Why mobile freedom and innovation go hand in hand

This month I've been researching enterprise mobility strategy for the next issue's cover feature. It is, I found, a topic that seems straightforward at first glance but mind-bogglingly complex on deeper inspection. 

Mobility seems to touch on all the existential crises facing the IT department. Users are in control of their own devices and accessing information through unsanctioned apps – what is the role of IT now? The value of enabling mobility is clearly in improving productivity – but how can that be proved?

It seems to me that some of the established thinking on IT management is running aground when faced with the mobility challenge.

To get a fresh perspective, I spoke to Stowe Boyd, a technology writer and researcher for GigaOm who described himself as more anthropologist than technologist. 

In his view, the instinct among some IT departments to lock down the mobile environment and constrain the flow of information as much as possible is exactly the wrong strategy for the current era. Instead, openness and user freedom should be the norm. 

"I think what's going to happen is there will be fewer and fewer domains inside the business where people will believe that you're benefiting from the attitude of making everything confidential," he told me. 

"In fact, in the fast and loose model of business operations that is necessary today, you need to operate on the opposite presumption: that to the greatest degree possible it's better to make information available to people so that unexpected, unanticipated applications of that information become possible. 

"Otherwise, you are just stifling innovation and new opportunities."

He pointed to psychological research that shows that ideas spread through an organisation more quickly if there are more connections between its members – apart from implausible ideas, which are eliminated by the wisdom of the crowd. 

"If you want to have a free flow of ideas, and you want people to be exposed to new thinking, the simplest thing is to get more people connected."

Security pros will doubtless point out all manner of risks that organisations expose themselves to with a laissez-faire attitude towards mobile devices. Those risk may well be real, and should be addressed. 

But security should not be seen as the end-goal of a mobility strategy. User empowerment, innovation, and organisational openness are far better aims. 

My feature on enterprise mobility strategy, including a profile of Standard Chartered's innovative approach to mobile, will appear in the next issue of Information Age magazine. Click here to subscribe in print or a range of digital options. 

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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