Minding Your Mobile Assets

Ask any executive for a list of game-changing technologies, and mobility is likely to appear near the top. Smartphones, PDAs, laptops, netbooks, Wi-Fi, cellular broadband and a variety of other tools make it possible to exchange e-mail, sales leads and other data from almost any point on Planet Earth. The widespread availability of real-time communication has ushered in a new era of opportunity and efficiency.

Forrester Research reports that 73 percent of global enterprise work forces will be mobile by 2012. Managing a plethora of devices, developing coherent policies and instituting adequate security are no small tasks.

“CIOs and other IT executives face enormous challenges,” says Sean Ryan, research analyst for Mobile Enterprise at IDC. “With so many devices and so much fragmentation in the marketplace, it’s difficult to develop sound policies, procedures and practices that address all the issues.”

Unfortunately, the situation isn’t getting any easier. While executives may clamor for BlackBerrys, a sales force may demand iPhones. While some workers connect their laptops via secure cellular connections, others tap into the network via unsecure Wi-Fi.

Then there’s the issue of business versus personal use. With so many options and possibilities, IT can find itself reeling. Who provides the devices and who pays for them? Should an organization standardize on one or two platforms, or create an open environment? And what security policies are required to keep corporate assets safe?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. “It’s important for an organization to thoroughly understand its business processes and workflows—as well as who is using the devices and how they are using them,” says Bill Clark, research vice president at Gartner. In addition, it’s vital to build a framework that’s flexible and cost-efficient. “A cradle-to-grave viewpoint is essential,” he adds. “Without strong oversight, it’s difficult to manage mobility effectively.”