Opinion: Personal device momentum will challenge traditional mobile sourcing strategies

Enterprises are embracing mobility at an unprecedented pace, and this trend will continue to gain momentum over the next five years, writes Brownlee Thomas, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Enterprises are embracing mobility at an unprecedented pace, and this trend will continue to gain momentum over the next five years (see figure below). This access to mobile means greater empowerment in the workforce by offering employees new ways and more options for how, when, and where they do their jobs, writes Brownlee Thomas, principal analyst, Forrester Research.

But for companies with a fast-growing mobile user population, this trend will mean potentially daunting challenges are ahead for managing enterprise mobility effectively. For example, mobile management responsibility is currently fragmented in most large enterprises - many of Forrester's sourcing executive clients at firms with distributed operations often tell us that they lack good visibility into overall mobile costs and usage patterns, and the amount of IT support provided to users also varies widely across the organisation.

For sourcing professionals, there are also concerns around mobile apps provisioning and control. Most organisations already support, or will shortly more fully support, additional mobile operating systems such as Apple iOS, some types of Android smartphones, and Nokia Symbian devices, in addition to BlackBerry.

This multiplication of mobile operating systems introduces new worries for both the sourcing organisation and IT operations - how will the applications used on network connected devices be purchased, and how will their use be monitored and managed to ensure compliance with corporate security policies and supplier licensing?

While many senior executives often carry both a personal and work device, the next layer down is demanding a personalised experience outside the office - including when working with customers. This increasing personal device demand will force sourcing professionals to seek answers to current concerns, and adjust to changing needs by:

  • Updating sourcing policies to address growing demand for non-standard devices – It is already tough to fight pressures from C-level executives to use their smartphone and tablet of choice for business e-mail, calendar and contact database retrievals, even though many of these devices are non-standard according to current IT policies. This means that sourcing professionals must work with IT to ensure the necessary user licences and related goods are purchased to support this shift. The next wave of tablet adoption is already moving in, and it could soon crash on the sourcing organisation's shores when all the major mobile device manufacturers introduce a plethora of Wi-Fi and cellular network connected tablet devices this year and next.
  • Determine how to support personal smartphones in a work context – We are approaching a tipping point in mobile device consumerisation at which users will push hard for access to the corporate network and basic work applications, if they aren't already. They also will expect some level of IT support. Already, 37% of recent survey respondents working at large North American and European enterprises own a smartphone, and although half of them are not (yet) using it for work, it is reasonable to assume that many of them would be interested in accessing business personal information management (PIM) applications on their personal smartphone.
  • Segment the user population to determine who gets mobile priority – The magnitude of these consumerisation forces will push most large enterprise sourcing groups to expand form factor choices for mobile users qualifying for 100% employer-paid (corporate-liable user [CLU]) devices. The next step will be offering these users the option of sharing some of the costs for nonstandard devices - either paying for what they want outright, or opting for an individual-liable user (ILU) program combined with a baseline subsidy. An aggressive mobility sourcing negotiator often achieves a very narrow spread (as little as 2% to 4%) between CLU and ILU device costs, making it easy to offer users more options and also simplifying mobile sourcing management. In fact, a growing number of enterprise clients tell us that they're ready to introduce a device subsidy program along with some basic IT support for email and calendar synchronisation. Several are also considering allowing and supporting some or more types of personal devices as part of a general mobile cost-cutting program.

Empower staff with mobile devices

As more and more employees use smartphones in their personal life and adopt a "work anywhere" mentality, the necessity for sourcing professionals to work with IT operations and business management to empower these individuals using personal devices for work will become even more essential. This growing trend provides sourcing organisations the opportunity to take the lead instead of being perceived as a barrier to new communications technology adoption.

Sourcing professionals can spearhead this trend by taking steps now, such as determining what portion of workers could receive a stipend instead of a company-provided device, or setting up a social community intranet site to stimulate savvy mobile users to share knowledge about new tools that save time, facilitate collaboration and communication, and also nurture an innovation culture within the company.

Brownlee Thomas, Ph.D, is principal analyst at Forrester Research, serving sourcing and vendor management professionals. She will be speaking at Forrester's IT Forum EMEA 2011, 8-10 June, in Barcelona, Spain.

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