Incoming: Mobile Strategy Must Focus On User, Not Technology

October 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

Smartphones and tablets offer more storage, processing power and functionality than an enterprise-class mainframe computer did less than a generation ago. Such dramatic advances make mobile devices powerful business tools and allow military forces to conduct combat missions around the clock, regardless of location.

As a result, enterprise mobility has become an important part of the enterprise information technology strategy for chief information officers (CIOs). Whether organizations tacitly accept this trend through bring-your-own-device programs or proactively enable mobile solutions, the consequence is the same: Mobility changes how, when and where employees work. They now use mobile devices to work from remote offices, home, the road or deployed locations around the world.

In the past, attention has focused on managing the device. This one-size-fits-all model—where the hardware, operating system, applications and profiles are hard-coupled and inflexible—does not serve today’s needs. Any model must account for consumerization, mobility, ever-changing missions and the need for information technology to lower costs.

An optimized, modern workplace focuses on the user, not the technology. This requires a different approach to enabling the user with the right information sources, devices, security, connectivity and support. It considers various mission and business functions, device types and personas in an organization. Already, information technology can easily enable employees to be more mobile and collaborative with colleagues or coalition partners across time zones.

This transformation has been driven by consumer market shifts, user behaviors and rapid technology changes. Today a military user needs multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices, some organic, others provided by the enterprise. Users work longer hours and are more comfortable with, and even expect, regular updates and changes.

Early adopters want optimization tools and analytics to better inform them of best practices, and they are more likely to research solutions. Employees are increasingly aware of how much data is captured about them when they shop or browse, and they want that same type of intelligence applied to their work environment.

Information continues to be the lifeblood of organizations and is becoming more rich and expansive. The demand for quantity and quality will only keep growing. Harnessing information through effective working environments will help teams work faster and more seamlessly regardless of their mission. Users can instantly synchronize meetings, connect with people, share content and find answers effectively from any location.

The new style of services in a modern enterprise is productive, collaborative, connected and engaged. It also is now the role of information technology to help get the most from these tools, capabilities and new ways of working.

Security remains the hardest challenge in the modern workplace, and mission leaders need to collaborate with information technology organizations to develop security best practices for an increasingly mobile work force, whether it is in the air, on land or at sea. Failure to do so could result in service interruptions, data loss, compromised Defense Department intellectual property, data privacy and, most importantly, threats to mission assurance. Also, widespread compliance and legal issues come into play when mobile work forces fail to take proper safeguards. Certainly, employees must perform due diligence, but the employee and information technology department aren’t the only ones responsible for ensuring such safeguards—it is an enterprisewide imperative.


Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.), the former director of cyberspace operations in the Air Force’s Office of Information Dominance and chief information officer, is vice president of the Enterprise Security Solutions Group for DXC Technology, U.S. Public Sector. The views expressed here are his own.

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