Analysis: IT's Weak Link Is Remote and Mobile Support

Hip executives may talk up their real-time process alerts and anytime-access

Hip executives may talk up their real-time process alerts and anytime-access business activity dashboards, but chances are their IT departments haven't developed a clear strategy, robust infrastructure or appropriate support for the burgeoning mobile computing era. That's the conclusion of "The Remote Revolution: Uptime Issues, Implications & Imperatives in the Mobile Workforce," a study released December 12 by the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and Avaya.

Of the more than 400 BPM Forum members who were polled, 71 percent said the percentage of remote workers is increasing at their companies, and 86 percent said their IT departments are being pressured to support mobile and remote workers. Yet 41 percent also said end users can't access live helpdesk support without frustrating delays, and an equal number reported they had suffered business disruptions because of ineffective technical support.

"There's clearly a growing wave of demand for mobile and remote user support, but if companies don't develop clear strategies, that wave is going to come crashing down on their heads," says Chris Kenton, BPM Forum program director and author of the report. "Too many firms are letting users define policy. Executives bring in new devices and ask for support, and each technology introduces new threats and liabilities."

One obvious security threat is that mobile devices are easily lost or stolen, potentially exposing corporate or customer data. And as users and applications grow dependent on mobile access, there's also the threat of inadequate IT support. More than 55 percent of respondents rated the quality of their IT support at a C-grade or lower, and the vast majority said their helpdesk support is limited to regular or slightly extended business hours; it does not extend to nights, weekends or holidays — so much for the responsive, real-time enterprise. Favoring software-based solutions, 62 percent said their primary strategy for supporting remote and mobile workers is automated troubleshooting, automated helpdesk and remote diagnosis technologies.

Many other issues are more central to business performance management, Kenton acknowledges, but he says the rapid growth of the mobile and remote workforce and the related risks make it a serious performance issue. The number of mobile workers is expected to reach more than 878 million globally by 2009, according to IDC.

Mobile Support Woes:

  • 71% Expect more mobile and remote workers
  • 55% Rate IT support at "C" or lower
  • 41% Report delays in helpdesk support
  • 41% Report business-disrupting IT incidents