Getting IT set for mobile

New Computerworld research suggests that IT shops are moving to address mobility issues -- or that they're at least aware of the need to do so.

"This business will get out of control. It will get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it."

That's a quote from the movie The Hunt for Red October, but it's also a paraphrase of my July column, "The Rise of Consumer Tech." I was lamenting the lack of readiness at many IT shops to handle the explosion of consumer devices, apps and mobile platforms. And make no mistake, IT faces several challenges in the management and support of mobile. But I may have overestimated the cause for concern.

New Computerworld research suggests that IT shops are moving to address mobility issues -- or that they're at least aware of the need to do so. Especially telling are these stats from Computerworld's enterprise mobile survey, conducted in September:

  • Nearly 75 per cent of the respondents said their IT organisations are supporting employee-owned mobile devices, including smartphones , tablets, netbooks and notebooks.
  • A surprising 65 per cent said their IT shops are already supporting three or more mobile platforms.

Another finding that shows the wisdom of IT organisations: Some 65 per cent anticipate mobile IT budget increases in the coming year. And the average estimated increase is a fairly significant 19 per cent.

A September 2010 report from Forrester Research sums it up another way: "Most firms have prioritised mobile technology expansion. Mobility is front and center for 62 per cent of CIOs and IT leaders across the globe, with 16% seeing it as a critical priority and 46 per cent seeing it as a high priority."

Most projections show mobile growth continuing well into the new decade. Last month, IDC reported that the third quarter of 2010 marked four successive quarters of growth in handset sales.

But mobile is moving so fast, it's tough to keep tabs on it. In September, IDC said that "heterogeneous device environments are the norm for most enterprises today" and projected that RIM would retain its smartphone market-share lead within businesses in the U.S through 2014. But roughly one month after IDC issued that report, Apple 's iPhone shipments topped RIM's BlackBerry shipments.

That volatility also points up why the proliferation of platforms makes supporting mobility complex. But by far the biggest challenge is implementing enterprise mobile security and figuring out some sort of solution for manageability.

Perhaps the most significant of Computerworld's findings is that, of the companies it surveyed, 80 per cent of those with more than 1,000 employees are taking measures to govern which devices and services employees can use, and they're trying to control whether and how those devices can access corporate data.

Those are solid first steps, but despite the good news our survey uncovered, I can't shake the sense of foreboding that fueled my July column. Is all of this enough, or are companies merely scratching the surface?

What does real mobile security look like? Does it involve using good protection with BlackBerry Enterprise Server while taking advantage of the enterprise customisability for iPhones in iOS 4 and punting on employee-owned Android devices? You need solutions that can manage and secure all the mobile devices in your environment, regardless of who owns them.

It's clear from a variety of research sources that IT is opening its eyes to mobile challenges. And that's good news. But I'd like to hear about IT pros' experiences. Drop me an e-mail and let me know how your company is faring when it comes to securing and managing mobility technologies.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. You can contact him at sfinnie@computerworld.com , and follow him on Twitter ( @ScotFinnie ).

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

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Scot Finnie

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