Got a mobile policy? It's time

By Laura Haight

 First published as the Digital Maven column in Upstate Business Journal on Dec. 21, 2012

When we return to work after Christmas, chances are quite a few of us will be sporting new mobile devices. It’s the worst day for the IT staff, which will be inundated by calls to help get connecting these devices to the network, setting up email and transferring documents.

Not very long ago, companies would have simply put their foot down and said no to personal devices. But today BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is an increasingly acceptable in education, which coined the acronym, and the workplace.

Good thing, too. Mobile devices are driving the reimagination of everything - in the US and around the world, from education to consumers to the workplace. Some of the statistics in a recent analysis of technology and social trends produced by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (a venture firm founded in 1972 that's invested in pretty much every major tech company of the last quarter century) are eye-popping. That’s largely because of the speed at which the technology landscape is shifting under our feet.

Here are a few nuggets taken from the full report.

  • Forty-eight percent of all cell phone users in the US have smartphones.
  • Twenty-nine percent of internet users have tablets or e-readers. In April 2009 - less than four years ago - it was 2 percent.
  • Thirteen percent of all internet traffic globally is from mobile devices. Just two years ago in December 2010 that was 4 percent.
  • In India, mobile traffic is 60 percent of all internet use. That’s grown 20 percent in just one year.
  • By the second quarter of 2013, it is projected that globally the installed base of smartphones and tablets will surpass desktops and laptops.

That’s all very interesting, but what does it mean to your business?

  • If your business doesn’t have a personal mobile policy, it is time to come up with one. Spell out who can use their own devices, what applications and functions you will support remotely, what expectations you have of employees who use their own devices - especially in terms of protecting your sensitive data.
  • If you provide mobile devices to employees, look into Mobile Data Management suites that can enable standardization of applications and access on mobile devices in the same way you can control your PCs and laptops.
  • It’s not all about control - it’s mostly about opportunity. With consumers and clients on the move, it’s time to develop a mobile strategy for reaching and serving them. Unprecedented opportunities also mean huge challenges. Connected consumers expect - and demand - immediacy. If there’s a coupon, I want it delivered when I walk in the store; if there’s a problem, I want a response immediately. Nimble businesses that adapt most quickly will catch the high side of this emerging trend.
  • Educate. There’s a possibility that your audience knows a lot more about new technology than you and your staff. Educate yourself to better see and take advantage of the opportunities. And look to well-connected mobile users on your team to take a proactive role.

That last one is a sticky wicket. Last week, UBJ’s cover story was on businesses learning to cope with people using mobile devices at work. It concluded that there is a fine line between time wasting and time “liberating”. Many businesses see mobile devices in the hands of their employees as a potential problem to be managed.

One small change to that sentence will set you and your team on a more productive path: Mobile devices in the hands of your employees are a potential opportunity to be managed.

What your kids want for the holidays
The KPCB report had a nugget for parents, too. It cited a Neilsen survey from November of kids between 6 and 12 on what tech device they wanted for Christmas. The list is lengthy but it is topped by a full 48 percent who want an iPad. Rounding out the top five: 39 percent want a Nintendo Wii U, 36 percent say an iPad mini, 36 percent an iPod Touch and 33 percent an iPhone. Obviously, Apple’s marketing is getting through loud and clear to one segment.

Happy Holidays!