Building a Coordinated Approach to Mobility to Deliver Wider Business Objectives

Niamh Madigan

In order to ensure mobile initiatives help the wider business perform more effectively, a clear approach to what can and cannot be achieved is needed. IT teams look to the CIO for this strong leadership to help build effective policies and frameworks to harness the power of mobile technology, but also to drive mobile projects forward. Phil Colman, CIO, British American Tobacco joins the Enterprise Mobility Exchange Network to discuss how he makes decisions around mobility.

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Phil Coleman, CIO, British American Tobacco

Enterprise Mobility (EME): Phil, how effective do you think BAT, as an organisation, has been in driving mobile projects forward?

Phil Coleman (Phil): Itâ??s interesting, when I look at the question, you say effective. I think that if it's in the class of mass rollouts, we've not been huge at that, with a 25,000 to 30,000 trade marketing workforce, we do have mobile solutions all over the place, but typically it's done on a point basis.

There's never a big, global initiative and we've been rolling out mobile devices ever since the HP Jornada was around. That's a very, very old personal information manager. I think in terms of where we're going now, in terms of the latest mobility and smartphones and such like, I think we've been effective at stopping some of that, as some of it. For me there are consumer electronics, and corporate tools, and we've made a very strict dividing line between the two, so effective at not overdoing it is how I'd like to put it.

EME: How do you make that division then, between the commercial tools and the corporate devices that you need for your own business?

Phil: You have to look very carefully. We're looking at user segmentation in this piece, because as soon as smartphones arrived we found there was pressure to implement smartphones, iPads, all that kind of stuff and the management board were the early adopters who pushed us, saying, â??I want to be able to use this, not a BlackBerry; I want to be able to use this not a portable.â?? So we made a decision very, very early on, I stuck my heels in the ground and said, we are not an Apple shop, and if you want an iPhone, tell me what's it going to do for you beyond what a BlackBerry does, and what the business benefit is, and then I'll think about it.

All the management board have been made to buy their own personal devices. We donâ??t purchase those at all, mostly because iPhones and Apples donâ??t have any corporate tools to control them. We find that a bit of a wild west, and every time we talk to Apple they say itâ??s a consumer device. Fine. Okay, itâ??s a consumer device. If we ask our users what, they are really going to do with an iPhone, versus a BlackBerry, other then things like play Angry Birds, and personal email. So for a company like British American Tobacco we have legal orders on us for discovery reasons, so if there is corporate information on a mobile device, and I can't get to it, then I'm in breach of discovery, so the way we allow personal devices to connect to our organisation is very, very strict.

We make a big distinction between consumer electronics and business purposes, so we do allow iPhones to connect, but in a very strict way. We do allow iPads to connect, and we've got to a point where we're almost device agnostic about allowing them to connect, but we have rules about how that's done.

When we then get to a trade marketing organisation that's different, so if I want to send a trade rep out using a sexy touch screen, to be able to have the conversation with the person behind the counter, talk about new products, trade deals, all sorts of things, then that's a sexy device to use, but it doesnâ??t have to be an Apple, it could be a Windows Surface, or it could be a Samsung Galaxy. In this sense, I'm buying the device, as a CIO, for a corporate use. That's a very different set up. If I'm setting it out as a corporate tool, I can secure it any way I like, and if the end user says, but I want to play Angry Birds, the answer is no, that's a corporate tool. So you have to make that distinction between if the user bought their own device and would like company email that's a grant to them. They buy their own device, and they can secure it any way they like, because my emailâ??s already secure, but if itâ??s a device I buy for a trade rep the deal changes. So we do it that way.

EME: Fair enough. What to you does good BYOD look like?

Phil: The BYOD thing is slightly different for us. It's funny; it is bring your own device, so I have an iPhone in my pocket; can I connect to corporate to get email and calendar and one or two very small apps? We built our own apps store that is delivered in that secure channel. So thatâ??s one piece.

For us bring your own device means more bringing your own Mac Air Book, or something like that, where youâ??ve got a full on computer, rather than a tablet an iPhone. We've played with virtual machines that sit on the Mac Air Book, and they work very well. It's a little bit tricky to secure what information can flick between your Mac Air Book and what should be a secured corporate virtual machine. That gets a bit interesting, so that's put us off a little bit, and also the maintenance of all those virtual machines, the update of the whole operating system and the way that's licensed is not very palatable when you get into big numbers, so we're now looking at a Citrix-based back end, where, effectively, my boss asked me; â??but if I were to leave the company, how can you take that off my machine?â?? I said, there's nothing on your machine, so he was delighted at the fact thatâ??s the way that works.

