BYO what? The implications of mobile as the new desktop

With global shipments of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and notebooks, overtaking shipments of traditional desktop PCs two years ago, a number of downstream implications for CIOs and IT Managers are fast emerging now that we’re several years in.

These implications span all aspects of IT  -- from application development and maintenance, to support, to security, -- and all areas are seeing significant realignments in priorities and spending when compared to traditional investments and approaches.

Here are five implications of mobile as the new desktop with some supporting facts and figures that may be useful as you continue to mature your Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) and Bring-Your-Own-Application (BYOA) strategy whilst striving to prevent another BYO -- that of Bring-Your-Own Malware (BYOM).

Like cybersecurity, mobile security is an escalating and constantly evolving concern

According to the PwC Global State of Information Security Survey, security for mobility and cloud computing will be key priorities over the next 12 months. In fact, “mobile device malware detection” was rated as the number two priority after “cloud security strategy” and the former was not even on the top ten list in the prior year. The high priority for securing mobile devices is a result of the increasing frequency and types of attacks upon these devices. According to Symantec, the frequency of attacks on mobile platforms experienced a step-change in 2011, the same year as mobile device shipments overtook those of traditional desktops.

In some countries, mobile platforms are now experiencing a greater percentage of attacks than compared to traditional PCs. According to the Sophos, “Security Threat Report, 2013”, in Australia and the U.S., Android threat exposure rates are exceeding those of PCs. Sophos defines the threat exposure rate, or TER, as the percentage of PCs and Android devices that experienced a malware attack, whether successful or failed, over a three month period. One of the implications here is that organizations will need to redirect a greater percentage of their security spend towards mobile devices in order to rebalance their risk profiles appropriately across the full range of end user devices. This will be a continual rebalancing effort as mobile devices become more pervasive and gain informational and transactional access to more and more of the company jewels and intellectual property.

Even enterprise-class platforms will continue to present security vulnerabilities due to BYOA

According to Gartner, “Through 2016, 60% of enterprise app stores will be primarily composed of third-party apps rather than enterprise-developed apps.” The implication from this strategic planning assumption is that third-party apps will continue to present potential security vulnerabilities even within the seemingly secure confines of an enterprise app store as compared to public app stores and marketplaces. Therefore, even when enterprise app stores reach a mature state in terms of enterprise adoption and usage, they will still require investments in security and associated support staff in order to manage risk levels appropriately across these third-party applications.

Development and maintenance costs are shifting to mobile projects

Application development and maintenance costs are shifting more towards mobile applications when compared to traditional applications. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2015, the number of projects related to mobile application development will outstrip that of traditional PC-based application development by 4:1. In addition to building out their skill sets and competencies related to mobile application development (e.g. native mobile app development and HTML5), one of the implications here is that organizations will also need to be prepared to manage the overall software development lifecycle in the mobile arena – from initial inspection, testing and deployment, to eventual retirement. Not planning and preparing for this early on could lead to expensive app sprawl and app quality issues.

Mobile apps will become enterprise apps combining all elements of the disruptive trends

With business spending on mobile applications projected to grow 100% by 2015 and spending on mobile apps predicted to hit $55B in 2016, the average spend per mobile app will increase as these applications become more strategic for the business and thus become more sophisticated. The implication however, is that these apps won’t just be mobile apps any more, they’ll be enterprise class apps that leverage all of the so-called “nexus of forces” to provide a next-gen application experience for end users. They’ll be mobile and social-enabled, cloud-delivered, and will leverage powerful new sources of data coupled with intelligent analytics.

Short-term increases in staffing for managing BYOD

According to ComputerWorld, increased mobile device management means a growing need for IT workers: 2.9 full-time IT workers per 1,000 mobile devices were needed in 2011. That number rose to 3.6 full-time workers per 1,000 devices in 2012, and it's expected to reach 4 full-time workers per 1,000 devices in 2013. Those costs convert to a yearly IT labor cost per user of $229 in 2011, $294 in 2012 and a projected increase to $339 per user in 2013. The implication would seem to be that the number of staff required to support BYOD is increasing, but I think this will only be temporary as more and more organizations ramp up on mobile device management and mobile application management software and are able to drive greater efficiencies in their overall mobility management and support via these platforms.

While many of these implications are fairly intuitive, the important aspect is to get a sense of the magnitude of these changes and plan accordingly. With careful preparation you can rebalance and optimize your IT skill sets and investments to really take advantage of mobility to re-design and re-invent many of your business processes. 

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