The CEO wants an iPad.
So do the directors on the board, although they’d prefer an Android tablet. The developers are asking to bring their own laptops to work because they’re more powerful than those provided by the company. The salespeople are bugging you for smartphones because they want to access to e-mail and the CRM system while on the road — not to mention Facebook and Angry Birds. And if they don’t get the model they want, you can bet they’re going to remove the SIM cards from the company-issued phones and stick them in their own phones as soon as they leave the office.
Meanwhile, the CFO just called from Belgium, where he’s attending a conference on managing operational risk. His personal tablet, which he’s been using to edit company documents with an application downloaded from an online ‘app’ store — against your advice — has just ridden off in a taxi somewhere in Brussels. And he doesn’t speak French. Or Dutch.
Welcome to the new era of mobility. Everybody in the organisation is excited about the promise of greater freedom, convenience and productivity afforded by a new generation of powerful mobile devices, but for CIOs that promise seems to mostly involve a lot of headaches and sleepless nights.
If you put too many controls on these devices, the reality is people will bring them into the organisation anyway
Mobile devices designed primarily for mainstream consumers, such as tablets and smartphones, are entering enterprises at an unprecedented rate. Boards of directors are having board papers delivered on their iPads. Sales teams are being equipped with smartphones that enable them to conduct business on the road. In other cases, traditionally expensive mobile devices, like ruggedised notebooks, are being replaced by less costly tablets for use in remote locations and in warehouses.
In a bid to reduce capital expenditure costs, some organisations are even adopting a flexible attitude toward hardware and allowing employees to bring their own devices to the office, what’s known as the ‘BYO model’. In many other organisations, however, these mobile devices are being used by workers — whether the CIO wants them to or not.
No matter how mobile devices are entering your enterprise, the question facing CIOs is: Are the productivity benefits worth the device management and control issues they create for the IT department? Andrew Rowsell-Jones, vice-president and research director in Gartner’s CIO and Executive Leadership Research Team, is sceptical about the benefits — at least for the moment.
“Organisations are expecting great things from these devices, but right now what we’re seeing is a lot of experimentation,” he says.
“Undoubtedly the consumer mobile space is currently in a great state of flux. People think iPads and smartphones are marvellous things, but when you ask about the business benefits, they scratch their head and find it hard to answer.
"Can CIOs prove they contribute to increased sales? Can CIOs prove they’re actually cheaper or more effective than more conventional mobile devices? It’s an area where the business case has yet to be established for many organisations.”
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