The work conducted and created in a mobile environment will continue to increase, and may easily surpass the work created in a traditional setting in the near future, creating significant exposure points and challenges for IT.

With mobile devices largely controlled by the end user, IT will have only partial control over data access. Gone are the days when the vast majority of data on a device comes from “the corporation.” The separation between personal and corporate information is even more blurred by the lifestyle and work styles of a mobile workforce.

We need to accept the corporate computing model that we have lived by for nearly 50 years has changed. Consider what happened when we moved from centralised to distributed computing – it changed the ecosystem of data creation and sharing.

It spawned new technologies and industries – networking; caused convergence of technologies – data and voice networks; anointed new industry leaders – PCs, operating systems and applications; and gave rise to new ways of designing systems and applications – client/server, browser based. It changed everything.

In the next five years mobile technologies will significantly and change the way businesses operate much the way previous disruptive technologies have. IT departments will be expected to deal with enterprise mobility strategy, yet, are not expected to hire staff to deal specifically with that. In reviewing solutions and approaches, consider the following:

Look for solutions that manage at the platform level

A recent study indicates IT managers anticipate supporting about eight different mobile platforms or operating systems by the end of 2011, and these are not limited to smartphones. In the past year, tablets have emerged for IT to manage – one with data usage five times higher than of a smartphone.

Companies with successful IT departments will move from focusing on the device to focusing on the platform. This is the right long-term strategy as vendors will continue to deliver a multitude of devices, but on fewer platforms.

Adopt mobile management solutions that don’t require active alerts 

Some users will bring new devices into corporate environments and expose current devices to unsecured networks. Corporations need solutions that employ agentless discovery capabilities; it’s not just about data employees can access, but also the recognition they carry devices capable of acquiring and spreading viral payloads, infecting iPhones, Android pads and webOS devices.

Adopt mobile management solutions that provide tiered functionality

Companies have to provide themselves with the capability to quickly lock down devices assigned to a user. IT departments need to immediately block specific devices from corporate data if they pose a threat. They also need remote wiping capabilities for devices that are out-of-policy, non-compliant, active threats, lost or stolen or at a user’s employment termination.

IT departments need a solution that automates the management of endpoints. Before the mobile device tipping point, the average IT department had one staff for every 27 enterprise employees, according to Workforce Management. The ratio has not improved with the growth in mobile devices. This means IT teams will need to manage an increasing number of mobile devices, without additional resources. Automation is the only possible way to manage the explosion of mobile devices.

In terms of a checklist, a mobile management solution should address:

  • Access: Endpoints must be restricted to access only authorised corporate assets.
  • Data on devices: The moment mobile devices are allowed to access it, corporate data will exist on the device, even when it is off line. Mobile enterprise data must be remotely erasable.
  • Maintenance: Mobile devices, both corporate and private, will need maintenance. Like PC endpoints, mobile devices must be automatically maintained to ensure enterprise data safety.
  • Centralised management: Centralised control from a single database is essential to managing endpoints because a limited staff cannot keep pace with a growing number of devices and a diversity of operating systems and applications.
  • Role-based administration: Any system that requires individual adjustments to permissions and controls for every device becomes cumbersome even with some degree of automation. Role-based security controls streamline access for new devices and prevent IT data entry errors that cause delays or grant inappropriate access.

We are at the doorstep of a profound change in our business. Mobility, and all the change that comes with it, has the ability to change business models, processes, customer behaviors and market leaders. There will be pains at the beginning; however, the long-term benefits will shape things in ways we’ve never imagined. Companies that figure out how to incorporate mobile solutions effectively into their current ecosystems will be the ones that come out ahead.