Mobile device ‘support gap’ challenges IT, employees

NOTE: This first appeared in the Dec. 23, 2013 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

Your employees are relying more and more on their mobile devices today to do business. Are they confident you’re supplying them with all the tools necessary to successfully do that?

What they think may be different from your perception, according to a recent survey by Vernon Hills-based IT solutions provider CDW. In fact, CDW’s Mobility at Work report found that both employees and IT department staff see a “support gap” in their company’s mobile device management programs.

The survey found that only 41 percent of employees who use personal devices at work gave their IT departments a grade of “A” or “B.” IT professionals were a bit more positive, with 64 percent giving their departments an “A” or “B” grade.
However only 18 percent of the IT group said they deserved an “A.”

Joe Woods, director of mobility solutions at CDW, notes that the support gap is likely more of a perception issue that is tied awareness, trust, and support. However, it underlines the need to have a comprehensive mobile device management plan in place, and to make sure that plan is clearly understood by employees.

“IT believes they have the tools in place to support employees, yet employees don’t feel like they have all the tools they need,” Woods said. “Part of that is a communication issue. Many users are unaware of even basic guidelines for use, and our survey found that only half of IT professionals actually talk with employees about what they want to do with their devices.”

Compounding this perception is the impact increased mobile usage will have on existing IT networks. The survey found that 90 percent of IT professions expect increased mobile use to have an impact on their networks. Among the issues they note are increases in bandwidth requirements (63 percent), network latency (39 percent), server requirements (44 percent) and storage requirements (37 percent). Thirty-none percent of the IT respondents said they are already seeing network performance suffer.

“According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012 and mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012,” Woods said. “With such a surge in mobile and video-based content, it’s natural for service issues to arise.”

That can translate into issues like the inability to access the network or very slow response time.

While companies have been adopting mobile device management (MDM) programs that address security, Woods notes that is only one part of the overall plan. Other key aspects of a complete strategy include enabling the strategy efficiently, supporting users and IT, and empowering users.

“Companies are realizing that MDM is a first step, but they also need to step back and understand where they want to go with mobility,” Woods said. “From there, they can establish a plan and take the appropriate steps to implement a broader mobility strategy.

“MDM implantation requires a solid plan to be in place, including mobile device and application strategy, governance, policies and procedures,” he added. “Customers often initiate large, organization-wide MDM implementations only to realize they have a lot more work to do when it comes to strategy, which results in a slower rollout than anticipated.

“Instead, they could use an MDM implementation to force all of the stakeholders in their company to “get to the table” to determine use cases and set a mobile vision.”

CDW is among companies offering MDM and mobile application management (MAM) solutions to business. The survey found that 37 percent of organizations have deployed or are deploying MDM, and just 36 percent have deployed or are deploying MAM solution.

“The important first step is to define both appropriate use guidelines and the security policies to implement,” Woods said. “Both of these must be communicated to employees so they know what is expected of them as employees who are using the company’s network and data.

“They must also understand what the company will do to protect company resources, such as monitoring app and data use, location-based-services monitoring, and wiping data in the event of a lost device,” he added.

Once a company puts a comprehensive MDM program in place, Woods said they can determine how to take full advantage of mobility in order to empower employees and increase productivity and revenues.

“This is possible if you provide the right tools and apps to enable your employees to more effectively engage both with the company and with customers while they’re mobile,” he said.

The CDW Mobility at Work Report is based on a survey of 1,200 IT professionals and 1,200 workers who use personal smartphones and tablets at their jobs, conducted in the first quarter of 2013. The total sample of each group represented eight different industries. The full report can be found at http://www.cdw.com/mobilityatwork.