EME: Mobility, as we've just mentioned, is placing demands on IT for effective usability, architecture and development approaches. As CIO of BAT what keeps you awake at night, when it comes to ensuring you've got the right solutions in place for what you're trying to achieve throughout the business?

Phil: What keeps me awake at night is you're in one of those eras where things move fast, and this is a bit like the early days of the PC. I remember when the PC was invented the PC, and then Amstrad were in there, and Compaq, and Dell, and HP, and you had them all over the place. It was unbelievably difficult to pick out a strategy for a corporate where you would not throw money away. So the thing that keeps me awake at night is how much money these things cost, the waste, the dead ends that you get down into, and also because it's a lot more consumer electronics and also the users of these things, and the usability of these things, the expectation, the support expectation, is like Apple. I walk into Apple, there's a person in a blue shirt, and he does all these wondrous things for me.

Well, as a corporate, you can't afford to do that. You can't afford to do that as well as all the current PC stuff. It almost doubles, if not trebles your support costs, so youâ??ve got to find a way of, unfortunately, finding a balance between enabling your user community and not spending so much more on IT that it becomes not a smart place to be. So that keeps me awake at night.

EME: How then do you decide how much should go into support or maintain the mobility of your business? How do you make that decision?

Phil: At the moment, because we've been overly simplistic on it, we have said, if you buy your own iPhone or Apple device, or Samsung Galaxy, if it's your personal device, if it breaks, take it back to Apple. Not interested. Donâ??t call us. We donâ??t do support. We're not paying our Fujitsu helpdesk to have Apple people on there or resolve a group. Not doing it.

When we put tablets in the hands of our trade reps then we are more likely to put a Windows based one in there because all my people understand Windows, all of our apps are written for Windows, all of my security tools are written for Windows, and we know how to secure that world. So I make the choice, on the platform, if itâ??s for our trade marketing reps, and therefore we can support it.

EME: That makes sense. What areas of the business do you feel are shouting the loudest right now?

Phil: The original shouters were the guys on the top floor, the board directors, namely my boss, who dragged me in one day and said, I can't get my personal email on my blackberry and it takes my wife ten seconds to set up email on an iPhone. So we felt a lot of pressure for that, but if you looked from a corporate IT perspective, the right answer might have been, that's nice, boss, but it's not a corporate tool. You can't use it. But we have gained a lot of kudos in IT, from being fuddy-duddy to a very sexy part of the organisation, by handing these tools, or allowing these tools in, we no longer get that, oh, you're so out of date; you donâ??t allow me to do this, you donâ??t allow me to do that. So that was a very worthwhile exercise with the guys upstairs. Needless to say the guys upstairs donâ??t often understand your SAPs and your big support systems that run the business, but they know that the stuff they touch, like the mobile device, like the telepresence, all those things, those are the things that are game-changing in terms of their daily life, so they love IT for those things.

Other parts of the business, then, were the early adopters round the organisation. We'd have the bloggers going, why doesnâ??t IT allow us to do this? I can do this in ten seconds on Google. Why have I got so much security? We addressed that through a conversation with one of the main bloggers. I sat her in my office and said, this is what we're trying to do. These are the problems we have. I told her everything new that was coming out; I told her first, and then she became one of the bloggers that thought IT was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Itâ??s literally just getting someone on your side to understand the other side of the story.

The final set of early adopters is obviously the trade marketing guys in the end markets because they could see the advantage of some of these tools. Unfortunately what we're finding out is if we put some of the standard apps onto these tablets, even though the tablet is instant on, and it's easy to carry, and it's got a camera in it, rather than having a separate camera, thatâ??s all very well, but the app was not designed for that environment, and it makes our trade marketing reps no more efficient in terms of their number of calls per day.

EME: These are apps youâ??ve developed for your organisation?

Phil: Yes. But they were apps that were developed for proper portable PCs and putting it on a tablet, the answer is not that simple. The answer has got to be redoing the app.

EME: What challenges do you encounter when bridging that gap between IT and other lines of business, to build the mobile roadmap for the organisation?

Phil: I put it down to emotion versus rationale, so when you have a consumer device in front of you there's not much rational thinking going on. It's like, â??I want that device.â?? But why do you want that device? Well, that's not a conversation I'm going to have with IT. So I find a lot of it is related to beliefs in peopleâ??s minds about the Device and the adverts they see on tv, and how easy it is to flick a finger here, there and everywhere, and it just doesnâ??t work like that. So the problem is just the emotion versus the rationale, so when we ask them to write a business case it really affronts them, and they come up with a, donâ??t you understand, sort of thing. Well, yes, I'm afraid we do; I'm not sure you do. So that's it, really. That's the biggie for us.

