Technology can make or break a business. In this era of mobile innovation, forward-thinking companies will lead the way in transforming their business strategies to take advantage of opportunities in mobile. We will continue to see organizations tap into mobile innovation to be more competitive and to deliver services faster, cheaper, and better. I asked Carrie MacGillivray, Program Vice President of Mobile Enterprise Services at IDC, to share her views on the trends we are seeing in mobility and the impact on businesses of all sizes.

Question- As mobility matures, what is the impact to businesses?

Answer- Mobility is changing at a rapid pace-whether it’s the devices, the service plans offered by mobile operators, the software used to manage and control these devices, or the applications. These changes are forcing businesses to constantly reexamine their strategies, policies, and investments around mobile. It is very important for these businesses to adapt to the changing landscape to meet the demands of the always-connected customer and mobile workforce. These demands can take the form of employees wanting more autonomy in how they use mobile applications and devices, or customers looking to have access to information immediately.

Question- Given the buzz surrounding BYOD, can organizations afford to ignore this trend?

Answer- BYOD is a trend that can’t be ignored, but it is not a decision that should be taken lightly by any company. For some businesses it means allowing corporate email access on employees’ devices, and for others it means intensely looking at what corporate applications and information will or will not be allowed on employees’ personal devices. Allowing employees to use their personal device for business can be seen as a way to boost productivity, increase customer interactions, and reduce costs. But there are serious implications that the employee and employer need to consider. Some of the concerns include the protection of corporate data in the event the device is lost or stolen, the liability issue of wiping all the data off an employee’s device upon departure. Will an employee accidentally introduce malware into the mobile environment while using the device for personal reasons?  Proper due diligence must be taken in advance of implementing a BYOD program.

Question- How is consumers’ obsession with mobile apps making an impact on a company’s bottom line?

Answer-Consumers are relying on mobile apps for both personal and professional use. Business travelers are using free expense management apps to keep track of receipts and expenses while on the road. Field service technicians use file sharing apps like Dropbox to share images or videos with co-workers to get support with onsite problems. As companies look at their mobile strategies, they can’t ignore the fact that employees are holding a new work tool that not only allows them to experiment with new ways of working. Some companies have programs in place that allow employees to actually create and suggest apps to improve business processes and customer interaction.

Speaking of customers, mobile apps, and mobile Web are vital to the mobile customer experience. Customers are using these tools to learn about a product or service, access coupons, compare prices, check the status of an order, and even make purchases. Addressing mobile applications and the mobile web for both employees and customers is a critical component of the modern-day business strategy.

Question- Security is viewed as a big concern for business leaders and IT Administrators.  How secure is secure enough for mobility?.

Answer- With BYOD and employee accessing a myriad of mobile content, it is important to make proper investments in a multi-layered security plan. The plan can range from outlining policies for acceptable usage and content to be shared/consumed from a mobile device to investing in proper mobile device management software that allows capabilities such as device lock/swipe. I would also recommend companies invest in mobile security solutions that can address identity management, vulnerability management and malware prevention among others to deal with the challenge of multi-OS environments. It is crucial that these mobile security solutions are device and OS agnostic.

Question- What advice do you have for CIOs that would like to leverage new innovations in mobile technology to transform their business?

Answer- It is extremely important for CIOs to evaluate business needs as they relate to mobility. Unlike 10 years ago, mobility is integrated into our way of accessing information and communicating. CIOs need to talk to their business process owners to ensure that the company’s IT strategy incorporates the needs of end users and customers. Another consideration for CIOs is to make sure that any investment in a mobility solution takes a holistic perspective in that it is scalable for future expansion and is able to seamlessly connect to legacy systems. Finally, it comes down to choosing the right partner to work with when deploying a mobile solution. It is important that a partner has a similar technical vision, a track record of similar projects, and is willing to support the project over the long term while maintaining a vision for future expansion.

Putting a mobile strategy in place

The innovations we are seeing in mobile present huge opportunities as well as challenges for businesses. Consumers have access to powerful mobile tools and applications to manage their personal lives and they expect to use many of these same tools at work. The mobile user wants access to information whenever or wherever they need it. As businesses try to capitalize on advancements in mobile technology, they need to ensure that they have a mobile strategy in place that addresses data and network security, employee and customer privacy, regulatory compliance, and mobile management. With a well developed strategy, businesses will have the means to positively affect sales, customer loyalty, and retention.