WORK ON THE FLY
QatarToday talks to some of the big players in the enterprise mobility industry who tell us about the explosive adaptation of this concept and how it is changing the face of operations for companies of every size and in every sector.
The handheld device has become the centre of our world. We expect it to be our window on everything outside of ourselves: our family, friends, community, and the world at large. Work, which had largely been restricted to our desk, is also now starting to be streamlined through the palm of our hands. Though it might seem like you'll never again be able to leave your work behind, it's actually empowering companies and employees in many different ways. The younger generation joining the workforce are ‘digital natives' who have quite literally grown up with these devices and it's a natural part of every aspect of their lives, including work. The Bring Your Own Devices concept is exploding and it's in a company's own interest to not only adapt to this new work culture, but to enable it so that it can be done effectively and securely. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), 36% of the organisations in Qatar have already adopted a company-wide mobility strategy and 22% are planning to do so in the next year. As the country has one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world, not to mention exceptional connectivity, this is just the beginning of the story.
As IDC's Programme Director for Telecoms and Networking in MENA, Paul Black, put it, for a company's chief information officer, mobility is the next technology frontier. “It's no longer a technology solution, it's a business solution.”
The mobile-first mentality
There are three key challenges to mobility – existing, legacy-based systems, budget and vulnerability.
Nader Henien, Regional Director for Product at BlackBerry, one of the best known Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors in the world, says that when he looks at his list of customers in the region, there isn't a single industry that hasn't embraced enterprise mobility in one way or an other. And the more pervasive it is, the more valuable it becomes. "When network cards were first introduced, they cost about $2,000 (QR7,280). And everyone was worried about how they were going to sell those. But they began to realise that the more connected a computer is, the more value it has, as does the network. So instead of having 20 smartphones that are not talking to each other, it's much better for the company to connect these devices, allowing them to get more value out of their existing investment,” he says.
Citrix's Allan Kristensen says the need is being felt “across multiple industries”. He says, “Financial industries, public sector, law enforcement, school systems, defence, retail – there are opportunities everywhere to deploy and secure these apps. Every segment has a need for it.” As recently as last year, a lot of companies were still thinking about how to manage mobility, he says. “Now many of them have already figured it out.”
And it's putting these policies in place which typically takes the most amount of time and effort. “Corporations sometimes have to shift their mindset and a lot of different people from IT, security, HR and compliance need to come together to define policy and strategy. But once these are defined, it's just a matter of rolling it out,” Kristensen points out.
Qatar Airway's Chief Information Officer, A T Srinivasan concurs, “Mobility has been a game changer which has helped us solve problems we haven't been able to so far. It has helped us push real time information to our employees, many of whom are always on the move: dispatchers, ground staff who handle baggage, food and fuel, crew, engineers, mechanics. But first of all, to get to this point, a change of mindset was required as we learned to deal with digital natives. We needed to develop new skills as well. It was not an easy journey; the device strategy took three and a half years to put in place.” He adds that competitive reasons were piling on the pressure to seriously consider mobility solutions.
While security is, and should remain, a constant concern, it is not as big a roadblock today as it was a couple of years ago, thanks to robust security solutions that are continuing to emerge. “There are multiple models in mobility that deliver different levels of security depending on the corporation's need,” says Henien. "The highest degree of security can be ensured with corporate-provided devices which are secured by the company and distributed to employees. Then comes the COPE model; Corporate Owned and Personally Enabled which, in addition to giving you access to your
work, also allows you to check your personal e-mail and social network. The idea is to make this device your primary one.” Finally, the most popular BYOD model. “This is when I bring my device and my company enables it for enterprise. "Sometimes several of these models can be used in tandem for different functionalities. For example, some of the more sensitive information can be accessed by designated apps and devices only, to ease the process of managing the device and wiping out information in case of loss or theft, while other less critical functions can be done from the employee's own device.
Whichever model a corporation might prefer, containment is the key, according to Kristensen. “A big part of any MDM vendor's work is to provide a secure communication channel which protects data at rest and transit,” he says. But at the end of the day, the right education is what will keep your data safe, irrespective of where it sits. “The devil is in the details,” Henien says, “No one walks into the front door anymore. It's the back door or little cracks that are left open. It's important to keep corporations and individuals updated about privacy, data regulation and the latest threats so that even if someone manages to attack you, they'd get only the least amount of information or cause minimum damage. The recovery must be fast and you should be able to get back to fighting stance as soon as possible.”
Information and speed
What drives mobility foremost is the ability to get the right information to the person concerned with minimum time and hassle. Srinivasan explains how this philosophy is changing the face of some key operations at Qatar Airways. “Though we are still in the early stages of implementing mobility solutions, we have already rolled out about 1516 apps – both proprietary and third party. Some of these have transformed operations which were for the last 30-40 years done solely on paper.”
