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5 mobility challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders

EducationSummary: For the modern IT leader, the rise of mobility offers advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it opens the door to near limitless possibilities. On the other hand, it brings some significant challenges that must be addressed in order to capitalize on the advantages of mobility. In this article, we outline some of the biggest challenges, and offer some tips to address each one.

photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay cc
photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay cc

Mobility isn’t just a new trend or a buzzword. It’s the new reality. Everywhere you look, people are glued to their mobile devices. They’ve infiltrated not only our personal lives, but the business world as well.

The rise of mobility is both a blessing and a curse for the modern IT leader. On one hand, it offers incredible opportunities if properly harnessed. On the other hand, mobility comes with its own unique set of challenges.

The problem is, most businesses aren’t harnessing this power.

How can CIOs and IT leaders capitalize on the benefits that mobility offers? They must first address some common mobile challenges. Today, let’s explore a few of these challenges, and explain some ways to get around them.

Challenge #1: Reimagine security for a mobile world

If you’re struggling with the mobile security challenge, you’re not alone. A recent survey finds that over 95% of IT departments are struggling with security challenges in their bid to increase user mobility in their organization.

The fact is, mobility bypasses many of the internal security measures IT departments have already established. It requires a different approach to security.

“Many IT leaders have considerable experience with security but enterprise mobility tends to bring new challenges,” says Nic Grange, CTO of Retriever Communications. “Over the years, IT departments have developed control measures that mitigate security threats such as having a standard operating environment (SOE), firewalls to provide layers of network security as well as using software like antivirus. There are many well established solutions to these problems which aren’t necessarily foolproof but usually provide adequate security for most digital assets. In some cases, physical security also plays a part in providing protection. Enterprise Mobility challenges most of these established control measures. Physical security is no longer an option, SOEs are not that common and nor is it easy to fully control the entire network.”

Tips to address this challenge
As explained by Grange, mobile device management software offers one way to secure the mobile devices in your workplace: “One of the most common security solutions for enterprise mobility is Mobile Device Management (MDM) software which helps you not only deploy new applications and updates but also to lock down devices through security policies and provide things like remote wipe functions.”

Challenge #2: Bridge the skill shortage gap

What do CIOs say is the single largest barrier to success? Talent. As Gartner mentions in their CIO Agenda Report, “Talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.”

To make matters worse, this problem is growing. As technology evolution accelerates, finding employees with modern skills becomes even more challenging.

This problem is especially critical in the mobility area. The rise of smartphones and tablets was the fastest growing trend in history. As explained below, it’s a problem on two different levels.

“I’d say that talent is the biggest mobility challenge facing CIOs,” says Rick Hurckes, Services Director at mrc. “Many IT leaders don’t even have the luxury of hiring a mobile developer. They’re already understaffed and working on a tight budget. They have to address the mobility challenges using their current team–a challenge that’s holding back mobile efforts in many organizations.”

Tips to address this challenge
If your company can’t afford to bring in mobile talent–don’t worry. You can still bridge the skills gap and capitalize on mobile. Rather than get into all of the steps here, we’ve outlined a few ways to address the skills gap in this article.

Challenge #3: Balance security with mobile data access

On a similar note, delivering secure mobile access to business data is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern IT leader. How are others addressing this issue? In many cases…they’re not. The same survey mentioned above finds that 92% of IT departments still restrict some data access from mobile devices over data breach fears.

The problem with this approach: It often leads to users bypassing IT’s restrictions altogether. If they can’t get the data access they need from IT, many resort to risky workarounds.

Now, am I saying that you should open up your data to mobile devices without security? Not at all. But, mobile data access is quickly becoming essential. As explained below, mobile devices require a balancing act between security and accessibility.

“With mobility, you need to consider the implications of your security controls on the user experience of the apps and device,” says Grange. “While you want things to be secure, you still want your users to use the apps and device. So don’t give your users too many incentives to circumvent security like putting passwords on sticky notes on the back of devices.”

