The CIO Disruption

By Ojas Rege | 18 November 2014

We’ve come a long way since the first usable email-enabled mobile devices were launched over 15 years ago. In many companies, mobile working has moved from a novelty to the industry standard. Core business processes are going mobile, and we are on the verge of the Mobile First era.

This shift to mobile will have the same disruptive impact on IT architecture and governance as previous transitions from the mainframes to the PC and client/server to the internet. The pace of change and the benefits of mobility are there for all to see, but where does this leave the CIO? Managing a complex transition can be a difficult process, especially when you have a growing numbers of employees looking to use their own devices for work or download potentially risky consumer apps for use with corporate data. It’s no surprise that CIOs may prefer to be cautious and implement a conservative security policy, many times stifling the benefits of mobility in the process.

Misaligned priorities

Many CIOs are struggling to adapt to the speed of change in mobile and are finding it difficult to adjust to the new expectations they face. Earlier this year, the Ponemon Institute surveyed over 400 IT professionals within the financial services industry. The research found that CIO priorities are frequently at odds with the mobile aims of the business in terms of strategy, urgency, and overall accountability.

50% of the respondents in the survey claimed that their company had no overall mobile strategy. Even of respondents at those companies with a mobile strategy, 45% said that it was not aligned with IT objectives, while 36% said it was not aligned with business objectives. The survey also found a worrying amount of confusion as to exactly who was responsible for mobile strategy, with 48% of those surveyed claiming that the line of business was wholly responsible and just 16% pointing to the CIO. Clearly, many times the right hand is not talking to the left hand when it comes to enterprise mobility.

Strategy is becoming decentralised. An IT-led, PC-based model of governance and security does not work in a user-led, Mobile First world. Traditional command-and-control methods lead to IT being left out of the loop more often than to IT taking charge. True partnership and making the scattered cohesive suddenly become core competencies for the CIO.

New rulebook

The shift to this Mobile First era has rewritten the rulebook for CIOs because their workforces want to use all manner of consumer technologies to help get their work done. According to 451 Research, 44% of employees have installed or are planning to install consumer apps on their own devices even though their IT departments don’t want them to. If the CIO limits one consumer app, the user finds another. These security headaches have transformed the performance expectations of CIOs, who are increasingly evaluated on their abilities to enable the organisation to adopt new technologies instead of being primarily evaluated on avoiding risk. Security is a service to accelerate business enablement – it is not an end in and of itself.

Employees are now very technical, gadget-hungry, and demand responsiveness. An unresponsive IT department is an irrelevant IT department, as far as they are concerned. But are today’s CIOs ready to be evaluated in this manner? They had better be, because otherwise the user community inevitably goes right around them. Responsiveness is a non-negotiable job requirement for the Mobile First CIO.

The Mobile First Charter

Mobility offers the opportunity for progressive CIOs to shine and the emerging stars of the IT department to take on substantial new responsibilities. The Mobile First CIO recognises that mobility is about giving all employees access to every business process they need, on any device and app they want, with a secure experience they love. The promise of enterprise mobility is nothing short of the business transformation made possible by unshackling data and giving users their choice of the best way to do their jobs.

Crucially, the Mobile First CIO understands that user experience is the litmus test for program success. The CIO will need to ensure that the IT team is capable of designing (or sourcing) the consumer-grade user experiences expected of the next generation of business apps.

The CIO role moves from one of control and execution to one of policy and enablement. The Mobile First CIO becomes a master of letting every employee actually become his or her own CIO. Self-service. Empowerment. Choice. Privacy. Experience. These become the touch points.

The Mobile First CIO realises that information must be accessible everywhere but security cannot never compromise the user experience. Security is no longer the straitjacket. Instead it is like the air we breathe – necessary for life but completely invisible.

Is this Mobile First CIO a role far in the future or are these practical requirements for today? Let’s test the thesis: In January 2016, a year from now, when a CEO looks to hire a new CIO, will he or she even consider candidates that don’t have a mobile “win” on their CVs?

No, they won’t. Mobile success and an agile mindset will be requirements.

The world “mobile” has shown up a lot in this article, but “going mobile” is not actually the end goal of this new breed of CIO. The end goal is business transformation. Mobile is simply the highly flammable catalyst that triggers the rise of a new model of enterprise computing. And at the center of that model is the driver of innovation and change: the Mobile First CIO.

By Ojas Rege, VP Strategy, MobileIron

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