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Inside Looking Out: An Executive View on Enterprise Mobility With Dan Turchin

Welcome to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out.  I usually don’t post these at this hour, but this is a bit of a special interview.  I literally just got back from having a couple of beers with Dan Turchin, CEO of Aeroprise.  It was an absolutely fantastic conversation….and this guy was in town while on vacation!  Over two hours we covered so many different topics, both related to enterprise mobility, as well as topics that I can’t share out of respect for confidentiality.  That said, check this out….

The Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi Dan, good to speak with you again.  I know you’re enjoying your blueberry beer while on vacation, but let’s see if we can chat a bit about enterprise mobility.  What do you see the role of ITSM to be in the greater context of an enterprise mobility strategy?

Dan Turchin: Hey Philippe.  The blueberry beer is very good here!  You picked a great spot.  In any case, IT organizations exist to deliver services the business needs. Mobile ITSM tools and strategies must reflect that. A positive trend that has emerged over the past 12 months is a shift in focus away from IT mobilizing tools for their own use and toward mobilizing apps for end-users.

For instance, mobile self service – end-users requesting and managing their IT issues from smartphones instead of calling the help desk – has become very popular. An exec at a technology company told me recently call volume to the service desk decreased 40% six months after deploying  a mobile service catalog. So service delivery costs dropped and all the while they were capturing more (and more accurate) information, which they’re using to do trend analysis and make better decisions.

That’s the philosophy I encourage all companies  to adopt: let business need drive your ITSM mobility strategy.

EMF: What are the three questions that any organization should always ask itself when considering a mobility solution or deployment?

DT.  It’s pretty basic when you break it down:

  1. At a fundamental level, why do we exist as an organization? How can mobility solutions help us do whatever that is better
  2. What are the five highest-priority services we deliver to the business? How can we deliver them better, faster, or cheaper?
  3. What simple tasks do business and IT users do frequently at a PC? How would the organization benefit if instead they could do them anywhere at any time?

EMF: The Cloud is everywhere.  Where do you see it most fit in the mobile enterprise?

DT: Mobile devices and cloud-based apps are like Fred and Ginger. Mobile devices have limited processing power and memory but are ubiquitous and ideal for consuming information stored remotely. It’s like salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, the quintessential cloud evangelist, said at Cloudforce: mobile devices are really just “cloud viewers.” Since the most progressive organizations are early adopters of both smartphones and SaaS-based applications, organizations should first consider mobilizing hosted solutions – particularly ones that involve consuming large amounts of data, such as service catalogs or inventory lookups.

These days, we don’t agree on much in the mobile space. LTE vs. WiMAX? Slide-out vs. virtual? Where to put the antenna? (Well, at least we agree where not to put it.) What’s encouraging about the trend toward cloud and smartphones is the broadly held view in the industry that this is the killer architecture for enterprise mobility. Everyone from Apple (MobileMe) to Google (Gmail) to enterprise software makers such as our partner BMC Software (BMC Remedy OnDemand) agree that it’s the easiest, most reliable way to get enterprise data to mobile employees.

EMF: So who do you think will win the mobile cloud war from a mobile platform perspective?

DT: Whoever nails the end-user experience. We spend too much time debating arcane stuff like how many (mostly useless) apps are in the store when all that ultimately matters is whether or not mobile solutions make life easier for users. A robust end-user personalization tool, for example, directly benefits users more than all of the giga-babble like MB of RAM or clock speed we typically use to compare devices. Regarding platforms, Apple’s relentless, tyrannical focus on user behavior gives them a lead but I’m not betting against the impressive crowd-sourced innovation coming from the  Android community.

EMF: Let’s switch gears a moment.  Another emerging area in mobility is the notion of “self-service.”  How important will that be for enterprise mobility (management)?

DT: The holy grail of mobility for IT organizations is being proactive to the point where there’s no downtime because all issues are resolved before they occur. To achieve that, it’s critical that more and better information is gathered at the moment of truth in the field when, shall we say, wind gusts turn embers into forest fires. Think of mobile self service as an extinguisher.

Take, for example, the CIO for a retail sporting goods provider who told me recently his team avoided millions of dollars in lost transaction revenue when he authorized adding capacity to a pegged e-commerce server after receiving a notification that the kayaks site was slow to load. The most beautiful thing? The request came from the company’s mobile self-service portal – and the CIO resolved the issue from a baseball game on his iPhone.

EMF: As you know, I struggle a lot with the notion of ROI in mobility – particularly because it’s so hard to quantify in many instances.  If ROI is such a challenge, how should organizations be looking to calculate a ROI on a mobility deployment?

DT: I blogged about this recently and am passionate about the need to focus on business value first. In IT more than anywhere else, we’re easily hypnotized by shiny objects. New gadgets somehow suspend basic business sensibilities. Arriving at true, measurable mobile ROI is possible but requires more diligence because the obvious gains are “soft” and usually related to productivity.

To make the point, let me take you through three analyses we helped customers develop recently:

At a mid-size municipality, mobility lets field technicians resolve an additional one and a half issues per day. That means over 600 fewer vehicle dispatches each year. And that translates into $250,000 in savings on maintenance and fuel.

For a provider of outsourced IT services, mobile technicians respond to critical issues about 30 minutes faster, which means six hours of additional network uptime each month. That’s $175,000 in reduced SLA penalties per year.

When a  telecom provider allowed business users to submit and manage service requests from handhelds, 400 fewer calls came into the service desk every month. That translated into the need for two fewer analysts at $85,000 per year per fully-burdened analyst.

In all cases, many hard-to-quantify benefits existed as well, including faster approvals, improved service, less downtime for employees, more accurate inventory, and better decision-making. But those are only acceptable if there are also others that can be quantified.

EMF: OK, final question:  You know how big I am on the whole IL/CL debate.  Where do you see the ITSM mindset we talked about earlier fit in to the equation?

DT: Many companies we work with certainly reflect the trends you’ve talked about elsewhere: IT is giving employees more freedom to use their own devices on the corporate network. The model I’m seeing most is where employees get a budget and a list of supported devices. IT negotiates volume discounts on service plans but otherwise employees choose their own adventure.

That has two implications for mobile ITSM that often aren’t appreciated up front. The first relates to security and compliance: environments with strict HIPAA and Sarbox requirements can’t allow individual-liable devices to access corporate data for fear of company-private information leaking into personal apps. Think patient data from a trouble ticket posted to Facebook.

The second relates to manageability and storage: individual-liable devices aren’t centrally managed like corporate-liable ones so it’s difficult for IT to guarantee complex enterprise apps will perform in a consistent, predictable way (and even harder to troubleshoot when they don’t).

These challenges aren’t insurmountable and certainly won’t prevent the trend toward individual-liable devices. What they should do is serve as a reminder that all the euphoria surrounding mobile technology doesn’t replace the need for project strategy and planning – the same discipline needed to make any IT initiative successful.

Thanks so much Dan for taking the time to speak with me today…especially while you’re on vacation!  If interested, you can connect with Dan via LinkedIn here.  Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop us a line.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 19, 2010 at 22:20 | Permalink

    Find out more about Aeroprise & BMC’s ITSM Mobility solutions at http://www.bmc.com/aeroprise.

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