Wireless in the Enterprise Raises Thorny Questions
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 28, 2010
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research into the whole idea of integration of wireless devices into the enterprise—in particular, the insurance enterprise—and it seems there are some interesting questions to be answered along these lines.
My best sources tell me that portable devices will inevitably be linked to most networks in the name of productivity and processing speed. And make no mistake; these are powerful incentives in what looks to be an increasingly competitive environment where technological one-upsmanship will be norm.
While I still have serious reservations about the relative insecurity of smart phones, iPhones, Blackberries and other devices, I’m going to assume that my learned sources are correct and that these portable units will be a fact of life in most insurance enterprises. While we’re on the road to that inevitability, however, my unimpeachable sources warn that there are some things that need to be sorted out.
First: Who will choose the device or devices that will be okayed for corporate network access? Will it be the IT folks who, of course, know best which devices present the least security risk and which will integrate best with existing protocols? Will it be the CFO who, of course, wants to get the lowest price possible (assuming the company is paying for employees’ devices)? Could it be the CEO who, of course, loves his own smart phone and hints broadly that the rest of the enterprise needs to fall in lock-step? Or—nightmare of nightmares—will it be some ad hoc committee that will mix and match all of the above influences and more?
This is a critical question, because on the answer will hinge not only hardware costs and issues of compatibility, but also the whole structure of our access protocols and data security efforts.
Next: Which devices will be allowed to become the de facto standard in our enterprises? Of course, this depends on the answer to our first question, but it also means that we have to commit to a certain platform for at least a few years—the anticipated life cycle of the average wireless device. Here again, we must plan for purchases in years to come, not really knowing what devices will be like at the future time when we have to buy them—or what they will cost, or what they will require of our systems and infrastructure.
Also: Are we going to just throw open the doors and allow and all wireless devices owned by our employees to access our networks? This would certainly bypass the issues above, but it would also be a security horror show for IT.
All in all, it seems that no matter which way you slice it, insurance enterprises will have to wrestle with a host of thorny issues related to these devices. I totally understand the need to be instantly reactive in a business situation, but I wonder how far our enterprises are willing to take this in order to satisfy the lust for wireless that permeates both business and popular culture.
How will your company answer the tough questions? A lot is riding on the answers.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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