S'pore IT puts mobile security on back burner

Tech departments eager to push up satisfaction rates among end-users are offering "quick fixes" to support mobile devices and applications, often at the expense of the company's security.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The growing trend of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is pressuring IT departments in companies based here to focus more on supporting the various mobile devices and applications, as they look to improve end-user satisfaction rates.

However, while mobile security is included in many of these "quick fixes", they do not safeguard the corporate networks and data completely, thus leaving organizations vulnerable to mobile threats, Charles Reed Anderson, head of telecom and mobility lead at IDC Asia-Pacific, said.

Speaking at the research firm's enterprise mobility forum held here Thursday, Anderson shared that many companies' initial approach toward BYOD and supporting their employees' mobile devices is simply to deploy a mobile device management (MDM) service. These point solutions do not address the overall corporate security and tend not to be scalable though, he said.

"These are quick fixes and companies do not have longer term solutions than to provision services such as e-mail and different mobile devices. They are then at risk of losing intellectual property and customer data," he stated, adding this is because IT departments here are trying to improve their image of being a "blocker" of new tech innovations into the workplace.

Dino Soepono, director of enterprise mobility at Citrix Asia-Pacific, agreed with the observation. In his forum keynote, he said IT is "under pressure" as end-users would go them, hand over their mobile devices or apps, and say, "Get it to work".    

As such, many tech departments are likely reacting "too quickly" to support certain business processes with tools that have limited scope. For instance, business productivity processes are broad-based and straddle many issues from recruitment to enabling workers to be more efficient, which would mean access to different information sources. Simply safeguarding the endpoint device is not enough to keep the organization safe from all the possible network security vulnerabilities, Soepono explained.

2013 year for mobile strategy relook

Anderson was keen to point out that mobile security, while ranking lower down the priority list, was not being completely ignored in Singapore or the wider Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, region.

In fact, he predicted that 2013 would be the point when many companies with existing mobile management tools and policies in place will relook these offerings and determine if they were effective or another vendor and its products would better serve their business needs.

These companies will also likely move from a single vendor with limited scale, to others which are better able to meet all the risks associated with the business and it having a mobile enablement strategy. The chosen vendor should also be able to scale up the protection according to the company's growth, Anderson added.

The importance of having an enterprise mobility strategy will then give the overall industry a boost. In Singapore, for example, the mobile VAS (value-added services) market is expected to grow from US$33 million in 2013 to US$91 million in 2017. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the market to 2017 will reach 32.1 percent, according to IDC's February forecast.

The new study results, released Thursday, focused on the value of "mobilizing" business apps, mobile security, mobile enterprise management (MEM)--which combines both MDM and mobile application management--and virtual client computing. Sales of mobile devices and related services were not included in the study, the analyst stated.

Anderson also recommended companies move beyond "mobilizing" the person, which refers to enabling the user to access e-mails or basic work services via a secured wireless network, and embark on mobilizing their business processes and, ultimately, their channel partners' processes.

An example of mobilizing a business process is when a claims company, which was recording down customers' accidents manually and using pen and paper, digitizes the entire process and allow claims officers to file the claims on the spot using a sanctioned mobile device, he said.

"You can immediately start seeing the ROI (returns on investment) as filing errors are reduced, claims are processed faster, and lawsuits or complaints against the company are reduced," Anderson noted.

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