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Key Strategies to Take Mobile Beyond 2015

In a recent webinar, Gartner research director Chris Silva discussed key strategies to take mobile into the future, including flexibility, general-purpose mobility and unified endpoint management.

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Ask the right questions. Phase in your mobile implementations. Keep your eye on a unified endpoint management goal. That's Gartner's advice to organizations – including colleges and universities – supporting mobile in the IT environment. In a recent public webinar, available as a recording, Gartner research director Chris Silva discussed these and other strategies for keeping up with mobile trends in the coming years.

A defensible and adaptable mobile strategy must aim to be general-purpose.

According to Silva, organizations have "different fragmented mobility initiatives," which may include the mobilization of e-mail, voice and wireless communication, and business-related apps (desktop apps that need modernization or mobile apps that need to be built). The problem is that these areas are "individual-point solutions," Silva said. Organizations end up with "multiple redundant tools" and "lack the ability to have consistent best practices across their mobile strategy." In addition, what they're doing on mobile doesn't carry over to desktop or doesn't allow sharing of information, resulting in "silos of information."

In contrast, creating "mobile centers of excellence" leads to general-purpose mobility — with centralized management, process tool selection and policy-setting.

Learn to scale during the current mobile app explosion.

Gartner sees 2015 as "an interesting moment" in terms of "where we're going to see the growth of mobile apps take place," said Silva. As the mobile app build-out takes shape, the question is not how many but how to scale. In terms of organization-specific applications, however, Gartner is just now starting to see organizations "dip their toes" into application development for mobile that is specific to what their staff or employees do, as well as specific to their organization.

A 2014 Gartner survey asked what share of software development budget was spent on mobile apps — and the response was about 12 percent of budget. As this figure indicates, application development for mobile is still in its early phases, with "not a whole lot of investment" in mobility, Silva noted. However, about 80 percent of these same respondents planned to increase their spending on mobile app development by an average of 40 percent. This is encouraging, although most organizations are still using off-the-shelf apps. "Organizations are building out an app catalog," said Silva, "but they're doing it with generic tools."

Remain flexible and aware as you manage mobile growth.

As demand for mobile grows, the management of that growth becomes increasingly difficult. Gartner found that "the biggest change in organizations in terms of how they prepare to scale their efforts around mobility is taking on a cloud-based service or SaaS [Software as a Service] for enterprise mobility management." Gartner charted a 16 percent year-by-year increase in cloud services from 2013 to 2019, and forecasts that enterprises will spend $1.2 trillion on public cloud services in the next five years (2015-2019).

Silva explained that in the current state of cloud computing adoption, organizations fall into four groups: 40 percent are "still trying to get started" and "struggling with strategy"; 30 percent are "experimenting"; 20 percent are "still fighting back"; and 10 percent are "innovating" with "lots of clouds."

Unified endpoint management tools are evolving and will shape your success.

Gartner sees organizations going through three phases of mobility implementation. The first phase is "accommodation," in which the focus is on such areas as BYOD (bring your own device) policies and MDM (mobile device management). In the second, or "adoption" phase, the focus is on productivity, which includes pushing data out to devices. In the third phase, "assimilation," the tools are integrated and "unified endpoint management" becomes key. The future, according to Gartner, is unified apps and unified endpoint management.

For the next two to three years, Silva said, most organizations will continue to have both mobile tools and desktop/laptop tools. After that, "the door opens for the concept of unified endpoint management." Management tools will be compatible with any app and device. In this environment, different tools and different vendors will manage, secure and support devices, "whether the devices are under a desk or sitting in a user's pocket."  

To ensure connectivity, keep your infrastructure updated.

If you update mobile but don't backhaul and update to a centrally managed network that provides tier one service, there won't be much of a change, Silva cautioned. In addition, without proper management, increased mobility will result in a strain on help desk resources. "Rethinking the access to support" is vital, according to Silva. "Not everybody who carries a device can expect the same level of support without massively overloading the support infrastructure."

Determine the anchor point for your mobile strategy.

Where do you think most of your investment will be? What is at the center of this ecosystem? Whether it's mobile app development, mobile application management, vulnerability management, VPN on demand or other categories, it's important to "bound" this mobile process and make it manageable by determining the center or anchor point for your organization.

5 Mobile Actions to Take Now

  • Begin by establishing the goals and timelines of the organization and identifying the gaps between present and future states. This is a step, said Silva, that "a lot of organizations massively under-scope." He noted that in most organizations, there are "parallel efforts" taking place. Sharing these apps and tools can speed up the mobilization process.
  • Conduct a "true audit" of your capabilities, including tools and human resources. Keep in mind that "mobile is a whole different technology in terms of how it's used, how it's consumed and how it's supported."
  • Engage with third-party researchers and analysts in order to better understand prioritization of staffing levels, best practices and infrastructure upgrades.
  • Build toward a goal of unified endpoint management, as well as endpoint-agnostic apps, access and services. Utilize vendors that can support a vision of uniform endpoint management. Understand that this will be a long-term process – as many as five to seven years out.
  • In order to "remain nimble and scale," implement changes in process around such critical issues as support, policy updating and project or app approval. Utilize best practices to drive this type of change.
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