by Tom Kaneshige

Mobilizing Your Sales Team Brings Challenges, High Expectations to IT

Jul 01, 20143 mins
CareersCIOIT Leadership

Equipping your sales force with smartphones and tablets makes for more efficient and happier sales people. However, if sales pros are always connected, does your IT team need to become a 24/7 operation?

mobile smartphone hands user
Credit: Thinkstock

There’s been a lot of talk about all the great benefits companies reap from mobilizing their workforce, especially those in sales and services who work mostly out in the field.

Arm these road warriors with smartphones and tablets and awesome mobile apps, and you’ll be paid in kind with higher productivity and happier employees.

But not all employees need to be mobilized, right?

Tech staffers who report to the office every day don’t sound like prime candidates for iPads and mobile apps, but actually they are, says James Gordon, senior vice president of IT at Needham Bank, a 180-employee community bank in Massachusetts.

Needham Bank is a MobileIron customer and will be outfitting its five-person IT team with a new mobile app, called MobileIron Insight. On an iPad, an IT admin will be able to search for users and devices, tell whether or not mobile devices are in or out of compliance, troubleshoot issues, assign policies, unlock a device, and other mobile device management tasks.

[Related: Why Mobile Strategies Are Stalling at Many Enterprises ]

 Needham Bank’s IT staff also uses an iPad app that lets them remote-in to a Windows 7 desktop.

Ironically, before MobileIron Insight, Gordon and his team had to use a Windows desktop to manage their MobileIron environment of 115 devices. “Isn’t this a mobile world? Aren’t we mobile professionals?” Gordon says. “It was kind of laughable having to run to a Windows-based computer.”

Needham Bank isn’t alone in touting the merits of a mobilized IT staff. A recent Ponemon Institute study of 400 IT professionals found “agility and preparedness for change”was by far the most important factor to maintain an effective mobile strategy over time.

The Challenges of Going Mobile

However, mobilizing IT presents a big challenge. Let’s say an employee gets locked out of his or her mobile device at night or over the weekend. With MobileIron Insight, an admin can unlock the device. Given the dynamics of an always-on mobile culture, the employee can easily send a text, email or phone call, and, more importantly, expect the IT admin to solve the problem right away.

In other words, a mobilized IT staff might be expected to work around the clock.

“If you’re mobilizing all these processes, aren’t you by default getting extra hours of free work out of people? The answer is, sure,” Gordon says.

[Related: What Is Going Wrong With BYOD? ]

Gordon plans to confront this by educating users about expectations when they file a help desk ticket, say, over the weekend. He also tells his IT staff that they can resolve that help desk ticket, thanks in part to MobileIron Insight, but are under no obligation to do so.

In return, a mobilized IT staff gets some flexibility working remotely.

“If one of their kids has a doctor’s appointment or dance recital, I can say that’s fine but I’m still expecting certain work to get done,” Gordon says. “Whether it’s writing policies or procedures, upgrading storage area networks, patching servers, those things can increasingly be done — oftentimes done better — when users aren’t there to encumber them.”