31 CIO stock

The benefits of mobile working are now well understood by global organisations operating across multiple key vertical sectors, and delivery of programmes to arm corporate road warriors with equipment and support to maximise their productivity while out of the office is now mainstream. 

However, when it comes to mobile working, it is apparent that some applications are more equal than others. Advances in smartphone technology, together with developments in associated cloud and on-premises back-end mobile working infrastructure systems, mean that email is now truly mobile as a core corporate application. But there is a growing realisation that organisations have been lagging behind when it comes to opening up other critical applications for mobile usage. In light of this it is increasingly falling to CIOs to tackle the multiple issues - technological, procedural and cultural - which must be addressed before provisioning secure and effective mobile access to an expanded portfolio of enterprise applications and services.

Speaking at a recent CIO Mobility Council event in association with BlackBerry, Richard Hodkinson, chief technology officer for DWF LLP, outlined the legal group's mobile working initiatives, which include moves to provide mobile access to document management systems in a bid to improve collaboration among staff working out of the office with clients.

"If they can access document management through a mobile device, it’s useful for those on the move. Mobility is less about workflow and more about capability when our lawyers are out on the road," Hodkinson said.

"Mobility is more of a collaborative experience, about access to data and mobility. Mobile devices make business much more connected, improving our business flows around the world. Lawyers need to be able to execute transactions quickly. Everything around social tools and mobility now is eventually just the way business will get done."

Ease of use of mobile apps is fuelling the success of mobility programmes, Hodkinson noted: "Lawyers are particularly clever people, but not necessarily great around some technologies. The use of apps has helped that, mobile apps have the Fisher Price quotient which a number of desktop apps created by vendors don’t have."

He added that the legal partnership, which has 1,000 "genuinely mobile" employees among its total global staff headcount of 2,500 has been expanding rapidly through acquisition. The ongoing improvements in mobile collaboration working were, according to Hodkinson, helping to integrate staff from recently acquired companies: "We’ve taken on lots more people and we need to make them more collaborative, need to be one firm rather than a set of warring tribes with the same letterhead, and the whole mobility play helps with that."

He went on to point that prospective employees are asking increasingly about issues including mobility, work-life balance, the group's core values and how progressive the organisation is. "We have very discerning employees who look at the reputation beyond how much money are we going to make.”

Unsurprisingly for a growing legal group Hodkinson described how the process of identifying and addressing security issues was a vital pre-requisite when developing and implementing the organisation's mobility strategy: "Security a big deal. Reputation in legal business is everything, so you don’t need too many security breaches until you’re out of business."

Speaking at the same CIO event, G4S Risk Management CIO Tim Grieveson agreed that maintaining enterprise-class levels of security was essential for any successful corporate mobility programme. “He also explained that Security by design at the centre of any programme or operation is essential to maintain a high level of security maturity and posture.”

In addition to the G4S Risk Management corporate BlackBerry network and utilising multiple networks designed for different uses, he stressed the importance of user education and implementing sensible and appropriate usage policies – and not just technical solutions – when defining a security framework: "Look at social engineering. Can we get access to the building? Can you tailgate into the building unchallenged? How many people have we seen with a laptop open writing a merger and acquisition document on the train where we could easily shoulder surf to review the content, pricing and details of the specific deals?"

For G4S Risk Management mobile working is essential to enable it to conduct business as it oversees in excess of 11,000 people –operating in some of the 125+ countries that G4S Risk Management operates in including complex, low infrastructure and high threat  environments such as Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan to name only a few.

"Mobility is incredibly important to G4S Risk Management but also the wider G4S Group.   It’s about the data and accessing it on the right device in the right place and at the right time by the right person.”

Grieveson said that in his arm of G4S, G4S Risk Management which support clients by helping them to protect their critical assets in locations such Iraq and Afghanistan, whether that be people, vehicles, infrastructure or sensitive information, he was taking a device-agnostic approach to mobility as the security of the data is the foundation of his mobile strategy.

"Traditionally in the IT security industry we've been very good at saying no," he said. Grieveson believed that this was the sort of attitude that could lead to the procurement of shadow IT within an organisation.

"Why does shadow IT develop? It's because they've been to the IT department and the IT department said 'no'. We therefore take the stance of looking at the way to enable the device, functionality and access to data in a secure manner rather than disable it.”

Whilst the device is less of an issue, as Grieveson empties his pockets to reveal an iPad, iPhone, Windows 8.1 device, BlackBerry Z30 and Android smartphone – bandwidth, connectivity are more of a concern.

“My issue is more about power and bandwidth when you look at the places our people are working – there is often very low or no bandwidth in lots of countries and locations we are working in.”

Mobile working has the potential to make a business more agile and responsive, but can make operations quickly and dramatically worse if the technology and policies are ill thought out or implemented poorly, Grieveson cautioned: "People talk about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Choose Your Own Device' - but I call BYOD 'bring-your-own-disaster' if you have not thought about the business objectives of how the technology will be used and how to deploy and manage it correctly. You can absolutely have a consumer device, but with it you are going to get consumer support."