Five Critical Actions to Prepare for Mobile Collaboration

Taking control of your environment and reining in non-approved applications

Jim Haviland – VOX Mobile (US GEMA Partner)

Enterprise IT managers who aren’t already closely managing mobile collaboration activities will be playing a game of catch-up because, ready or not, mobile collaboration is already happening in virtually every company. A recent survey found that 95% of employees are now using non-approved applications to manage business collaboration – for example, using apps like Dropbox on their smartphones to share and access files.

Even companies that have mobile collaboration governance policies in place need a robust toolset to manage collaboration activities and apps today – and to ensure that they can meet the challenges that will arise in the future from evolving collaboration technologies. Here are five critical actions to take to successfully manage mobile collaboration:

1. Understand the scope of the organisation’s mobile collaboration needs: The first step toward a strong mobile collaboration management strategy is to understand what people are doing with mobile collaboration tools and what kind of data is being shared. A key part of understanding the scope is to assess the risks involved, both from a monetary perspective and liability exposure point of view. Once these questions are answered, it’s possible to develop a solid business case that aligns IT initiatives with target business outcomes.

2. Implement controls: When the scope of the company’s mobile collaboration requirements is clear, the next step is to implement controls to protect data and other company assets. As the enterprise survey indicated, people are already using collaboration tools such as Dropbox, so the IT team will need to develop a solution to manage document access and protect enterprise data. An enterprise-level version of Dropbox or collaboration solution such as SharePoint can enable greater security and control.

3. Deploy collaboration apps: In the absence of a comprehensive mobile collaboration management strategy, it’s likely that employees are using a range of unauthorized apps on their local devices, and it’s impossible for IT to control what happens to documents that are accessed via the app. To get app use under control, companies can deploy collaboration apps via an app store, making sure they designate apps that meet all of the end users’ needs while enabling centralized control and integration with applicable enterprise systems to eliminate data silos and ensure access to current information.

4. Assess the mobile app environment: On an ongoing basis, IT professionals should evaluate the mobile app environment, determine what kind of apps are being used and identify business purposes. One company that evaluated its mobile app environment determined that about 20% of its employees were using document scanning apps, some of which stored data in the cloud. The company didn’t know which apps were being used, which meant they couldn’t be certain that their data was secure. A comprehensive mobile collaboration and app management solution dramatically reduced risks and restored control.

5. Collaborate with users: Enabling collaboration has to be a collaborative process in its own right, both at the outset of mobile collaboration management policy development and in the ongoing process of adjusting the policy to meet emerging needs. It’s important for the IT team to understand business requirements and develop a process by which employees can request approval to add new collaboration apps. It’s also critical for the IT team to have the toolset it needs to analyze apps and identify where data is stored.

Mobile collaboration management is a process rather than a destination, and IT teams that want to address enterprise risk and enhance productivity must be prepared to engage for the long haul. The risks are real:

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Approximately 80% of app developers generate revenue by scraping data for third-party use. Sometimes the uses are completely benign, but there are unscrupulous players in the mix, and with an app that is used for business, it’s vitally important to know that sensitive information won’t fall into the wrong hands.

By creating a mobile collaboration strategy that addresses the scale of company activities, uses sensible control solutions, empowers employees with authorized apps, continuously evaluates app usage and seeks user consensus, IT leaders can effectively manage mobile collaboration. Ongoing collaboration with all stakeholders in policy development and implementation is the key to enabling users to work efficiently with colleagues, clients and partners in the mobile age.