Opinion: Moving Beyond The Pilot



No one denies the benefits of mobility solutions. Even text-based email and
messaging solutions can offer hours of increased productivity for each employee
every day.

More sophisticated mobile solutions-featuring real-time data collection and
exchange with enterprise applications-mobile sales, mobile service management,
mobile asset management, mobile procurement, inventory, and warehouse
management-can actually transform the way a company conducts business and
interacts with its customers.

End user companies are quick to acknowledge the power of mobile solutions
within their enterprises. Yet, many of these companies are not so quick to
actually roll out hardware and applications to their employees. In most cases,
it’s not a resistance to the technology. When it comes to mobilizing a
workforce, pilot projects seem to be everywhere. Moving from pilot to full-scale
deployment, well, that’s another issue altogether. Even the most promising
mobile pilot projects get stalled for any number of reasons, ranging from
security to scalability. Temporarily halting the deployment of a mobile solution
may be a prudent course of action. Ignoring the deployment of a mobile solution
is foolhardy. The technology and its benefits will not go away.

It’s tempting to think that the safest bet is to simply not deploy a mobile
solution. Actually, the opposite is true. First, there are immeasurable
productivity benefits that a company will miss through this inaction. Second,
employees will attempt to connect to the network with unauthorized devices. And,
the false sense of security that existed, will be shattered.

When it comes to mobility within an enterprise, there is no sense in fighting
it. It’s inevitable, so embracing and managing the technology, is the wisest
approach. Given that there are several key points to address before rolling out
a mobile solution to your workforce. Security, obviously, is the biggest
concern. But enterprises also need to consider the scalability of the solution,
types of devices, end users, and the road map for mobility within their
companies. It’s all right that the deployment plan may be deliberate. It’s
inexcusable, however, not to have a plan in place

Security: Bull in a China Shop
Security is the primary issue that halts a mobile deployment in its tracks.
Managing mobile devices-hundreds and thousands in some cases-that have the
ability to access enterprise data gives the IT department chills. It’s tough
enough to control desktops and mobility multiplies, and complicates the issue.
Wrapping your arms around this problem starts with centrally managing security.
All of the mobile devices supported by the enterprise have to be managed by one
department or location. If a handheld is lost or stolen, for example, the IT
security folks need the ability to defuse that device as a potential threat to
the company. This device-level management allows a company to eliminate the
possibility of an intruder accessing corporate data. The handheld or laptop may
be lost forever, but it’s not a security bomb waiting to explode.

Security,
obviously, is the biggest concern. But enterprises also need to consider
the scalability of the solution, types of devices, end users, and the road
map for mobility within their companies.

There are two basic levels of security that every company must address, when
it comes to mobile solutions. You first need to authenticate the user to the
device. Second, you have to authenticate the device to the network. There are
multiple ways to accomplish these objectives. But, this two-step authentication
is critical. Passwords, power-on passwords, and even biometric security (such as
fingerprint identification) can all be employed in the authentication process to
raise the level of security. Additionally, data stored on the hard drive of the
device can be encrypted and rendered useless if the right security measures are
taken.

Security should also be user friendly. If employees don’t follow the
security measures in place or look for ways to circumvent security, it’s an
obvious problem. In most cases, employees are not looking to evade security as
much as they are trying to make their mobile lives a little simpler.

Mobility: A Journey, Not a Destination
A mobility pilot project may start as a point solution, such as allowing
e-mail access for a handful of salespeople within a company. Eventually, users
will ask for more functionality. Email on the road is great, but how about
accessing the CRM system to update contact information? As long as you’re at
it, you might as well let the sales people access inventory data so they can
check on customers’ order status.

Mobility projects without a road map can spiral out of control and quickly
become unmanageable and expensive. The key is to start small, but have a plan to
expand. That plan should include input from various user types (eg executives,
salespeople) within the company, technology manufacturers, and integration
partners. Understand how technology will change over the next few years and how
that will affect the path you are charting. You also need to establish a
standard for the devices that your company will support within the framework of
your mobile strategy. The IT department should establish a security standard
that serves as a threshold for all devices. Then, it’s a simple decision as to
the types of devices that will be supported. If a device meets the standard,
then it can be supported within the enterprise.

Even the
most secure, scalable mobile solution is ineffective if employees don’t
embrace the technology they are demanding and you are delivering

Even with such a standard in place, IT departments should not expect to
support a never-ending stream of hardware connected to the network. Many
employees may only need text-based e-mail and messaging, so the company can
standardize on one device. Others may need handhelds to access a specific
application, which may lead to the standardization on a different device. In the
long run, it may be helpful to work backwards. In other words, start with the
types of users who will be supported. Then, try and determine the devices they
will require.

Front Load the Project Schedule
Security and a mobility road map both need to be addressed before a company
embarks on a mobility deployment. However, there is plenty of up-front work that
must be completed before launching a pilot, and certainly, before
implementation. Companies should lean on technology vendors and integration
partners to configure mobile hardware before devices end up at the doorstep of
the end user business. If you choose to limit access to certain aspects of the
operating system that can be handled before you deliver the products. Specific
applications may also need to be loaded. Again, the end user company should let
others handle this configuration. There’s enough to do without burdening the
IT department with the prospect of configuring hundreds or thousands of mobile
devices.

The more work you can get accomplished up front, the less expensive the
overall rollout will be in the long run. The manufacturer you are working with
or an integration partner can handle the staging of those devices.

Part of that ‘up-front’ work should also include employee training. There
is no need to wait until products arrive on-site to begin training employees on
how they should use them. In many cases, mobile solutions will be replacing
paper-based and manual processes. They will also be upending many of the
established policies and procedures that have been in place for years. So,
training should start early to reduce or eliminate potential headaches during
the deployment. After all, even the most secure, scalable mobile solution is
ineffective if employees don’t embrace the technology they are demanding and
you are delivering.

Ravi Subramanyam, CEO of
MobileOne P Ltd
mail@dqindia.com

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