For years, whenever we have asked IT managers to tell us their top goal, it’s always been to increase the integration of IT with overall business strategies. Yet, in Baseline’s latest survey, developed in collaboration with Keane, a San Francisco-based global services firm that specializes in the optimization of IT investments, we found that, while IT does play a critical role in mobility initiatives, it is not an equal partner when it comes to creating strategy, explaining the business case or driving adoption.
When our survey took a close look at the dynamic taking place as enterprises adopt mobility technologies, it found that executives, as early adopters of mobile devices, can directly experience and imagine the benefits of mobility initiatives—and, as users, they are extremely forceful mobility advocates. (In three-quarters of companies with 500 or more employees, users of mobile technology are the single biggest force driving mobility deployments.) And these individuals naturally turn to line-of-business managers to justify the investment and build the strategies.
That’s how 60 percent of the enterprises surveyed can have comprehensive strategies or road maps for managing mobile technology without IT leading the creation of those strategies. Instead, 47 percent of the time, line-of-business managers lead, and 21 percent of the time, corporate executives lead.
“Initially, the demand for mobility technology grew from the business units, and then we in IT created projects to deliver on those requirements, which included the business case,” recalls Carlos Barrera, director of distributed technology and technical services at Sears Canada, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.
IT’s second-line role in mobility initiatives seems unusual—and problematic. It may be because of mobility’s foundation in traditionally non-IT areas: telecommunications (cell phones) and personal gadgets. But whatever the reason, our findings show that it’s time for the IT organization to play a full role at the beginning of the process, so that it can make the most out of the end of the process.
Our survey provides some proof of the value IT brings to the table. We asked respondents to rate the success of their mobility initiatives across six categories: capabilities, business value, cost evaluation, cost reduction, risk management and infrastructure impact. Enterprises in which IT management was the most active advocate in promoting mobility had higher scores in all six categories. The most significant increases were in capabilities, business value and cost evaluation.
IT Knows Best?
Currently, the IT organization is firmly in command of only the implementation of enterprise mobility: It issues client devices and carries mobility budgets, especially for mobile applications. Fifty-one percent of IT departments in companies with 500 or more employees—and 68 percent in enterprises with 5,000 or more workers—have staff dedicated to supporting or acquiring mobile technology. And nearly all IT organizations in large firms provide help desk support and training to mobile technology users.
So, no matter how involved the telecom, facilities or business units have been in mobility initiatives in the past, it’s now the information technology organization that understands it best: IT knows the capabilities and costs of mobile technology, and is uniquely positioned to explain the ROI organizations can expect from their mobility investments.
“A great deal of rigor is required to deliver solutions that operate similar to a light switch,” points out Dennis Figueroa, manager of infrastructure and operations at Alcatel-Lucent in Calabasas, Calif. “Otherwise, you risk having the end-user not adopt them. That’s the benefit of having IT teams deliver the solutions.”
Nevertheless, our survey shows that it’s the business leaders, not the IT leaders, who are driving the adoption of mobility technologies.
As a result of IT’s slow start in the mobility arena, it has become, in many cases, little more than the service desk for business divisions or groups looking to mobilize. Is that the right way to go? Admittedly, the business units and corporate management are usually the ones with profit-and-loss expectations and the greatest ability to justify the investment in equipment, services and application development. But centralized IT provides the economies of scale and technical expertise needed to make that investment as profitable as possible.