Managing Mobile Anarchy
May 2004 - By Bob Egan

For most companies, mobile ROI today has little to do with employee productivity gains. An enterprise investment in Mobility should be viral and organic. In the short term, it’s about cost recovery and security control. In the long term, it’s about accelerating the heartbeat of business process flow.

Enterprises today face two financial hurdles: intense cost pressure on daily business operations and demand for improved services to secure tomorrow’s customers. These hurdles are only heightened by falling prices, increasing competition and the relentless scrutiny of corporate performance metrics. More than ever, today’s bruising economic environment demands that corporate leaders vigilantly seek out and capitalize on new strategies and opportunities to improve enterprise performance and efficiency. While this visionary thought is important, the reality is that most energies are spent reacting to the disruptive influence of mobility in the enterprise.

Cost Control and Recovery

All hype aside, enterprise adoption remains largely paralyzed when it comes to mobility. For most CIOs, justifying the business case for an investment in mobility has been elusive. It is like they have been looking for love in all the wrong places. Unfortunately, to date, mobile ROI has focused mainly on cost control and recovery. In order to highlight the existing call to action for investment, consider the following:

Despite continued investments in PBX systems and telecom support, desktop phones grow increasingly idle as mobile phone use continues to grow—cheaper landline minutes are exchanged for higher-
cost wireless minutes.

Wireless LANs are purchased and installed on the corporate campus and in home offices by employees who create gaping holes in enterprise security. To a large extent, this usurps existing security investments.

Corporate-class handhelds—PDAs and smartphones that contain both corporate and personal data—are infiltrating the company at the network boundary. Untrained support staffs are fielding calls for help, and capital purchases lack economies of scale because no corporate procurement program is in place.

Competing Constituencies

Complicating mobility adoption in the enterprise are the diverse viewpoints of the various constituencies.

In one corner are the technology champions: employees gravitating toward technologies and services such as Wi-Fi, GPRS and CDMA 1xRTT. They buy fancy new phones, PDAs and wireless modems. They use mobile Web browsers, active content and applications—largely without IT support and outside the scope of any existing capital or services contract. They see the use of mobility as instinctive.

In the other corner we have the CFO, who observes mobility adoption for what it is—anarchy. It is equivalent to employees who each want to specify their own PC, with their own options, from their own suppliers, using their own access networks. The CFO views going mobile as too complex and having too many parts. She views the alignment of mobility investment with corporate business objectives as elusive.
Sandwiched in the middle, of course, are the CIO and IT manager.

To exploit any notion of ROI, successful enterprise managers will first reign in the IT anarchy and understand the disruptive influence mobility has on corporate security, competitive innovation and IT costs.•

Bob Egan, a 25-year industry veteran, is president of Mobile Competency ( He can be reached at [email protected]


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