Enterprise Mobility and the IT Pendulum

Back in the day...

Many years ago, I worked in the IT organization at a pretty big company (about $2B in revenue). The company ran as a set of business units, and it had locations around the globe. As I worked through different projects, I started to learn the set of rules about what central IT did and what the business units could do. Despite the fact that mainframes still ran the majority of the business, there had apparently been a point in time where every business unit had their own IT group. Business units had their own servers, their own applications, and even their own networks. At the time I worked there, the pendulum started swinging back. Central IT ran all the networks, the cross-company collaboration services (e.g. email, telephony), and all the financial applications for the whole company. To me, it made total sense that one group should handle these things for the whole company, but apparently it had been quite a battle and a big cultural change to get to that point.

To see how this all relates to enterprise mobility, we need to take a quick look at why a business unit would ever even consider their own IT. In some cases, the answer was historical. Some business units came through acquisition, and their IT groups were their company IT when they were a standalone organization. In other cases, the business units felt that they knew more about their needs and that their needs were very different from the rest of the company. Lastly, the business units sometimes felt that they needed flexibility to adapt to their changing business needs and didn’t think they could do that with a central IT group.

And now...

So if we think about enterprise mobility today, many of the same concepts exist. With many people owning their smartphones today, the viewpoint of that being “their” information technology is very natural. In fact, 14% of employees said they installed productivity apps on their phones even though they knew that their company’s IT group did not allow it (according to 451 Research in this Mobility Outlook 2015 paper). And in the same way that business units didn’t feel central IT could understand and meet their needs in my old company, individual users and departments often feel that no other group can keep up with their mobile needs.

The same Mobility Outlook paper points out that the grass is not greener looking from the IT side of the fence. While business users might want more mobility faster, over 40% of IT decision makers found it highly difficult to manage mobile software upgrades, apply consistent access and management policies, and apply consistent and scalable security policies for mobility. These activities are not optional for the IT group. If their company experiences a failure on these points, the IT group cannot just point at the business users and say, “They made us do it!”

Making Split the Decisions

It appears that today the pendulum has mostly swung to the IT-controlled side in terms of custom-built mobile apps connected to internal enterprise systems. Business units and end users often seem to have the pendulum on their side when it comes to using out-of-the-box apps or cloud-based services. Clearly there are exceptions to this pattern, but it is an interesting state of the world to see business computing decision-making split this way.

Looking ahead, it seems likely that more and more enterprises will look to add some manageability to the out-of-box apps through mobile application management (MAM) platforms. For me, the interesting question is how does the pendulum get centered for the custom apps? Not only is enterprise access and security tricky, but custom mobile development is currently very expensive. According to a report by Kinvey published in eWeek, “More than half (56%) of companies spend between seven months and one year building a single app, and nearly 20 percent spend more than $500,000 on the development of each app…” So the pendulum is not going to move away from IT-controlled to business-controlled until both the security and access questions get good answers and the costs come down.

Can we make everyONE happy?

And this is what we’re focusing on with Sitrion ONE. It allows secure access with no additional investment and very rapid delivery of mobile business solutions against backend systems like SAP, Salesforce, and SharePoint. Having spent a couple years of my life in an enterprise IT organization, I know that most IT groups really want to make the business happy and successful. Historically, this has resulted in big swings of control from one side to the other. Now, I see capabilities like Sitrion ONE allowing IT to control the things they must while still letting business users quickly and easily get the capabilities they need. Amazingly enough, it looks like the enterprise mobility pendulum might soon swing in both directions at the same time.

Brian Kellner, Chief Technology Officer

Brian Kellner is responsible for Sitrion's product strategy and development. Brian has held product or development management positions for over a dozen years. Most recently he was Vice President of Enterprise Products for Webroot Software. Brian holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Management from Colorado Tech.


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