CIOs conflicted about mobility

Two recent reports have highlighted how conflicted chief information officers are about enterprise mobility.

According to market research firm Ovum, enterprise mobility will be a top priority for CIOs next year. Consumerization of IT is pushing mobility to the top of the CIO agenda, according to Ovum's Enterprise Mobility 2014 Trends-to-Watch report.

In 2014, enterprises will need to provide a "strong multi-screen, multi-channel [mobile] experience for customers and employees," to address BYOD with "new comprehensive corporate mobility policies," to develop new mobile apps to transform existing business processes, and to extend enterprise mobility programs "beyond being pure connectivity and device issues for IT and business decision-makers," explains Ovum.

"As businesses adapt to increasing consumerization and extend the range of tools and applications available to employees on all devices, enterprises and supply-side vendors alike need to be prepared for these developing trends: businesses in order to realize the full business benefits of mobile working, and vendors in order to address enterprise demand and remain relevant in a crowded, highly competitive market," concludes Richard Absalom, senior analyst of enterprise mobility at Ovum.

At the same time, a recent survey of 300 CIOs by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Mobile Helix finds that a clear majority of CIOs have major concerns about the cost of enterprise mobility (see article in this issue).

Close to three-fourths of CIOs surveyed say the current cost of implementing and integrating mobile capabilities isn't worth the reward. A full 86 percent of respondents say their businesses don't see the strategic value of mobility efforts.

Two-thirds of respondents think that implementation of enterprise mobility is too complex, while 72 percent say it's too costly to integrate mobility into legacy applications.

I would venture to guess that the CIOs surveyed by Vanson Bourne do not factor in the cost of a data breach caused by an unmanaged employee-owned mobile device in their cost estimates. That would surely tip the balance in the return on investment calculation of these CIOs.

The average cost for a U.S. firm of a data breach was $5.4 million--or $194 per record--last year, according to an annual study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and security firm Symantec. Let me repeat, that was the "average cost" of a data breach for a U.S. firm.

So the potential cost of a CIO not implementing and integrating mobile capabilities into his or her enterprise communications strategy increases by $5.4 million should a data breach occur, something that is much more likely with employees bringing their devices into a firm that pretends that these devices are not there.

As I mentioned in last week's Editor's Corner, a number of surveys have shown that a majority of employees bring their mobile devices to work, whether their company permits or not. And this flouting of official policy is most pronounced among younger workers.

It is high time that CIOs took their heads out of the sand and confronted enterprise mobility full on, instead of pretending they can take it or leave it.

CIOs who seize enterprise mobility will not only lessen the chances of an expensive and reputation-damaging data breach but also harness the productivity potential of mobility to gain a leg up on competitors that employ CIOs who continue to drag their feet on enterprise mobility. - Fred