TechTarget survey: Demand for mobile creates challenges for business, IT and BPM

Growing demand for mobile computing will continue generating major new challenges for companies in many industries for at least the next year, according to the latest global survey conducted by ebizQ's parent company TechTarget.

That forecast is based on the results from the 2013 TechTarget Global IT Priorities Survey. Nearly 3,300 business and IT professionals worldwide responded to the survey, which covered a wide range of technology trends and issues.

Just how great is demand for mobile—and how big are the challenges that it's generating? Survey results indicate that:

—More than a third of those polled (38%) cited increasing mobile capability as a priority for this year.
—Thirty percent expect to launch mobile-device management networking initiatives this year.
—Fully two-thirds ranked mobile-device management as a “medium” or “high” priority for this year.
—An even greater percentage—85%—ranked mobile security as a “medium” or “high” priority for this year.
—However, only 29% reported having a mobile device management (MDM) tools or policies in place.

In addition, the survey indicates that many IT leaders are developing new mindsets about the "bring-your-own-device" trend, exploring ways to integrate employees' own devices into their enterprises. But IT teams clearly don't consider all personally owned devices equally suitable for use at work.

"For instance, while 54% of respondents involved with desktop management say they will allow users to self-provision smartphones in 2013, only 35% say they will do that with tablets that will link to the corporate network, and only 29% for laptops or desktops," Mark Schlack, TechTarget's senior vice president for editorial, wrote in his Global Priorities Survey executive summary.

While the TechTarget survey results don’t specifically mention mobile business process management, such demand will certainly put pressure on the BPM pros charged with creating new processes or adapting existing ones to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce.

"Our numbers match up with what you’re seeing. We're starting to see more and more companies moving in this direction," Clay Richardson, a Forrester Research senior analyst who specializes in BPM, says of the survey results indicating growing global interest in mobile.

That's no flash-in-the-pan trend, he adds: "What we’re seeing is a shift in computing. You can compare it from going to the mainframe to PC to the Web. Now we’re going from web computing to smartphones and mobile computing."

That seismic shift is creating a split between architects and developers, Richardson says. "You have the infrastructure team looking at mobile from the standpoint of 'We have to secure mobile devices and lock the devices down,' and you have the development team creating cool applications but not really connecting back to the infrastructure," he says.

The shift affects BPM professionals as well. "The process team really touches all of these worlds. Whether you’re locking down the app or building a product, it all connects back to process," Richardson says. "So getting the process teams involved in mobile, having a mobile approach to process, is key."

As a result, Forrester studies indicate that companies will spend nearly $8 billion on reinventing processes for mobility this year—a task that's more difficult than it may sound. "You can't just port everything from the Web to mobile," Richardson says.

For Steve Weissman, principal analyst for the Holly Group, a Boston-based consulting firm, the BPM-related questions generated by the survey involve architecture more than process. "To me, the business process is the business process—only the tools change," he says. "The adding of the layer of mobility puts the emphasis on the architecture because the business process fundamentally remains unchanged."

For instance, he says, "the work of the claims adjuster, the salespeople in the field, the people who are in roles that take them outside the company—that doesn’t change. They still have to identify and authenticate themselves as if they were sitting at their desks. That doesn’t change. Data in the back end still needs to be secured. That doesn’t change. What’s changed is that you have a device that was specifically invented to have legs and walk away."

Of course, most IT teams recognize the need for securing smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, but Weissman says they must do more. "It's not just mobile device management," he says. "It’s also connection management. That rarely bubbles up in conversation. People understand that 'I could lose my phone on the train.' But they don’t really think about how they connect back to the office." Any mobile-device security plan should address potential security issues at all network connection and access points.

The best way to set mobile priorities, in Weissman's view: Back up to the beginning. "What’s the business problem you’re trying to solve, and for whom?" he asks. "What is the business process and how can mobility improve upon that process?"

Richardson agrees, recommending this approach: "Let's look at the employee path of activity, what they’re trying to get done on mobile, and make sure that’s enabled. Let’s also make sure we are delivering what customers want."

Finally, Weissman offers this practical caveat: "Don't mobile for mobile's sake." Instead, find proof that mobility will improve productivity or help the company better serve customers or reach some other business goal. "Know what you're getting into. Do your homework," he advises. "Don’t design your business process around the mobile device. Instead, adapt the process to the mobile device."

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail

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