Tips to address this challenge
One approach that’s gaining popularity: Secure the data, not the device. With this approach, you treat the mobile device as a doorway, not a destination. It’s a strategy I’ve seen employed in many different companies, with great success. They create mobile web applications that let users login and access data, without storing the data on their device. In the event of a lost or stolen phone, the risk of data breach is limited.

Challenge #4: Maintain collaboration across remote teams

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc
photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

The modern employee can work more hours and from more places than ever before. As a result, we’re seeing more businesses allow for remote work and telecommuting.

While that seems great on the surface, how will this remote work impact your business? How can you ensure that productivity and collaboration don’t suffer across these remote teams?

“As remote work arrangements become increasingly popular, managers are often concerned that camaraderie and collaboration could suffer due to lack of regular, in-person interaction,” said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology. “Even senior executives in a technology-forward department like IT can feel disconnected from remote teams because of limited face time with staff and lack of visibility into how work is being accomplished.”

Tips to address this challenge
In this article, Robert Half Technology offers four tips for technology executives to manage remote teams effectively:
Outline expectations. Tell remote employees how often you’d like them to check in by phone or email. Let them know you expect them to be reachable during office hours. Also, set clear goals and benchmarks to help mobile workers stay on track with objectives.

Leverage technology tools. Make sure remote employees have access to the right communication tools. Teleconferencing, online meeting and file-sharing services foster collaboration among remote teams. Confirm that everyone can stay in touch easily and access the information they need quickly and securely.

Create opportunities for face time. To help remote workers stay connected, request that they work on-site a few times a month, if possible. Encourage them to attend important events and meetings in person, as appropriate. Also, use videoconferencing tools to promote virtual face-to-face interaction with off-site staff.

Check in with remote employees regularly. Remote work arrangements afford flexibility but they can blur the lines between work and personal life. Some employees who work from home have trouble ‘unplugging.’ Encourage them to create balance, which, ultimately, aids productivity in the long term.

Challenge #5: Be present everywhere

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc
photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

More and more, we live in an instant world–and mobile devices are driving this trend.

Think about it for a minute.

What do you do when you have a question? You look it up on your smartphone.

What happens when you’re hungry and need to find a restaurant? Look it up on your smartphone.

How do most people consume news these days? On their smartphone.

The rise of mobile changes the way we operate on a daily basis. We expect instant answers. We expect instant access to the data we need.

What does this mean from a business perspective? You must be present everywhere, or risk getting ignored. Here are a few examples:

Suppose one of your salespeople needs access to data while on the road. Can they get it, regardless of device or operating system? If not, you frustrate your employee and hurt your business.

Or, suppose your customers need to check their account information. Can they get to it from any device? If not, you’ll create angry customers.

Or, suppose you’re a local business. Can prospects easily find you when they’re nearby, and need products that you offer? As explained below, being present everywhere plays a larger role in local businesses going forward.

“When quality and quantity are of equal value, proximity plays a greater role in the customer’s decision process,” says Anthony Jullien, Director of IT at Dupray Inc. “The challenge is to be prevalent and persistent – always show up. Being present on every platform is an expensive and meticulous task that requires significant front-end work. One you shift to the management and oversight of the campaigns, it becomes enormously easier. My advice: tough it out and be persistent and gritty through the long lengths of set-up and front-end work.”

Tips to address this challenge
You need a mobile presence, regardless of your business. Now, some assume this means you need to create native apps for every platform. This is a myth. For most, it simply means creating a mobile web versions of their current applications and sites. In this way, you create cross-platform apps that customers/prospects/employees can use to access the information they need, from anywhere.


These are just 5 mobility challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders, but the list could certainly be much longer. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.

1 thought on “5 mobility challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders”

  1. I have read your post. I think it has very important content for mobile app development challenges .It is a useful guidance for mobility challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders. By the way thanks for the such a useful article.

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