Ovum Congress 2011: Mobile devices bring performance and cost benefits to business

Jean Holley, CIO and vice-president of US telecommunications equipment company Tellabs, has worked in IT since the 1980s. In that time she has seen many waves of technology, but she hasn't seen anything with quite the impact of mobile computing.

Jean Holley, CIO and vice-president of US telecommunications equipment company Tellabs, has worked in IT since the 1980s.

In that time she has seen many waves of technology, from punched cards to the invention of the PC and then client computing.

But in thirty years of IT, she hasn't seen anything with quite the impact of mobile computing.


Mobility is everything

"Mobility is everything," she said, speaking at the Ovum Congress, an IT industry conference in May 2011.

"It is the biggest thing I have seen in 30 years of IT. And if you don't have it embedded in your work and your personal life, you are so going to miss out."

Holley and her team began thinking about the implications of mobile computing for Tellabs some three and a half years ago.


Any data, any time, any device

The result was "any, any, any" - a radical vision to give Tellab's 3,000 employees the ability to access any data, any time, using any device.

"My team were fine with it, until we added the words 'any device'. They said, 'oh, if you are going to have that we are going to have a lot more security'," she said.

Tellabs has turned to desktop virtualisation technology to create sand-boxed environments, that can safely allow staff to use their own mobile devices.

There are some basic rules, says Holley. The devices need to be secure and accurate. In practice this means most well-known brands of mobile devices are acceptable. Tellabs staff use a mixture of Apple, Android, Symbian, Microsoft and Blackberry mobile phones.

"If you want to use your personal device you have to live by my rule: 'If you lose it, we will zap the company data'," said Holley. "You can also offer to zap their personal data, and you are suddenly doing your staff a big favour."

Tellabs is beginning to see the results of its "any any any" initiative. Allowing people to choose their devices means they can also use mobile applications that are most helpful to the work.


Saving money

"I plan to save a bunch of money on bring your device to work, not on the device, but on the way it connects," said Holley.

If people own their own devices, they are more likely to look after them, and less likely to waste company money, she argues.

"If I give them an allowance they are going to be more frugal. That turns a variable spend into a fixed spend. That's how I am going to make savings," she said.

And Tellabs' focus on mobile apps internally is reaping benefits externally, she says.

"Mobilisation is pushing product improvements. We have apps that can process customer orders 66% faster than firing up the laptop and going into SAP.

"Being able to show mobile analytics on devices is a big one. Do you think the CEO goes back to his desk to look at analytics? No, it happens at the airport," she said.

"It really makes you flip your thinking. Why why why do you put everything behind your firewall and lock down your devices ?"

Holley says it is essential for businesses to build mobility into their IT strategy. Security must be built-in from the start, she says. Not an afterthought.

"But don't spend three months building a mobile strategy and building ROI on it. You have to dive in."


Businesses need to embrace consumer devices if they want to innovate 

Businesses will have to embrace consumer devices if they want to remain innovative and competitive, says Steve Hodgkinson, research director at Ovum.


Generation Y

The next generation of youngster entering the workforce are accustomed to using their own IT equipment, collaborating with their peers, and downloading helpful apps when they need them.

"A 25 year old will have been using computers to make their personal life productive for 10 years by the time they come into the workforce. They know how to use IT to be productive.

"Then they come into the workplace, sit down with a desktop PC running Windows 2003, with no access to the internet or Facebook. We are saying to them, 'forget everything you have learned over the past 10 years'."


Proliferation vs innovation

It's not going to be easy for IT to adapt. Supporting, even actively encouraging staff to bring in their own devices, runs against the grain for most CIOs, says Hodgkinson.

"IT departments are anti-device proliferation," he said. "The core idea of IT is to simplify, consolidate and rationalise. Adding more and more stuff is expensive. We want less, we want just enough IT to meet business requirements."

The first step is to realise that opening up the organisation to consumer devices will help companies to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

"Get some discussion in the IT department around proliferation going on. Work out ways to productively engage proliferation, rather than restrict it," he said.


Command and control

It's also important to think about the way IT departments operate, he says.

"If each employee is empowered to decide what devices and what data services to use, it is no longer viable for IT to operate in that command and control mentality."

You need to move from policing technology, says Hodgkinson, to influencing the way people use it. This means more use of social networking, wikkis, forums, advisory databases and blogs, to interact with users.

"The best way to lose influence is to be a policeman and ban things. If I want to use a service like Dropbox, or something similar, and you are acting like a policeman, I am going to use it anyway and not tell you about it," he said. "The only way you can conduct it in the future is for employees to be engaged with you in a discussion."

Employees who might not take 'no' as an answer from IT might well be willing to take 'no' as an answer from their peers.


Good enough is good enough

Empowering employees to use their own devices and use select their own applications, will fundamentally change the way the IT department works.

In the past, IT departments bought applications through a carefully thought out business plan. Today employees can buy low-cost apps or subscribe to web-based services on a whim. If they work, they keep them.

There are an increasing number of applications out there, that may not be perfect, but will probably do most of what businesses want, says Kevin Noonan, research director for public sector at Ovum.

"If you can find a collaborative solution that satisfies 80% of a business need, how much are you prepared to pay in time and money for the last 20%?" he asked.

"Business requirements are becoming contestable. There is now the emergence of cloud services and open source. If you can find a reliable solution that does the job, that can be sufficient."



Security drives consumerisation

Network suppliers such as Cisco are developing context-based security techniques, that allow IT systems to authenticate genuine users from potential attackers.

Rajiv Gupta is vice-president in the policy management business unit at Cisco's Wireless, Security and Routing Technology group.

"When you get on the network you have to authenticate yourself. The network knows who you are. When a request goes to the datacentre, or a firewall, the network can take the information it knows and provide that to the firewall of the datacentre, so that the security policy can be context based," he said.

Cisco introduced its own bring-your-own computer policy in 2009.

"We used to say have any laptop you want as long as it's a Lenovo from IBM. And we had that policy for quite a while until we found that a lot of employees were bringing in their own devices anyway. Then once some of the vice-presidents wanted to bring in their own iPads, that is when the policy changed.

"A lot of the savings come from the fact that we have internal technical support groups. The Mac users can help each other out," he said.

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