comes to the mobility strategies that they have in place. There is an understanding of the advantages that a mobile workface can provide but most organisations have yet to be able to fully enable their teams to access key business applications and key business data. ”

“This starts by organisations needing to understand how to incorporate a mobile strategy into their wider business strategy. They need to identify which users and processes should be mobilised, along with how to deploy, secure and manage these various initiatives and how that then maps back into the key business systems that drive these processes. Once this is in place, organisations will truly get the efficiency benefits that come with the deployment of their mobility strategy,” he adds.

Bumpy road

Larger organisations in New Zealand, especially those who play in global markets, and often have employees travelling, have been early to the mobility game. This also means that they often have strategies in place to back them up, whether they are well-implemented or not.

However, having a strategy in place is only half the battle won. There are a lot of other challenges that could plague organisations when they step into the world of improving employee productivity with mobility.

“Although New Zealand is an advanced nation regarding BYOD and mobility, we still grapple with the issues that are being experienced at a global level. Securing the backend and the data on the device is one of the more pressing challenges. Supporting an ever changing fleet of devices is also a top priority,” says Rob Erskine, OFM sales director at Oracle NZ.

According to Jon McGettigan, GM NZ and South Pacific Islands at Fortinet, ensuring businesses have a well-defined network infrastructure design, procurement plan for devices and well-communicated strategy are some of the major challenges facing organisations.

“The strategy also needs to include a security plan and not just for Internet threats, but usage of applications on these BYOD devices. Employees now expect to use, for example, social media and use online storage. The design of the security needs to take all this into account. Far use policies are emerging and managed by HR instead of IT.

“A WISP [written internet security policy] is the starting point. The technology will follow. It is important to get staff input when developing a WISP, otherwise compliance will become an issue,” says McGettigan.

DiData’s Campbell says that “the challenges are usually down to the lack of understanding of the true business requirements and the processes they are looking to mobilise. In many organisations mobility is often delivered because an individual or a business group has determined that mobility will deliver measurable benefits to their role and request IT to connect these devices and provide access to business resources.

Read more: Vodafone activates tri-band carrier aggregation in Northcote

“IT teams do their best to deliver based on the limited requirements and resources they have and will deliver a solution that provides the service needed at a point in time. Organisations quickly latch onto the benefits of mobility and the use soon starts to grow rapidly and in ways that IT had not considered. The current IT solution soon starts to hit brick walls and is not capable of delivering to the business and this can result in frustration, lost time and wasted budgets.”

Cisco’s Sikking says, “One challenge is dealing with personal device preference, with Apple vs. Android vs. Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry discussions often heated.

“Finally, the BYOD mindset is a tough thing to grapple with. Many businesses struggle to find the benefits in using BYOD, which may be true in some cases, but often even just going through the BYOD strategy process may spark some innovation that can improve how a business functions.”

Bowing to the inevitable

It is no longer a case of organisations preparing for BYOD. Employee mobility is a facet of every manager’s life now. Not only can it enhance an employee’s productivity, but also add to a firm’s top line, and even bottom line, if done right.

It is imperative that NZ businesses start putting a strategy in place to tackle it now, for they might find that without such action they could be overtaken by forces in the future.

“BYOD enhances productivity, full stop. Regardless of whether it is a company-provided mobile device (simpler to implement and manage) or one owned by the individual and approved by the company,” says Fortinet’s McGettigan.

“Organisations must evolve their mobile strategies to accommodate for new data, design and security requirements that extend beyond the device. Looking out to the future and to stay competitive, businesses must learn to use the mobile data being generated by devices, users and networks to transform existing processes and make them more intelligently.

“In addition, BYOD and mobility give employees more flexibility in how, where and when they can work. This fact alone makes BYOD and mobility a cost-effective strategy.”

Technology that exists today, and will get only better tomorrow, will change the notion of mobility. Wearable computing, sensors, and wireless interfaces on objects around us will bring a storm of connectivity into organisations and make the device insignificant. Firms are likely to weather what is to come better if they have policies that already address access and data security irrespective of the device at the endpoint.

“Within the next five years most MDM vendors will be integrated with endpoint management vendors. The endpoint management market will move to unified endpoint management — the ability for vendors to manage all devices from one integrated and consolidated platform. These would include all mobile devices, tablets, desktops, laptops etc.,” says Martin Mooney, NZ country manager for Novell.

DiData’s Campbell adds, “Generation Z (Internet Generation) will change the way we work. These are digital natives that can multitask across many technologies simultaneously. Preparing for the next generation of users means that organisations may have large numbers of part-time or flexi-workers. They will push mobility more towards social technologies and instant messaging which will reduce the need for technologies such as email.”

“If you have a good strategy and have considered as many outcomes as possible, the framework that is produced will hold an organisation in good stead as technology changes. The technology may change but the policies, processes and functions should remain the same,” he concludes.

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