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Why governments need a strategy for enterprise mobility now

Government agencies not only experience the budget squeeze, they feel mobility demands becoming ever more sophisticated increasing pressure from two sides: Their ecosystem increasingly uses mobile devices and demands for respective accommodation by the government, and, mobile devices and the productivity-enhancing apps that run on them become broadly affordable, a development sometimes dubbed as the “consumerization of IT”.

In broad terms, the demands of agencies’ ecosystem may be characterized by the following developments:

  1. The market for smart phones is growing quickly. According to a study by IDC Research, in the fourth quarter of 2010, for the first time, smart phone shipments overtook PC shipments, with 101 million to 92 million. Tablet sales are expected to increase 400% by 2012, based on 2010 numbers. In 2014, global mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage.
  2. Complexity in the mobile device market increases, as the dominance of operating system is shifting quickly, and form factors continue to proliferate with ever increasing speed.
  3. 20% of mobile workers are getting business apps from app stores today, and Forrester, another research company, claims within the next 12 months half of all organizations in the US plan to deploy mobile applications. Gartner, a consultancy, predicts, by 2013, a typical Fortune 1000 corporation will use at least six different combinations of mobile platform, architecture and development tools.
  4. According to IDC, by 2013, the total number of mobile workers will grow to nearly 1.2 billion people, i.e. more than a third of the world’s workforce.
  5. In average we spend about 3 hours daily on our mobile phone, that is over twice the amount of time we spend eating, states Edison Research. 58% of Smartphone owners would give up TV before giving up their smart phones. People increasingly expect instant access to information and services, 24/7. 30% of consumers research products on their mobile phones (up from 14% in 2009).
  6. 23% of the workforce are now Millennials, raising to 37% within four years, says Ernst & Young, a consultancy. These Millennials have other expectations and behavior, which has an impact on security: 40% of Millennials use unsanctioned mobile phones, instant messaging and social networking sites for work activities. Accenture, another consultancy claims, these expectations of the Millennials have an impact on employer attractiveness: 52% of them consider state-of-the-art technology an important selection criteria for employers.

The challenges for government agencies are multifold: They touch procurement and IT decisions, HR and worker productivity, business processes and communication channels, patterns of interactions with employees and constituents, and affect paradigms of security and safety for government data. Agencies need to make sustainable decisions in procuring devices and mobile enterprise application platforms which support complexity, but reduce rather than increase it. As more and more people will want to use their mobile devices to access information government agencies publish, they will want to interact with government agencies, using their devices. To accommodate users, governments have to understand how these devices work, and how to not only give in to the demand, but how to take advantage of these trends in order to achieve its own goals and its missions more effectively.

And the clock is ticking: When competing with the private sector (and one another) on the labor market today, agencies which do not invest in mobile technology and do not support mobile devices for work risk to lose out massively on the brightest minds and most productive workers. If for no other reason, sustainable attrition should be the single most important reason for each and every government agency to create a strategic plan for and with enterprise mobility now.

There’s no doubt software will play an important role. More importantly though, agencies will have to make good policy decisions, decisions embracing mobile technologies and taking advantage of the many benefits they offer, while keeping sensitive government data protected from unauthorized access. In a series of blogs over the next few months, I would like to highlight some of these challenges, and how government agencies can cope with them.

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Samuel Liles

Mr. Muno,

You make some great points. I’d add that mobile enterprises architectures can be created in what might be considered “closed” or “open” formats. When you engage in risk management of the “closed” architecture you will find costs rapidly escalating towards the stratosphere. There is an inherent guiding principle to government procurement of information technology assets to engage in closed architectures that are costly and mythic systems security policies that are applied to information assets.

Think about it this way. If your approval to operate and your methods of systems security are the only way you have to engage in information asset protection your system is inherently flawed. This has been proven by the Bradley Mannings, Hansens, and Walkers of the world time and time again. Information protection should be the goal and inherently can become the result of proper architectures. Cloud computing and consumerization of information technology are specifically driving the divergence of systems and information security. If you can’t trust your cloud with multi-tenancy and you have unknown devices accessing your systems infrastructure how do you protect the information. Not only is it possible it can cost substantially less.

We are going to see in the future a time when the ubiquitous BlackBerry and government procured laptop are no longer provided and that devices become part of the dress code. It is hard for government in some arenas to understand this pending sea change in culture but it is already happening as so many people carry multiple devices. You can throw up dozens of reasons this will never happen but they pale when the cost of information per users sits between $3000 and over $15000 per user per year in government. Costs must shrink and this is one venue of that shrinkage and it can happen without increasing security.

Just a quick note before dinner have a great weekend.

Julie Chase

“When competing with the private sector (and one another) on the labor market today, agencies which do not invest in mobile technology and do not support mobile devices for work risk to lose out massively on the brightest minds and most productive workers.”

DoD will never cop to this. Where my DH works, cell phones are banned. If a worker is caught with one, it is confiscated and the worker is wrote up. Any guesses on the “age group” of the workers most often “caught”????

Mobility is possible only as far as the agency says it is. We are in a “no wireless” zone at my installation. This is going to cause a major glich in our mission. Procurement of the latest and greatest IT and software is a web of red tape that encircles the earth zillions of times. “Security” is the reason, and that is all you need to know. As a babyboomer in the gov workforce, I always question, “WHY?”, and my “silent generation” seniors in charge say, “because I said so, I’m the government, and that is on a need to know basis”. The “silent generation” is well known for excepting what the government tells them is gospel. Babyboomers questioned everything, the government and their “I said so” ways, the GenX’ers just want to work, the economy sucks & they have pretty much been self starters since they were latch key kids. The millenials are a tougher crowd, you tell them NO, and they take their knowledge and expertise elsewhere. Why do you think the gov is a favorite on the “hack list”?

Keeping sensitive government data protected from unauthorized access is totally understandable. But don’t make every sub organization suffer in the name of “security” without looking at it on a case by case basis. Putting a blanket NO on “everything”, mobile and wireless is only going stifle some agencies, it’s going to set them back decades.

I truly admire what you all bring to the table in emerging technology, innovation, mobility, etc. I think it’s great…now convince DoD and it’s sub agencies.

Jay Johnson

Our organization is working on a mobile version of technical work documents. It will be a bumpy road to get this implemented, but totally necessary as well.

Stephen F Murphy

Yes, yes, and yes, as a firm that works in health information dissemination we see agencies that get mobile and many that don’t. Some are adopting low end solutions that are essentially brochure ware versions of their website. Click the link and you exit the app to be taken to the website bypassing the functionality mobile gives you. If the website itself is not mobile friendly then the app itself is not.

Health is one of the top search terms on the web. Commercial aggregator sites get mobile and are offering innovative one stop health finder solutions. Gov is still siloed through so if you want to locate information on a disease or condition, you have to go to multiple agency websites.

Agencies need education in mobile web vs. native apps and personally identifiable information and mobile

to name just two areas. Another is not trying to do what the commercial sector already does a great job at. Instead of apps gov should be focussed on creating APIs, open data and use cases and let the private sector figure out how to deliver the best mobile value. Only some of that work can be done thru “app challenges” though. Deep dive properly thought out open data strategies still need the expertise of companies that know the data.

NextGov has a good article that gets at customer service and mobile, http://bit.ly/nTujVk, more to be done and much less to do it with.