Why Enterprise Mobility is an Important Strategic Asset of the Organization
When you think of a company or even a government agency, its most important strategic assets are products or services. A company like Apple produces the iPhone. A company like AT&T provides a wireless service. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides retirement and survivor benefits to people who qualify.
However, information systems are rarely thought of as a strategic asset of a company – just as Cloud services have become very important to a company, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Rarer yet is the mindset that enterprise mobility is an important strategic asset of a company. Commonly, organizations use mobile systems (smartphones, wireless services, etc.) but tend to think of mobility as a utility versus a strategic asset. That’s about to change dramatically in the next few years.
Let’s look at how information systems and, more recently, mobile and wireless products and services, came about. With this reference, we can discuss how mobile and wireless are becoming major strategic assets of many organizations.
About 20 years ago, most information system departments reported to Finance or Administration. Information systems helped keep track of things like where money was received via sales or spent via accounting, and where operations were managed. During the dot com boom in the late 1990s through 2001, companies moved from a paper brochure representation of what the company did to a digital representation via the Internet and the World Wide Web. Revenue could come from digital sites, not just from purchase orders and sales agreements.
IT organizations quickly grew to accommodate all the new growth in digital representations to the outside world. Mobility entered the scene with Palm and then BlackBerry with the ability for employees to receive messages and manage appointments and contacts. At this point, mobility was an internally-focused exercise. Once the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and added an open applications environment in 2008, the focus for IT became both internal (think email or applications that managed online meetings) and external (think of a bank creating an application that let customers sign on, see their balance and transfer funds).
Cloud services became an extension of websites with some interaction with mobility, but it was the outgrowth of mobile applications that caused a tremendous change in the way information was perceived by senior management. Mobility and associated applications now rule both the internal operations of the organization, as well as interaction with customers.
As a result, mobility has become a strategic asset of the company. When the CEO holds strategy discussions, they include the CIO. The CEO might say, “So, what can we do to provide a better customer experience for our products?” The CIO might respond with, “We can build a mobile application that allows our customers to see all of our products on their SmartPhone, submit a question via text or chat function and let them know of special sales.”
Another question posed might be, “What can we do to generate more top-line revenue for our company in 2017?” The CIO might respond, “We can build a mobile application that can let customers easily order direct or through one of our partners.”
The list of possibilities is endless. What is important is that the CIO is now a major part of corporate strategy, as enterprise mobility can touch the most important objectives the organization is facing. That simply wasn’t the case a few short years ago.
Enterprise mobility will clearly remain an important strategic asset of the organization for years to come. The IT department will be more involved than ever with requests to build applications that help organization’s improve business performance.
The diagram below shows the CIO’s organization with some important ways in which the role can act as a strategic asset to the organization, not by what staff they have working for them or development initiatives.
There are at least five main service areas that will help mobility transform to a strategic asset:
- Enterprise Mobility Management – this is the standard use of mobile device management software implemented to its fullest extent. It uses software to manage all of the company’s mobile devices, the software loaded on these devices, the content and the applications. It includes secure digital workspaces. It becomes a strategic asset when the CIO gets EMM to outperform competitors.
- Legacy Transformation to Mobility – There is a great deal of investment that companies have made to design and deploy IT infrastructure both internally (think a custom designed set of web applications) and via third parties (think implementation of SAP). Most organizations want to mobilize the infrastructure and, in some cases, redesign business processes to be more efficient when mobilized. An organization that can get this done efficiently and cost effectively ends up with another strategic asset.
- Customer-Facing Mobile Applications and Customer Service – Here, mobile applications are used to help the company generate additional revenue. This could be directly within the application or indirectly where new revenue was generated due to the content within the application. It also serves as a mechanism to provide better customer service.
- Company’s New Products – Here, the company thinks “Mobile First” when developing new products. If the product is goods or services, Mobile First may simply be that all the information about the new product is provided in a mobile-friendly manner. If it is a digital product, Mobile First organizations will think in terms of introducing the product in a mobile application before the website.
- Company’s Management Committee – Here, the CIO should think in terms of using mobility to help create a strategic or competitive advantage in the market. This could be a unique service that is only provided by or through a mobile app.
It’s through initiatives such as these that the role of the CIO is integral to the operation of the entire organization rather than just serving as a head over the IT development and operations. Often, a CIO will have a Director of Development to build new software and a Director of IT Operations to manage the company’s networks, including the mobile networks.
In a few years, the role of the CIO will become much more important than it is today. The management of information systems has come a long way in the last generation and will help organization’s become more successful in the coming years. If you work in an organization that doesn’t operate this way, get management to start thinking in this manner so that the company can operate more efficiently and more innovatively. Your customers will thank you for it.