IT departments struggling to keep pace with post-PC mobility revolution

A new study from industry association CompTIA says corporations don’t have updated policies and procedures in place.

Mobile devices and applications continue to extend the boundaries of the workplace, yet information technology (IT) departments have not, generally speaking, kept up their policies and procedures to keep the mobile enterprise accessible, available and secure, according to research released today by IT industry association CompTIA.

While PCs continue to be a major part of the corporate IT landscape, CompTIA’s new study Trends in Enterprise Mobility says laptops, ultrabooks, smartphones, and tablets are increasingly essential to day-to-day business in a “post-PC” environment. Smartphones are in place at more organizations than standard cell phones, and tablets are the top choice for purchase intent in the next year.

The CompTIA study also says 84% of those surveyed use their smartphone for light work such as email or web browsing. Individuals using tablets have an even wider range of uses, including note-taking, giving presentations, and using their tablet as a communications device in lieu of a phone. As a result, IT departments are building new policies governing behavior in a mobile environment; and implementing support structures and applications.

“Currently, the primary motivation for a business to adopt a mobility strategy is to enable a mobile workforce and ensure smooth operations,” said Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA. “However, the ability to connect to customers in a mobile environment is increasingly important. So any mobility strategy must address the needs of two different groups with distinct needs and requirements.”

Only 22% of companies in the CompTIA survey currently have a formal mobility policy. Another 20% were building policies at the time of the survey. These policies typically cover guidelines for mobile applications and corporate data, along with device guidelines.

Security considerations are the greatest risk involved in supporting mobility, at least in the view of 70% of IT staff surveyed for the CompTIA study. Among the challenges they face:

• Downloading unauthorized apps, cited as a serious concern by 48% of respondents
• Lost or stolen devices (42%)
• Mobile-specific viruses and malware (41%)
• Open Wi-Fi networks (41%)
• USB flash drives (40%)
• Personal use of business devices (40%)

These types of incidents and others have prompted organizations to take various security measures. Requiring passcodes, installing tracking software and encrypting data on the device are among the most common steps taken.

Robinson said organizations must give serious thought to what shape their mobility policies will take. “Issues such as mobile device management and mobile security are really in the beginning stages,” he said. “Mobile strategies also involve considerations such as mobile-optimized applications and the supporting infrastructure. Are you going to allow employees to bring their own mobile devices into the workplace? Which devices will you support? Organizations will have to strike a balance between business objectives and security objectives, which may not always be in synch.”