In building a mobile enterprise, CIOs are looking for trouble

Building the mobile enterprise is a tornado of conflicting demands and obscure interdependencies. Luckily, CIOs are programmed to sniff out trouble.

This week at the Gartner Catalyst conference on the "intersection of mobility, cloud and information technologies"...

in sunny San Diego, a subversive thought crossed my Boston, jet-lagged brain. What if CIOs and their IT teams just said, "The hell with building the mobile enterprise!"

I was in a session on the consumerization of IT. A Gartner analyst was laying out all the sneaky and scary ways employees (like me) get around enterprise data controls. His advice in a nutshell: If users are going to bring their consumer-grade, endlessly upgraded personal devices into the enterprise for work purposes, it's better for everyone if IT builds the infrastructure and administers policies to minimize risk. But importantly, IT must build the mobile enterprise in a way that won't tick employees off or, God forbid, assert total command of technology (as in ante-Apple days of yore). I wondered why someone would care to take on such a task.

As the Gartner sessions and some terrific case studies made clear, it turns out to be unbelievably difficult to strike a balance between building user-centric, open mobile enterprise systems and risking getting fired for exposing sensitive corporate data. "Mobility is a crosscutting function" requiring thoughtful input from every function in IT and from all corners of the company, Gartner's Paul DeBeasi explained. Building a mobile enterprise means sorting through a maelstrom of competing demands, in which any action by one group has implications (sometime very serious implications) for the other groups in the enterprise -- and potentially market-moving consequences for the company.

What if CIOs and their IT teams just said, 'The hell with building the mobile enterprise!'

Linda Tucci

It's hard to craft mobile computing policies that strike a balance between safety and suppleness. It is technically hard and often very costly to build the infrastructure for a mobile enterprise that will enable each and every user. And -- just to add insult to all that hard industry -- in the drive to get their jobs done, employees like me will try to circumvent these carefully laid plans, because (as Gartner put it in the nicest way possible) when it comes to users, it really is "all about me."

I wonder how many CIOs and their IT departments are tempted to just say, "Screw it." If users get around IT, if they flout industry regulations or jeopardize the market value of their company by causing a data breach, it's their jobs, their necks on the line. The official IT policy and supporting infrastructure forbids those behaviors, so it isn't IT's problem, is it? At least, that's what I was thinking in the session on the consumerization of IT. But when I ventured out to talk to other attendees, I found that nothing seemed further from their minds. To be sure, they were there because they had big problems to solve, but they were jazzed about that!

More from Catalyst

Gartner: When architecting a mobility solution, expect tradeoffs

I'll be writing about some of these challenges in the weeks to come. But as I was talking to these IT professionals, I was reminded of a recent study from Berkeley's Haas School of Business that looks at the success factors -- the personal traits -- unique to highly successful CIOs. Among the traits shared by the CIOs interviewed by the study's authors (James Moffat Spitze, executive director of the Fisher Information Technology Center at Haas, and Judith J. Lee) were the same personal attributes that contribute to success in many jobs: These CIOs were industrious and self-reliant. They possessed a trusting and trustworthy manner and had developed emotional intelligence. They enjoyed an extensive network of friends, mentors and protégés.

The study -- The Renaissance CIO Project: The Invisible Factors of Extraordinary Success --also pinpointed three factors among these CIOs that were "unique to their role" as CIOs: They were lifelong learners; they had conceived and implemented a customer-focused, game-changing project in their industries; and they were able to build and motivate cross-functional teams and therefore marshal the collective intelligence (authors' italics) of an enterprise.

"They wanted to see all of the dots, not just those within their traditional domain. Far more importantly, they wanted to be proactively involved in developing the means to connect those dots, to see the potential interconnections, the existing disconnections, and thus, the inherent opportunities -- where others might see obstacles."

The enterprise is in the midst of a "mobility tornado," as one Catalyst session put it. It’s a good thing that CIOs are programmed to look for trouble.

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Is IT solving the puzzle of enterprise mobility?
Enterprise mobility looks a little different for every business, and the technologies are still constantly evolving. In that context, the solution that IT needs is the right framework for how to approach successful support of mobility strategies.
One solution doesn’t solve the puzzle for everybody. Security and compliance are key, with different needs in certain industries such as health services. Optimizing for web and cloud-based apps presents another challenge. Businesses must decide what aspects to handle in-house and which to outsource. Ultimately, IT still needs to settle into the new landscape.
Hi Jon, 

Thanks for your perspective. I have another question for you: More of the big vendors are offering the "full mobile stack" -- app dev, deployment, monitoring, security, some analytics. Then there is evolving ecosystem of point solutions out there.  Any thoughts on how CIOs should be deciding whether to go with a single stack or best-of-breed for their companies?
The single stack model has always sounded better on paper than in practice. Even if a CIO can check off every box with the features provided by one vendor, chances are strong that a new feature down the road will throw a wrench into the system. That is, eventually you will need to shift to a best of breed approach anyway. It’s better to benefit from the diversity and proceed with integrating and deploying a best of breed method from the start.
Yes, that's what I'm hearing in preliminary interviews. One consultant, who also believes that no single vendor does it all for mobile, argued that companies need to think about MDM and MEM (Mobile experience management) -- an interesting distinction. If you're OK with being interviewed for the article, shoot me an email:
more IT managers must understand the basic concept of ZONES ... being able to provide the outside to employee devices is critical to not having folks break the internal net rules to check something outside. So things that can connect, make it simple to get to the secure side and segment traffic. And infected machines come and go at the front door, so being baling able to looking into peoples traffic and see this is important for everyone. Yes, if it is on your net you ARE REALLY responsible for the device, step up and help people.
This article started ok; the ends with some rambling over CIOs and their characteristics with a reference to a University? please stay on topic and provide executives with some real world guidance - this is waffle.
IT has had the capabilities for years; the business wants it, but are they prepared to work out what, why, for whom and does the value proposition add up? nope, is that IT's Job too? arr so they are also the strategic planning department! :)