The popularity of personal mobile devices is gaining in strength in the workplace, and the available types of business-oriented mobile applications are multiplying at a rapid rate. In addition, new work-based physical devices, location tracking applications and the mobile ‘Internet of Things’ are continuing to proliferate.
And as time moves forward, mobile computing will continue to be a double-edged sword for IT departments. On one side, it provides a great new way to enhance employee productivity inside the firm, while at the same time increasing and creating new channels of revenue and product awareness outside the firm. Conversely, it comes at a significant cost, because it introduces new technologies, widens the number of device types being used, and increases the quantity of software and infrastructure that must be supported.
So, whether they are leading the corporate charge or being forced to participate, IT departments will inevitably have to support additional devices and further integrate these technologies into their technical infrastructures. And equally as inevitable is the fact that this increased support of mobility will bring with it various human resource concerns, IT talent management challenges, and IT organisational questions.
Talent management, in particular, must be viewed as a crucial component of any overall mobile computing strategy. As with the introduction of all new technologies, mobile computing can be of great value if you have qualified talent involved in its implementation. To this end, organisations must ensure that their IT departments develop a well-defined mobile computing philosophy that is closely aligned with corporate goals, strategies, and current business plans.
The need to support mobility-based initiatives requires various specialised skill sets across multiple IT technical professions. These include systems administration, virtualisation, data security, software development, business analysis, and PC helpdesk support. And while these skills should already be present in virtually every modern IT department, the implementation of mobility-related technologies — such as identity and access management (IAM), mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), and mobile application development — requires specialised training, potential recruitment and/or outsourcing of specialised skill sets, compensation incentives for those willing to support legacy technologies, and pay increases for those with new leading-edge skills.
The good news in this scenario is that the hands-on skills needed to implement these types of technologies are a superset, rather than a replacement, of traditional IT skills. But don’t be fooled into thinking all mobility challenges can be solved quite so easily. Technical competencies aside, mobility also brings with it a number of talent management issues that IT staff must confront as both employees and service providers. IT staff, like all employees, must follow company mobility policies; in addition, however, IT helpdesk staff and others working on the administration of mobile devices must also administer these rules on behalf of the organisation.
For example, they must have a comprehensive understanding of the various issues surrounding employee privacy, and fully embrace the company’s authority and overall intentions. They must also develop the necessary skills to effectively and compassionately manage employee usage of mixed-use devices that harbor both personal and corporate data. This combination of technical and policy-based issues requires relevant training to ensure helpdesk employees can properly explain and administer policies. Soft skills, such as conflict resolution, are particularly critical for dealing with any potential employee discontent over new mobility practices.
So how should organisations set about addressing this talent management conundrum? My advice is for them to first define their short-term and long-term mobile strategies, and then design their talent management initiatives accordingly. Adequate succession planning is a must in this regard, as is the creation of a skills inventory that is as wide as possible, including all currently usable/viable programming languages, business expertise (e.g., marketing and accounting), spoken languages, artistic abilities, writing abilities, and mathematical background.
I also urge organisations to identify external hiring pools by engaging in dialogue with the technical mobile community and forming relationships with local universities that provide training in mobility-related technologies.
To this same end, it can be extremely beneficial for organisations to seek out relationships with local mobility-related special interest groups. This can be done by sponsoring their events, providing a meeting location, or otherwise assisting the group in its activities, ultimately making it much easier to recruit highly skilled talent from within the group’s membership when the time comes.
And I must also stress the need to define a holistic skills enhancement training programme that will help current employees gain both technical knowledge and an industry perspective on mobile computing best practices and trends.
As mobile-based software development platforms become more standardized, software developers will need to gain new skills to move forward, but also retain current skill sets to maintain existing mobile applications written in what will eventually become legacy development technologies. The IT department isn’t going anywhere. Indeed, the requirement to control technical infrastructure, integrate mobile technologies with traditional systems, and provide secure access to internal data and resources all mean that the IT department’s role in mobility-related enterprise activities is only going to intensify. So, for the organisation, it’s time to start planning accordingly.