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In “2013: The year of the snake and the year of mobile!” I explained the importance of becoming a mobile enterprise. In this series I will explain how to do so, beginning with development of a mobile strategy and policies, as well as the education of employees to overcome barriers to the use of mobile devices.

Start with strategy

Many companies hastily start their environment conversion (for example, implementing bring your own device (BYOD) by activating email features on smartphones and tablets, and then thinking about what they can apply next. I don’t recommend this; a CIO organization should first set up a long-term roadmap and then choose the proper security level in order to minimize investment cost and carry out a successful project that satisfies everybody.

Working with personal mobile devices is completely different from working in the traditional work environment, and it’s accompanied by lots of security and legal issues. First, enterprises need to sufficiently consider how to support working with mobile devices. In particular, privacy and license issues are very sensitive in a BYOD environment and you should operate BYOD services only after you provide proper education and warnings. (And, of course, you should bring in solutions to minimize security risks.)

Every corporation has guidelines and standards for its operation. Before considering technical matters, the CIO and legal team should revise these policy documents in order to implement mobile enterprise. For years IBM has been continuously revising its business conduct guidelines and security standards in accordance with the currents of the times—consumerization and a mobile environment.

I’ve observed a company in Korea that has been preparing to convert itself into a mobile enterprise and now has all necessary technical infrastructure in-house. However, only a few persons are able to use the infrastructure outside of the company, as its internal regulations strictly prohibit information leakage. Because the company started its conversion without properly establishing policy, this might cause a waste of investment.

Educate your workforce

I also cannot overemphasize the importance of overcoming cultural and generational barriers with proper training for users. Here is an example from my experience. In 2011, I expected employees of IBM Korea to be happy when I planned to provide email, calendar and contacts features for their smart devices, including non-BlackBerry devices such as iOS and Android devices. It seemed to be a reasonable expectation, since the pilot program had shown that the satisfaction rate of most employees was encouragingly high.

Like now in 2013, in 2011 Korea was one of the top countries in terms of smartphone ownership rates under the influence of Samsung Electronics, one of the biggest mobile producers in the world. IBM Korea employees’ smartphone usage rate was almost 80 percent when the email service for smart devices was provided in IBM Korea. WiFi and WiMAX services were almost everywhere, and all wireless data services including tethering service were provided without limit. However, to my surprise, the usage rate of mobile email service remained around 50 percent after three months, and I had a hard time increasing users in order to meet return on investment (ROI).

What should’ve been done to successfully convert IBM Korea into a mobile enterprise? What caused this situation? The reasons I’ve found are:

  1. Compulsory usage of eight-digit passwords for device security
  2. Concerns over possible increase of working time, which might raise concerns over work-life balance
  3. Some employees’ refusal to adapt themselves to new devices

IBM Mobile Enterprise app

Let’s look into each one of these problems. First, an eight-digit password and storage encryption are essential requirements for protecting a company’s information if a mobile device is lost; these should be enforced right away. However, many employees just give up using company email because of the inconvenience of entering the eight-digit password every time. This inconvenience can be reduced by a containerization technique, which asks users to enter their passwords only for using the company applications. IBM is still pilot-testing this technique, and users’ feedback is very positive.

Second, peculiar cultural characteristics might cause concerns over working time increase and work-life balance. In some Asian countries, strict respect for seniors is expected, and there is pressure upon employees to carry out their seniors’ requests any time and right away. The management was pleased when email services were enabled on mobile devices, but many employees did not ask for the email service because they felt pressure to check email all the time and work around the clock.

This problem can cause labor-management conflicts in companies or countries where overtime compensation is strictly calculated and paid. To prevent this, “A Toolkit to Support Federal Agencies Implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Programs,” written by the US Digital Services Advisory Group and Federal Chief Information Officers Council, recommends that a company should discuss the BYOD program with a joint labor-management conference (or a labor union) from the beginning and operate the program together. There must be a shared understanding that the conversion into mobile enterprise should be considered from the perspective of employees’ efficient working environment, instead of the perspective of a company’s profits, and that it can actually help work-life balance, as against the prejudices of lots of employees.

IBM Connections mobile application

It’s a misjudgment that everyone who has a smartphone naturally uses Twitter, runs a blog and uses social apps as well. I’ve seen many people who don’t know how to tweet and think that it’s enough to use camera, texting and navigation features. They find it hard to install and use email service, and cannot use even the half of the email service features. So some workers simply don’t want to adapt to a mobile environment.

Demonstrate engagement

Effective ways to change this passive attitude and overall environment in a company include training, active engagement of top management and utilization of social tools by way of internal communication channels.

IBM is using its own social tool named IBM Connections for communication between management and employees, which facilitates active responses and prompt feedback from anywhere in the world. Some people are more active in using social tools than they would be in public, and the participation of employees was highly improved when management took the lead in using social tools.

The first step for a social tools–friendly environment is to train employees. Just as extensive training was provided for employees when converting into a Windows-based environment, trainings for using social tools and collaboration tools should be provided to employees—especially for senior-level workers and non-technical workers. Virtual education can be useful. And this should include non-functional trainings such as social tool usage etiquette and social guidelines.

A prerequisite for a successful mobile enterprise is that a large number of employees utilize social tools. When seniors with accumulated knowledge actively participate in socializing and sharing their knowledge, more people will participate and a true synergy will be achieved.

Stay tuned for future installments in my series, “How to be a successful mobile enterprise.”

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