Anyone who knows this industry knows that businesses are shifting towards having their staff work from anywhere, rather than just in the office. This is a good thing for the IT industry and business in general. But we also see that many organisations are ill-prepared to handle the challenges of mobility.
This represents a challenge and an opportunity for the channel.
Laptops, smartphones and tablets are becoming par for the course in day-to-day business. People now work on a variety of devices that aren't necessarily tethered to the office. These will likely also be for personal use and connected to home networks. The line between personal and professional technology is becoming blurred.
Currently, the primary motivation for a business to adopt a mobility strategy is to smooth their operation. People can work from home, or on the train. They can pick up urgent business any time, anywhere. Staff doing home visits or working on construction sites can call up client, legal or technical documents with one click.
But changing the technology used means changing your approach to technology. So IT departments must create new policies and procedures to keep the mobile enterprise accessible, available and secure.
Security is the biggest problem for mobility. Devices containing sensitive data can be lost, stolen or infected by data-stealing malware. Wireless networks are often insecure.
We have spent years trying to drum home the importance of desktop security (not always successfully), but this more mobile environment is new and few think seriously about the security issues. How many people reading this have thought about security software for your mobile phone? And how many non-IT people have?
We estimate that only about a fifth of companies have a formal mobility policy, though more have one at some stage of development. As companies recognise the risks and develop policies, there will be numerous opportunities for resellers.
Selling the technology itself isn't enough; the technology must work effectively for the customer. Should new mobile devices be integrated into an office network, or should the customer switch over to a cloud-based system? Mobility often goes hand in hand with a cloud computing strategy.
When you have many devices at different locations, connecting to a central cloud service to manage them makes good sense. Resellers have the opportunity to develop joint services that provide complete mobility solutions.
It isn't just about accessing data remotely. People will be willing to pay for bespoke apps or cloud services that help them do their jobs. And the security message must also be driven home – from raising awareness of the risk, to promoting tracking and remote wiping software, encryption and biometrics.
Then there is training. Many companies will know little about the consequences of any new technology and benefit from being offered training programmes. In this case, it could be about how to use mobile devices effectively and safely.
Resellers could also consider bundling in insurance offerings. This can save customers time and hassle.
The channel is having to think more strategically. Gone are the days when you sell a piece of kit and you're done.
People want many different technologies which work anywhere, with many different applications. They want IT to work securely, without any hassle, and to have people to call if there is a problem. Mobility isn't understood or appreciated by everyone; resellers who can understand diverse customer needs, explain the benefits and deliver a solution securely and reliably will be worth their weight in gold.
I am moderating a panel session on mobility at the CompTIA EMEA conference on 22 October. Do come along.
Terry Erdle is executive vice president for skills certification at CompTIA
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