For example, through a native app now available on devices provided to the flight crew, “information about frequent fliers, passengers with special needs, commercially important passengers, etc is automatically downloaded onto the device when the flight doors shut”. When there is an inflight entertainment system or seat malfunction, the crew can just take a picture and report the problem right there. “These are all opportunities from a pure customer service platform”, he says.
Recently the airline announced the rollout of QLOUD, an app that provides real time and decision-relevant information to the pilots. “Over 500 pilots have already embraced the new technology with 500 more set to begin using QLOUD over the next few weeks. All 2,500 Qatar Airways pilots are expected to be using the QLOUD system by September this year,” a statement released by the company said. The app equips the pilots, anytime and anywhere, with information regarding their schedules, flight plans, maps, weather information, details of the crew they are flying with, dispatch briefs, operational documentation like flight manuals that often easily run into thousands of pages. “Any weight that we can take off
the plane would be beneficial,” Srinivasan reminds us.
Devices and related apps are also now extensively used by maintenance engineers to replace their paper manuals and to requisition parts. “Initially we had a problem with the devices being used by the ground staff. Once the battery temperature reached 6065 deg C, which happened a lot, the devices would stop working. We had to work with the manufacturer and vendors for almost two years to sort out the problem and ensure reliability,” he recollects. "You can't replace paper in critical services until you are entirely sure of their replacement's reliability.”
In addition to apps for passengers to help them with their tickets, frequent flyer programmes and duty free shopping, many non-essential apps have been voluntarily created by developers and employees after office hours, he says. An example of this is souQ, available on the QA enterprise app store that informs employees about the various discounts they can receive at establishments across the city.
Yet another critical sector that is embracing mobility is oil and gas. “They are obviously very security conscious and we work on multiple levels with them to provide the highest levels of security and control,” Henein says. But it's all worth it, he explains, citing a case study. “Imagine an oil rig in the middle of the desert where a drill bit has been damaged. You can't go to the hardware store and buy it. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and weigh a tonne; they have to be requisitioned. The engineer on the field picks up his device and records a request which goes securely through the system. After the necessary authorisations have been obtained, it goes directly to the warehouse, which packs it onto the back of a truck and sends it along.” This is a perfect example of mobility that connects people, information and process in addition to keeping it secure. “We don't want any of this to become public,” Henein reminds us. “You don't want it to be known that your rig isn't working, or even where your rig is located and what you are drilling for.”
Going mobile in MENA
“Compared to Western Europe, North America and some parts of Asia, which are more than 50% strong in enterprise mobility, the Middle east market varies from 30-50%,” says Sherif Hamoudah, Head of Telecom for SAP MENA. “This is partly because productivity gains haven't been realised and many companies are hesi- tant to modernise some of their customs.” But he is optimistic, and is particularly excited about the prospect of its use in the healthcare industry.
The push from the technology sector in addition to the need to stay ahead of competitors will fuel this trend. Recently, Etisalat in the UAE partnered with SAP to deliver a range of enterprise mobility services and solutions to businesses of all sizes in the country. The telecom company will build and offer cloud-based and on-premises mobility management solutions (usage of mobile applications, control of mobile devices, security and compliance requirements, as well as the management of the overall enterprise mobility strategy), based on SAP's platform offering companies “a lower entry cost for enterprise-grade mobility management with faster time to market”. Initiatives like this will bring mobility within the reach of small- and medium-sized enterprises; it has hitherto has been the dominion of large corporations. Other factors that will enable this practice in the region are high smartphone penetration, a growing tablet market and government support.
But meanwhile the next generation mobility solutions are already here. BYOx (Bring Your Own Everything) takes BYOD one step further, to enable employees to use their own apps, tools, cloud and services. “Enterprise Mobility Management service is just one component of what's really needed in an enterprise. Building the mobile stack is one ingredient,” Hamoudah says. "From services and gadgets to applications and licences, it will increasingly be about not just the device or the end point.”
"Mobility has been a game changer which has helped us solve problems we haven't been able to so far."
A T SRINIVASAN Chief Information Officer Qatar Airways
"It's important to keep corporations and individuals updated about privacy, data regulation and the latest threats so that even if someone manages to attack you, they'd get only the least amount of information or cause minimum damage."
NADER HENIEN Regional Director for Product, BlackBerry
"Corporations sometimes have to shift their mindset and a lot of different people from IT, security, HR and compliance need to come together to define their mobility policy and strategy."
ALLAN KRISTENSEN Citrix