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HP Software's community for IT leaders // February 2012

Mobile: The challenge you can’t ignore

Consultant Keith Morrow, former CIO of Blockbuster and 7-Eleven, tackles enterprise IT transformation in the mobile era.

Keith Morrow’s career in IT has included serving as senior vice president and CIO of both Blockbuster and 7-Eleven. As a consultant, he specializes in IT effectiveness—an area that’s under heavy challenge as the mobile era really grips the enterprise.

Mobile means there’s “more of everything,” Morrow notes—more applications, more users, more devices, more interfaces. And it’s all changing more quickly than anything in the past.

“This isn’t an arrival that can be ignored or controlled,” Morrow says. “No company will be able to skip the mobile evolution, as many organizations have done with other technological changes in the past.”

At Blockbuster in particular, Morrow oversaw dramatic changes in how IT allowed the company to do business. We asked him for insight on the transformative challenges mobile presents to large enterprises today.

Q: The CIO of a large enterprise says, “OK, now’s the time. We’re going mobile.” What’s the usual first mistake?

Keith Morrow: The most common first mistake is simply not taking the time to plan. CIOs of companies that have not yet made the mobile leap at this point often feel justifiable pressure to do “something” mobile, and this often results in leaping before looking. Inevitably, this leads to poor execution, which is made even more painful and expensive when the complex and frequent support and maintenance required for mobile solutions are not properly taken into account.

Q:  So, what common enterprise IT strategies become liabilities when the business “goes mobile”?

KM: Any methodology or view that is not flexible or that inhibits real-time responsiveness becomes a liability in the mobile space. Enterprises must maintain control of their security, development, integration and support processes, but their historically tight grip will need to be intelligently loosened.

Traditional enterprise IT needs to be transformed in fundamental ways, and not just because of mobile initiatives. One of the most effective ways for large-enterprise IT shops to manage this type of transformation, and continue to be responsive and productive, is to maintain high-performing research and development teams in-house. Combine this R&D approach with well-oiled sourcing governance, and very large IT departments can remain relatively nimble.

Q: How do the different expectations of mobile end-users, be they employees or customers, affect how the IT department has to approach mobile development and delivery?

KM: User experience has to be one of the primary considerations. This hasn't always been the strong suit of corporate IT departments over the years, and requires a shift in thinking. Unlike corporate applications of the past, users have a vast array of experiences to compare their mobile experience against.

Q: Is that the biggest shift in mindset required to “go mobile”?

KM: “Going mobile” can mean many different things, but the biggest change in mindset that must be made is the realization that users and their devices are firmly in the driver’s seat. Many IT departments are notorious for their attempts to control and drive requirements that should be directed by users. The power of the mobile devices has, quite literally, taken the ability to control requirements out of the IT org’s hands, and placed it back with the user where it belongs. To be effective, IT organizations must now lead by following.

Q: Does the mobile era affect information management to a particular degree, beyond “now there’s even more information to capture, store and govern”?

KM: On almost every level, the mobile era has destroyed the traditional concepts of control in the information management arena. This loss of control has affected the organizations, people, data, and security around information technology to a greater degree that anything since the arrival of the Internet. Those organizations that are flexible and savvy enough to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this evolutionary change will innovate and thrive. Those that recoil, or squeeze control too tightly, will find themselves on the wrong side of the curve.

Q: Does the CISO need a different philosophy, methodology, or relationship to the rest of IT, to manage the risks of a mobile rollout?

KM: Frankly, only if the CISO has been living in a cave for the last ten years. In regard to mobile device management, the philosophy, methodology, and relationship between the security team and the rest of the technology team should already be established and defined. If an organization finds that it needs to drastically alter any of those elements at this point due to a mobile rollout, it’s probably time for a new CISO.

Keith Morrow consults on IT effectiveness through his company, K. Morrow Associates. For more on HP’s enterprise mobility solutions, visit


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