by Tom Kaneshige

Mobility Brings Changing Roles for CIOs, Workers and Businesses

News Analysis
Sep 11, 20135 mins
CareersCIOConsumer Electronics

Mobility in the enterprise is on the move. What's the future look like? BYODers might have to fork out more cash, businesses must turn into mobile tech experts, and CIOs will take on a new role.

ATLANTA — Mobility is on the verge of breaking out in the enterprise, a mega-shift wrought with great opportunities and big challenges that will forever change the face of companies, IT departments, employees and customer relationships.

At least this is the feeling among many attendees and speakers at AirWatch Connect’s customer event in Atlanta this week. Traditional businesses will become mobile app developers. CIOs will take on the roles of mobile architects and integrators. And customers will communicate with companies in a new and mobile way.

BYOD: Employees on the Hook

For employees who bring their own devices (BYOD) to work, there’s no question mobility in the enterprise will soon hit their wallets hard. In other words, the bill for the convenience of being able to use your own smartphone for personal and work-related purposes will come due.

By 2015, most companies will adopt mandatory BYOD programs for many workers, says Bryan Taylor, research director at Gartner, speaking to some 1,000 attendees at AirWatch Connect. This means employees will have to fork out hundreds of dollars for a smartphone and maybe a tablet or PC merely as a condition of employment.

Today, many BYODers receive $40 monthly as reimbursement for their smartphones, but this amount will be reduced by 30 percent by 2016. Even worse, most employees won’t receive any reimbursement, Taylor says.

[ Slideshow: 10 BYOD Worker Types ]

If this sounds outrageous and unprecedented, it’s not. Companies used to reimburse employees for their home Internet connection, but now it’s a rarity for a company to do so. BYOD reimbursement may go down the same path.

“The mobile trend is unstoppable. An organization can’t afford for the CIO’s role to be sidelined.”

–Aberdeen Group’s Andrew Borg >

However, companies won’t stand to gain huge cost savings from these mandates and reimbursement savings. Gartner predicts that the typical organization will spend more than $300 per employee annually for mobile applications, security, management and support.

Changing Role of the CIO

CIOs have been outcasts in the enterprise mobility movement. Here’s a jaw-dropping stat from Aberdeen Group: When it comes to mobile software initiatives, IT’s budget control decreased by 51 percent year over year, whereas the CEO’s budget influence increased by 64 percent and line-of-business manager’s by 69 percent.

This has led to an explosion of shadow mobile IT throughout an organization. There’s no question IT is losing control of its own infrastructure.

For CIOs, though, the good news is that companies are starting to realize that their mobility strategy is too important to be left to a grassroots movement with tech-neophyte decision makers often swayed by a slick PowerPoint presentation from a tech vendor.

Companies need the CIO more than ever, says Aberdeen Group’s Andrew Borg. The CIO’s job is to look ahead and protect the tech investment over the long haul. This means the CIO will need to architect a mobile strategy and tactically pull together and integrate the many shadow mobile tech within the company, in order to wring out mobile workforce efficiencies and cost savings.

“The mobile trend is unstoppable,” Borg says. “An organization can’t afford for the CIO’s role to be sidelined.”

What Business Are You In? CIO Ross Meyercord has a message for his peers: “You’re in the software business now.”

Let’s say your company makes toothbrushes, Meyercord says, the future toothbrush might have embedded sensors that track how someone brushes his molars. Thanks to your company’s mobile software and cloud services, this information will go back to the research and development team and perhaps even to the customer’s dentist.

This kind of thinking puts practically everyone in the mobile tech game.

At AirWatch Connect, Michael Rodger, vice president of hotel systems and infrastructure at Four Seasons Hotels, said that mobility has made IT a major stakeholder in the company. Four Seasons Hotel is in the midst of an iPad and iPod Touch pilot project at five hotels.

The pilot calls for putting these mobile devices into the hands of housekeeping and inside guest rooms, as well as supporting BYODers in corporate offices. Guests will be able to order room service and receive information over the iPad or even their own smartphones and tablets via a Four Seasons Hotels app. Housekeeping will be able to let the front desk know that a room has been cleaned or contact plumbing in case of a leak or take a picture of a damaged room.

If all goes well, Four Seasons Hotels will roll out mobile devices to all 93 hotels by the end of the year.

The goal is to better serve the affluent, tech savvy guests who stay at Four Seasons Hotels. Competition in the hospitality industry is fierce, Rodger’s says, with hotels trying to one-up each other through the use of the latest mobile gadgets.

Mobility at Four Seasons Hotels used to be confined to the corner-office executive or sales person or on-the-go catering manager. But now mobile devices make sense for the housekeeper, the valet, the concierge who wants to sit down with a guest in the lobby and provide information via an iPad.

“Every touchpoint has a use case for mobility, and that wasn’t true five years ago,” Rodgers says.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at