John Cleese at a desk in a forest clearing

Enterprises embrace the world of mobility

Businesses need to stay ahead of the game and go further than staff if they wish to keep their finger on the pulse and remain secure when it comes to IT on the move.

Who is tied to their desk today? Mobility now spans just about every aspect of enterprise IT and is no longer confined to field roles such as onsite maintenance or travelling sales. Now that so many employees have their own laptops and tablets, which are often more up to date and capable than devices they have been issued with at work, there is growing pressure for enterprises to adopt bring your own device (BYOD) strategies instead of providing standard pieces of hardware and software to their users.

In the short-term, BYOD seems to be a mixed blessing. However, avoiding it does not necessarily lead to an easier life for IT managers. Security concerns over mobile access by staff to corporate networks are not confined to devices owned by employees. As the use of cloud services expands, the data they access will not necessarily be limited to the corporate network.

The workplace is becoming increasingly virtual and defined by data rather than location, according to Tom Homer, head of EMEA and the Americas for global enterprise and services at Telstra, Australia’s biggest telecom company.

Enterprises increasingly have to embrace employees’ own personal cloud services based on widely available offerings from the likes of Google, Amazon and Dropbox, Homer says: “Employees will bring their own clouds into the workplace.”

To help address the trend, the telecom company formed the Telstra Software Group, which has made investments into companies such as Box, a provider of secure cloud storage services for both personal and business users. Some enterprises have already moved in this direction with support for not just BYOD, but also bring your own apps (BYOA).

“Undoubtedly this poses new challenges for businesses to manage these trends effectively without the proper support in place,” says Homer. “Creating a business environment for employees to enable greater integration and choice in the way we work is usually achieved through a number of flexible working solutions, with the devices and tools like unified communication, which make that all possible.”

Mobility partnerships

Telstra’s most important mobility partner is Cisco as the former uses the latter’s version of the OpenStack cloud platform, which provides software-defined networking services. These services are designed to make it easier to route communications around the network and deploy new services.

A number of other significant partnerships are springing up around enterprise mobility, often between telecom or Internet companies and providers of infrastructure. One of the most notable so far is between IBM and Apple, which in July 2014 announced a strategic partnership to target enterprise mobility. For Apple this provides a major worldwide partner to help push its iOS 8 devices further into the enterprise. For IBM it extends the capabilities of its MobileFirst enterprise mobility management (EMM) offering. IBM has already released more than 100 applications for iOS 8 aimed at specific industry sectors, along with analytics to exploit back-end data generated by Apple devices. IBM claims that its new apps bring enterprise levels of security to the Apple environment that was lacking before.

Although mobile working can yield operational savings and better productivity, the full potential of mobility can only be unleashed by placing it at the core not just of IT strategy but the underlying business models, claims James Morrish, chief technologist for Hewlett-Packard’s UK and Ireland operation: “It is key not to try to mobilise an existing way of doing business, but to build a tailored mobile solution that is a new way of doing business.”

The enterprise should step back and consider how mobility can open up new business avenues and create services not possible before, Morrish says. Only then should they extend and adapt their existing infrastructures to incorporate mobility. This may go hand in hand with the adoption of cloud-based platforms to provide many of the services that users access on the move instead of forcing everything back into the corporate network.

Anthony Marshall, programme director of IBM’s Global CEO Study, says organisations that embraced earlier mobile technologies only achieved a marginal advantage, citing the results of IBM’s recent Institute for Business Value study (

“As our study indicated, many organisations that have embraced mobile have done so at a relatively one-dimensional level, for example as a marketing engine, pushing alerts or communications out,” Marshall says. “The Individual Enterprise is deeper and more profound. It is not adding mobile into existing channels, it is rethinking business from a mobile-first perspective, where mobile is at the centre of how a business runs.”

The reason for promoting mobility to the front of corporate strategy ahead of other aspects of IT is that it is redefining the shape of the enterprise and diffusing its boundaries, both physical and between employees, partners and customers, Marshall claims. “Mobile can help drive operational efficiency, by removing physical steps in processes and enabling real-time interactions between intelligent decision support systems and employees, partners and, of course, customers.

“Mobile, as envisioned in the Individual Enterprise, is all about context – employee context as well as customer context.  Intelligent systems can dramatically increase the power and influence of customers in organisations – which is a high priority for executives, as we saw in our 2013 IBM C-suite study, ‘The Customer Activated Enterprise’,” Marshall says.

Taking advantage of mobility

A key finding of the IBM study was that mobility would help enterprises interact with customers. It identified mobility as a key enabler for data analytics that in turn would give operators more in-depth information of customer needs and habits, for use in marketing and product or service development.

Mobile devices can collect valuable data from the general population. Out-of-home advertising company Posterscope, for example, used this data to assess the impact of outdoor advertising campaigns – data collected by mobile operator EE gave information about location, movements and actions taken by mobile users during the day which could be correlated with timing and distribution of responses to outdoor advertising campaigns.

Apart from being sources of data for analytics, mobiles can be used to improve quality of service to customers in a variety of ways. In a novel example, Air Canada has extended the BYOD concept to passengers of its leisure airline Rouge by enabling their PCs, tablets and smartphones to access in-flight entertainment.

This is part of Rouge’s strategy to give budget passengers access to a full entertainment package, without the cost of fitting in-flight systems, and to exploit a mobile app developed with IBM. Apart from attracting passengers with minimal investment, one spin-off benefit has been saving the airline several hundred thousand dollars a year in fuel costs as a result of avoiding adding to the weight of seats with fitted in-flight entertainment systems. Passengers without their own devices won’t miss out as they will have the option of hiring an iPad for the duration of a flight.

This app did not invoke the usual security issues of BYOD for employees because passengers have no access to internal systems. However, there was one significant challenge involved – integrating sufficiently secure encryption-based technology to persuade content rights owners such as Hollywood studios that passengers would be unable to capture content for subsequent redistribution over the Internet, which is becoming a rising threat.

Such partnerships highlight how enterprise mobility is coming of age. It is set to involve concessions to employees that can only begin with BYOD, although that will in the short-term involve some pain and adjustment.

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