CIOs feverishly working on mobile strategy

It seemed no matter how a conversation started out with IT executives at this year’s Society of Information Management national event in Atlanta this week, it somehow wound its way back to developing a mobile strategy.

One session summed it up: A perfect storm is brewing in mobility, as bandwidth, intelligent mobile devices and social networking proliferate. The result? Companies are developing new ways of communicating with their customers and within their organizations, and IT is smack dab in the middle of figuring out what the organization’s mobile strategy should be.

The argument is moving beyond whether or not they should standardize on the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile smartphones, to the process of developing mobile applications useful to the business and customers, on device-agnostic platforms.

For now, Joe Surber, CIO of natural gas distributor AGL Resources Inc., said his company is choosing some standard mobile devices for employees out in the field. Eventually, though, he expects that employees will pick and choose the device they want to use to communicate because the cloud and virtualization allows IT to provide a virtual PC infrastructure that is device-agnostic.

This was during a session on enabling IT change through the cloud — yet, once again, the conversation went back to mobility:

  • How do we harness mobile devices for our business?
  • What mobile apps should we be developing?
  • How can the cloud and virtualization help or hinder mobility?
  • How can IT help or hinder the use of mobile devices and applications?

And the million dollar question: How do we handle the fact that consumers are ultimately deciding the feature sets and applications that corporate business users get on their mobile devices?

Case in point, using his Android, Chuck Musciano, vice president and CIO of construction material supplier Martin Marietta Materials Inc., can’t move emails into his folders. He has 450 folders that he “neurotically” maintains, and that capability does not exist when he’s mobile. And he suspects that such a feature is at the bottom of the list of those developing applications for iPhones or Androids, given that consumers are more interested in Facebook and Twitter interfaces for their mobile devices.

“We, as enterprise architects of our organizations, have to understand that feature sets are going to be driven by consumer demand, not by what we in the business would like to see,” he said.

And something like folders in email may be a moot point anyway, given that newer generations consider email, well, old, said Paul Miller, senior vice president of technology infrastructure and broadcast transmission for Turner Broadcasting System.

“There has to be recognition that some of the ways that many of us are used to working and thinking, are in fact evolving and changing with new generations. Folders are a perfect example of that … new evolutions of search should in fact make folders obsolete. I find that, personally, children could care less about folders. They say email is how you communicate with old people,” Miller said.

Email is only one example. If Millenials don’t care about the ability to read reports or spreadsheets, or maybe tap into an analytics application, which I doubt they do, and they are the ones driving what feature sets end up on mobile devices, will that mean that the main focus of IT departments becomes mobile application development?

If you read some of the recent stories we’ve run, the answer is yes. Not only are organizations developing applications for mobile devices to conduct business in new ways, but they are turning to offshore and onshore providers because they don’t have the talent in-house to make it happen.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email: Christina Torode, News Director

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