October 2013

Get your Enterprise Content (safely) into the Hands of your Mobile Workers

Get your Enterprise Content (safely) into the Hands of your Mobile Workers

By Yorgen Edholm

Last week I wrote about finding a better way to use sync technologies so that all employees can access the information they need, on the device they choose. What if instead of sync, you gave everyone direct access from their mobile devices to the latest versions of corporate documents?  This is a new frontier in productivity: mobile access to enterprise content management (ECM) systems.

Do your corporate documents live within an ECM system? If so, you’re not alone. Enterprises and government agencies around the world use ECM systems to store and internally share files. Because ECMs securely manage and create workflows, they have become the favorite storage site of valuable corporate documents. However, their lack of mobile integration is a great headache for enterprise IT organizations, and, as I mentioned above, a new frontier in mobile productivity.

The first companies to announce a solution to the problem of how to make the documents in ECM systems available to mobile and external users were public cloud storage vendors. Their solution was straightforward: move the documents you want to share externally to our cloud, and voila! Your documents are no longer locked in behind your company’s firewall.

While this solution makes documents accessible by mobile devices and external users, there are huge security and data sovereignty issues with this ‘fix.’ It also wreaked havoc on version control and workflows that were automatically established within an ECM system.

Because of security concerns, many enterprises still keep most of their valuable content in ECMs. Yet these companies also want to support a mobile work force, so they need technology to safely get corporate documents to mobile devices. The solution is high bandwidth direct access from mobile devices to corporate ECMs. Then on-the-go employees don’t have to go back to an office – or struggle with VPN – to review a contract.  When they update the contract there is only one copy, and the system knows what to do with it after it’s approved and saved.

The above kind of mobile workflows make sense with an increasing number of workers saying they no longer need to be in an office to be productive. It’s risky business to not invest in a technology that provides this level of mobile integration with ECM systems. When there’s no easy way for individuals to get to the information they need, when they need it, they’ll figure it out on their own – trust me.

Short on time, an employee will turn to the first free public cloud file sharing service they can find to share a document, or store a video they need to show from their tablet later that day. The lack of monitoring features in free public cloud services means an organization doesn’t know where customer account details, product designs and sales projections are being sent or by whom.

The best way to make sure your employees aren’t finding their own solution to accessing data with unsafe solutions is to create a unified experience. Take a broad look at all of your content. The goal is to bring together all disparate content silos to provide unified and ubiquitous access from your ECM to a mobile device. And this unified experience should happen without content being replicated in other locations, and should support all major mobile platforms.

As the group responsible for information security, IT departments deserve around-the-clock visibility into file and data activity. However, the key to this is that IT should be able to enforce their desired security, compliance, and access policies behind-the-scenes, without interfering with the productivity of mobile workers.

This shouldn’t be a scary proposition, as mobilizing your enterprise content may be easier than you think. The key is finding the right solution that securely extends your investment in SharePoint or other ECM systems, while empowering your mobile workforce. Employees expect important applications, like SharePoint, to travel with them. How you make that happen, while making sure that security doesn’t take a hit, is totally up to you.

With major organizations demanding direct mobile access to corporate content management systems, I predict that we will start seeing solutions that increasingly do a better job of integrating mobile devices into standard corporate workflows.