Control, Governance and Mobile Integration into the Enterprise

Integrating mobile solutions into the enterprise is well worth the risk, but organizations must realize that a well thought out mobile strategy means rethinking governance and data security.

The days when Android was primarily seen as a way to create great games that garner a few bucks (or a few hundred grand) are waning. The platform is becoming more pervasive and intruding into the business sphere. When asked about this phenomenon, Blake Meike, a trainer, speaker, and Android Evangelist from Marakana would say, Android is “putting on a suit” and heading to the office. This trend is not a surprise. Neither is the fact that the integration is not going smoothly.

There’s a huge culture clash between Android app and server developers. And we’re not just talking about the office dress code that prohibits flip-flops and cutoff jeans. The two groups simply don’t see the development environment the same way. Things don’t have to stay that way. Meike firmly believes that a good Java developer can step across the divide and learn to work with Android.

But will Android developers take the time to understand the viewpoint of the “corporate” server developer? If not, what’s going to be missing from the new approach to enterprise mobile? Will security suffer? How about integration? Perhaps both sides need some “sensitivity training”. We wonder if Marakana offers that course as well…

Mobile developers have traditionally been a suspicious bunch. As Meike points out, “they don’t trust the network, they don’t trust the O/S, and the sure don’t trust the hardware”. In some ways, that attitude is dissipating as Android and other mobile development platforms are starting to get the care and nurture they need from enterprises with deep pockets.

Unfortunately, mobile developers have a new dilemma on their hands. They no longer “own the whole phone”. In Blake’s view the change is really foundational. It means that, in some sense, there is no such thing as an app – just managed objects that come and go at the whim of the O/S. Having less control takes some getting used to. Android developers will have to get flexible and code for a highly dynamic operating environment.

Is mobile worth the risk?

If developers on both sides of the aisle are facing challenges with the new direction of mobile, the C-suite executives are having an even tougher time wrapping their heads around the changes these systems bring to the enterprise. Chief Security Officers are probably spending many a late night at the office (or in their doomsday bunkers at home) imagining worst case scenarios. After all, that’s what they get paid for. BYOD in particular certainly provides plenty of fodder for corporate anxiety. But that doesn’t mean enterprises can or should shy away from mobile.

Blake puts it bluntly, “The job of a CSO is calculating how much it costs to have a disaster, then making sure you spend less than that preventing the disaster.” He says integrating mobile is well worth the risk. Furthermore, enterprise can’t stop it even if they do try. They just need to approach development, implementation and management sensibly.

However, he doesn’t think being a control freak is the answer. In fact, he says governance would be the wrong approach if it means trying to force everything about mobile development to conform too rigidly to one paradigm. For example, Android containerizes apps while iOS “owns the device” when an app is running. The next big thing will be new and different, which means cross-pollination and sharing of knowledge across platforms will be the key to success.


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