Mobility in the enterprise - Part 3

NSW Business Chamber: Flexible but firm

Of course, not every organisation has the resources of IBM and can build its own app store that’s accessible from practically anywhere on the globe.

The NSW Business Chamber, for example, is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of business consulting services in areas such as human resources, marketing and legal, to assist Australian businesses manage their workers and growth more effectively.

The organisation has about 6000 full members and 20,000 associate members, ranging from small businesses requiring day-to-day operational support with HR, industrial relations and OHS issues, to large multinational corporations operating in Australia.

See Mobility in the enterprise amp;#8212; Part 1 and Part 2.

NSW Business Chamber CIO, Karen Scott Davie,supports 400 staff in 27 offices across the state, most of whom are out of the office more often than they’re in.

“About 60 per cent of our staff is always on the road, so achieving total mobility for our workforce is one of our big goals this year,” she says.

At the NSW Chamber, mobility is a mix; at the executive level there are a few iPads, but most mobile work is accomplished using a combination of lightweight Lenovo laptops and HTC smartphones, which were vetted by the IT department.

“We picked these models over the iPhone and others because initially you couldn’t easily wipe iPhones and iPads like you can now,” Scott Davie says.

“We keep member data in our CRM system, which must be kept secure and is hosted internally for that reason. But we also have 27 regional offices, so we have to share that information across the Internet to give our people access. We chose mobile phones that would allow us to limit who has access to that information and, should one of those devices go missing, enable us to lock it down and wipe remotely within a minute.”

When most of your workforce might be in the office for just an hour a day, the need to access to e-mail and important documents is pretty self-evident, so Scott Davie says making a business case for mobility wasn’t terribly difficult. Securing the devices, however, is more of challenge.

Scott Davie, a member of the CIO Executive Council, approaches the issue from several angles and has worked hard to strike a balance between mobility, productivity and security. Given the sensitive information the Chamber holds about the firms it works with, the organisation simply cannot afford to lose the confidence of its members. As a result, Scott Davie’s mobile policies are flexible in some areas of the business, while rigidly strict in others.

In forming her mobility policies, Scott Davie found guidance in the ideas of ‘radical transparency’ articulated by Dr Michael Nelson, visiting professor of internet studies at Georgetown University in the US and self-described ‘future-maker’, who advised Barack Obama on technology during the 2008 presidential campaign. But make no mistake, Scott Davie also runs a very tight ship.

Each Tuesday, staff must reread the organisation’s terms and conditions of use and sign them to acknowledge their acceptance. Failure to adhere to the guidelines laid down by the terms is grounds for dismissal, and the CIO is not afraid to enforce them.

It’s not threats, however, which keep the Chamber’s employees in line. Instead, a strong focus on education and encouraging employee awareness about data loss issues underpins Scott Davie’s efforts in the mobility area.

Sign up to receive CIO newletters via email.

Page Break

Staff who attend overseas conferences, for instance, are given a seminar on how to use their devices safely and effectively, explaining how to lock them down with multiple strong passwords, how to switch off roaming data to limit costs and what to do if devices are lost or stolen.

“We combine security instruction with explanations of the potential cost to the business,” Scott Davie says.

“We educate them on security and privacy, as well as show them the benefits to their bottom line. It’s also about promoting a culture of responsible use #8212; no one here wants to be known for having the highest phone bill in the organisation.”

In-depth: How to create a successful mobile project.

Since rolling out iPads to the Chamber’s executive team five months ago, Scott Davie says she’s had many requests for iPads from the rest of the company.

“Our sales team wants them, our lawyers want them, everybody is asking about them,” she says.

“We’re trying to hold back the tide, but I’m not sure how long we can do it.”

Nor is sure she sure that she wants to. Already Scott Davie has seen measurable productivity increases from organisation’s mobile workforce. Now the iPads are starting to make a noticeable difference, particularly in meetings and project planning activities.

“During meetings people take notes on their iPad and then e-mail them instantly,” she says.

“They [the iPads] actually speed up the time it takes to do projects, because you’re not taking notes by hand and then having someone e-mail the action plan a day or two later, after everyone has already forgotten what items they’ve committed to do.

"Now, by the time everyone walks out of the meeting and gets back to their desk, they’ve been e-mailed the minutes and know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. This gives us access to quick decision-making, which is important.”

She also says the iPads deliver Green IT benefits.

“We’re saving a lot of paper just in terms of note-taking,” she says.

But the device’s note-taking benefits go well beyond paper and actually enable managers to improve how they track the history of projects. Instead of a notebook with pages of handwritten notes, on an iPad you can see all your notes very quickly.

“You can index them, you can search them and they’re stored in way that makes it very easy to keep adding to them," Scott Davie says.

"This is a very simple way of keeping track of what’s going on with many different projects. And we do a lot of projects, so that’s a big benefit for us.”

“Aside from putting memos or project plans into a prettier format, we’ve certainly found that even with just a few members of staff having iPads, the productivity and time-saving benefits are huge."

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

Related:

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories