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Agility and Preparedness for Change Tops Mobile Strategy Concerns

The ability to evolve within the mobile space is becoming the capability hardest to find and most in demand across financial services.

Ojas Rege, Vice President of Strategy at MobileIron
Ojas Rege, Vice President of Strategy at MobileIron
Financial services firms have been mobile for years. They were some of the earliest adopters of BlackBerry, and mobile email is embedded and deeply valued by these organizations. However, for various security and regulatory reasons, financial services companies have not been early adopters of modern operating systems such as iOS and Android. Nor have they been quick to deploy BYOD or enterprise apps.

[To hear about how financial firms are managing their complex data architectures, attend the Future of the Financial Services Data Center panel at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4. You can also REGISTER FOR INTEROP HERE.]

But that is changing. A recent Ponemon Institute survey of 400 financial services companies found that the number of smartphones and tablets deployed for work is expected to almost double in the next twelve months.

The expansion of mobile from BlackBerry to a broader user base and device mix is not discretionary anymore. It is becoming one of the top strategic initiatives within financial services organizations.

Below are key considerations for the 2014 CIO mobile agenda in financial services.

The Mobile Majority

The Ponemon study showed that, in 12 months, 50% of respondents expect the majority of their employees will be using email and apps on mobile devices. Clearly, mobile is not just for the C-suite and sales team anymore. This represents a substantial demographic shift in the use of mobile at work.

As mobile user demographics change, CIOs should expect demands for different types of applications and training. The programs that existed for the BlackBerry user community will likely need to change substantially to serve a vastly expanding population of users.

The Productivity Catalyst

The Ponemon research found BlackBerry is expected to lose almost one-third of its financial services market share over the next year. Today, 44% of the mobile devices at respondent companies are BlackBerry, and in 12 months that will drop to 30%.

The primary driver of BlackBerry migration is not BlackBerry’s financial condition, but rather user preference. Choice of device and apps drives productivity. People do a better job with tools they like. But choice has traditionally meant risk and these new demands require CIOs to reevaluate their risk profiles.

The Rise of Apps

Availability of apps is one of the top three motivations for migration from BlackBerry among the respondents. CIOs have realized that mobile isn’t only a communications platform. It’s a computing platform. They are now looking at which of their business processes should be put on mobile devices.

One of the challenges with mobile apps is that development is generally decentralized. This creates challenges for highly centralized IT organizations because control shifts to the business. One immediate role for the CIOs is to identify how to support this new model with the correct governance structures and policies so that security posture is maintained without sacrificing innovation.

The Strategy Gap

Mobile adoption is growing rapidly even though many financial services organizations do not feel that they, themselves, have a well-defined mobile strategy. 50% of respondents said their organization did not have a mobile strategy. And almost half of the other 50% said the mobile strategy was not aligned with IT objectives.

But then why is mobile adoption growing so rapidly in these same institutions? The reason is that end users and business units are driving the demand. 48% of respondents said the line of business was most responsible for the company’s mobile strategy while only 16% said it sat with the CIO.

When demand grows and ownership is not clear, tactics have a tendency to overwhelm strategy. Mobile is driven by the end user and, as a result, building a successful mobile strategy requires a new model of partnership and communication between the CIO and his or her peers in the business.

Agility is the New Security

If the financial services industry is moving to mobile, how does a CIO set the organization up for success? The Ponemon study asked respondents what factors would most contribute to their organization’s ability to maintain an effective mobile strategy over time.

The top response was “agility and preparedness for change.” The bottom response was “A strong mobile security posture.”

Does this mean security is no longer important? Not at all. What this means is that security is not a sufficient for the success of a mobile strategy. A CIO organization with agility as a core competence is better suited for mobile than one that only has security as a core competence.

But the learning is deeper than that. Without agility, there will be no security, because the organization will always be playing catch-up with the ever-changing world of consumer technology. Mobile is the catalyst for fundamental change in IT. Agility is becoming the capability hardest to find and most in demand across financial services CIOs as they re-invent their organizations for a Mobile First world.

As Vice President of Strategy, Ojas is responsible for aligning product development and corporate strategy. Prior to joining MobileIron, Ojas was Vice President of Global Mobile Products at Yahoo!, responsible for Yahoo’s mobile search, email, messaging, and content services. The team delivered SMS, mobile web, and client applications for phones, and built extensive platforms to deal with the daunting global fragmentation of mobile technology.

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