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Why Now Is the Time to Prepare Your IT Workforce for Cloud Mobility

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Mobile employees already demand seamless and reliable access to their business networks, whether they’re in the office or on the move. They want to share, download and sync files regardless of their location, and IT must therefore find ways to ensure workers are able to do their job effectively wherever they are. All of which means there is great urgency to get devices, data and applications up and running in the Cloud. But rather than rushing in, how can businesses take a measured approach?

We’ve spoken to a number of thought leaders to get their views on how organisations can best prepare their IT workforce for Cloud mobility. What advice can experts in the field give businesses looking into long-term strategies for exploiting Cloud as a tool to underpin enterprise mobility?

THINK SMALL

“The most prudent long-term Cloud computing strategy any firm can adopt for enterprise mobility is… to think small before thinking big,” said Adrian Bridgwater, an enterprise IT blogger for a number of B2B sites, including Forbes.

“Firms need to identify which individual pieces of their operational mechanics they can accurately quantify and then safely compartmentalize, before migrating them to Cloud-based environments.”

Alan Mather, former chief executive of the e-delivery team at the UK Government’s Cabinet Office and now Director at Ardea Enterprises Limited, echoed the point, recommending that organisations “Start with short-term” by moving a section of their operations and picking up key learnings from the experience.

“Pause, learn, extend or change in response to what you’ve learned,” said Mather. “Then think about what you want your users to be able to do - everything that they can do from the office or just parts of it? Is it about collaborating with the rest of your business or with suppliers and customers too?  

LEAD OR FOLLOW

However, in many businesses the march to mobility has been underway for a number of years and this means business and IT leaders have a decision to make. Should they wrestle back control of the mobile strategy from users, or attempt to enforce new policies on workers?

“Quite simply, your workforce is becoming mobile whether you like it or not,” said Richard Absalom, Senior Analyst with Ovum’s Enterprise Mobility and Productivity practice.

Ovum’s research shows that almost 70 per cent of full-time employees already use their own smartphones and/or tablets to access corporate data.

“Does that mean you should be using the Cloud systems they use, or letting them use your Cloud capabilities?” asked Mather. “You don’t want three collaboration tools and you’d be surprised how many enterprises already do. Worry about integration early on. How will users on different systems - legacy and Cloud - talk to each other, and see each other’s diaries etc?”

However, when it comes to device strategy, diversification could be key. Catering to the demands of the workforce can have a positive impact on the business.

“Diversification increases the management overhead but means a happier user community who will probably be more productive because they can choose devices they are familiar with,” he said.

Building a Cloud mobility strategy by giving greater power to the user will not sit comfortably with business leaders who have traditionally liked to keep a tight control over IT systems and user privileges.

But Daniel Steeves, a business consultant at Beyond Solutions, said that users often take charge with or without the IT department. “The need to support their ‘rogue Cloud’ moves will grow, particularly as the business starts to depend on those moves,” he said.

MOBILE SECURITY

The very mention of “rogue” Clouds will set alarm bells ringing in many organisations, which brings us to the issue many thought leaders regarded as the biggest discussion point when building a Cloud-supported mobile strategy… security.

“Cloud and Mobility trends bring with them greater requirements to ensure hardware and software compatibility across platforms, and to spot and eliminate network vulnerabilities and cyberattack threats, “ said Alistair Maughan, Partner at law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP. “Privacy and data security issues – and the potential exposure to legal and regulatory claims or financial penalties – have long been recognised as a key factor in the decision to adopt Cloud solutions.”

Maughan said that the problem was compounded by the fact that the various risks represent a moving target – both as laws change and the cyberattack threat becomes more sophisticated. “Any business implementing Cloud needs to have in place a detailed risk mitigation strategy, one key element of which is an IT workforce that understands the risk exposures and works proactively to address those risks ahead of time.”

Max Cooter, enterprise IT journalist and former Editor of Cloud Pro, warned that whileconnectivity to the Cloud through mobile devices is a natural progression for companies striving for greater business agility, there are many challenges.

“Security is the major concern,” he said. “There’s certainly going to be a need for some sort of identity management software on the mobile device. This is not always straightforward.  An organisation could have existing forms of identity management for its physical infrastructure, one that may not work effectively in the Cloud.  For security purposes, however, this is an essential step.”

“The ideal goal should be to give workers secure and managed access to all the apps they need on all the devices they use – and having Cloud-delivered applications of course makes this easier,” added Absalom.”

BUSINESS SIZE

So, what’s the first step for businesses looking to formalise their mobility strategy? Phil Hochmuth, Director of Mobile Workforce Strategies at Strategy Analytics said it’s easy to over-simplify the challenges businesses face when building out their approach to Cloud. Many factors influence an organisation’s approach, not least the business’s size and function.

“It depends largely on what the business is, and what the end-user and customer looks like,” said Hochmuth. “If it is a software company, starting from scratch today, there are few circumstances to deploy servers and software on premise. Nearly every aspect of IT can be bought via the 'x'-aaS model. This can allow a new business to focus on its core competency, and not have to invest money and effort in building up IT from scratch.

“More mature firms have many more considerations… legacy systems and apps, which may support customers or essential processes; regulatory requirements on how IT is deployed and data handled, etc. Here, firms must be more targeted about Cloud choices.“

All of which means business leaders and, crucially, IT departments have a job on their hands. Steeves warned that businesses need to be aware of the fact that moves to the Cloud can often displace IT staff. “Timing is crucial to ensure they do not lose necessary resources too soon,” he said.

For those organisations that have yet to formalise their Cloud strategies, now is the time to do so. Business and technology leaders within your organisation are faced with a choice of being master or servant to the fundamental changes that mobility will bring over the next few years. Which camp do you fall in?

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