EME: It's a hard end of the business, isn't it, IT and that mobile decision making. I can hear what you're saying; your boss is shouting loud, saying, I need this; I want that. and then you're the person who is controlling the budget, and you're trying to make the decisions that are right for the organisationâ?¦.

Phil: Well, there are a couple of things. One is the budget, which can keep me awake at night. The budget could explode if you get this wrong, and then you'll get done for, why didnâ??t you guide us in a better way? That's a panic. It's difficult to guide. The other one is, in one way the mobility side of things and the social side of it all, it's all available on the Internet, and cloud, and all that kind of stuff. Yes that's fantastic for your personal data, if you want to dump all that rubbish on Facebook. If you're trying to protect corporate assets, you're trying to protect corporate security, and you're trying to convince the corporate audit committee that youâ??ve got IT under control, and they're secure, bizarrely enough, it's the very same guys who want you to open it up who are also challenging you to keep bits of it closed.

So youâ??ve got to find a smart balance there. You can't say no to either, but you have to play that game, so the trick we've had so far is open up certain avenues and explain why other ones are very firmly shut.

EME: How do you choose the right mobile solutions for a multifaceted mobile workforce like BAT?

Phil: We're trying to go through user segmentation. What type of roles have we got, and what types of devices fit those environments? So the reason there are so many different consumer electronic devices is because there are so many different types of consumers out there, and they want to consume their information and their connectivity in multiple different ways. Some of those things are frivolous, and some of those things are important for a corporate, so we're trying to sort out the user segmentation around that.

We also tend to pilot things, rather than go in wholeheartedly, so we've got about four or five pilots active around the world, which have been hugely informative. And the end user has come back to us and said, yes, I thought I wanted one of these, but actually, it isn't. There are things it doesnâ??t do. The way we've done those pilots is we've very clear success criteria, and theyâ??ve come back saying, well, no, it doesnâ??t do it. I'd rather have the portable that I had before, which has quite surprised us, in IT.

The final thing we do is if you look at some of the geographies we operate in, Russia is a hell of a challenge. It gets unbelievably cold, and battery life plummets by a huge amount, and also things like, it depends how complex a city is, at to how many devices you need in your pocket, to go and do a trade visit. I need a camera to take a picture. I need something to do a display. I need a GPS device to help me find my route. I need a printer to do an invoice. There's a whole range of things that these reps have to lug around.

EME: What geographies are you focusing on at the moment in getting the mobile situation right?

Phil: The trite answer is growth markets, so it's not really worth naming them. It's not so much a particular geography. Obviously in places where the mobile infrastructure is not good, we're having to find different solutions, so in bits of Africa it is GSM based, or I think it's Orange Money they have somewhere. They're kind of skipping a generation in terms of the usage of mobility, but most of the big places, growth markets, they would have a decent level of infrastructure, and also the possibility to buy the devices.

EME: Can I ask an example of a growth market, Phil, just for my understanding?

Phil: Well, we'd want Russia and Brazil to be growth markets, so there are some very big markets around the world, which are hugely important for us. There are others. I won't name the ones in Europe. There are some in Western Europe, quite a few in Asia Pacific.

EME: Going back to your customers, what challenges do you face internally, and then culturally?

Phil: Most of the things we find at the moment is when we get close to the front of the business then you end up with people who are very, very motivated around things like sales targets, very operational, and it can get quite emotional. So we've had situations where IT is being blamed for having lost 2 billion stick of sales. So the problem here in many of our scenarios is it's how the trade environment works, and what the trade team are doing, so in some cases it's almost better for us to almost bet the trade department that they're doing the wrong thing, because they will prove us wrong, and then we end up with a success there. If we say, this is the right way to do stuff. We're trying to sell them on the technology; you're on a loser, straight away. It has more to do with the business process than it does the technology.

My advice to anybody would be, get the business process sorted, get all the guys online, and ask them exactly what it is they want. When you've got those requirements then go and pick a device. If you do it the other way round I think you're bound for failure.

EME: What are your key goals? I donâ??t mean to put a timeline on it, but the next five years, what are the key goals of BAT, mobile?

Phil: I think the key goals are try to get our trade reps enabled. That would be the first thing. So where can we get some advantage from these obviously useful devices? We're not doing it the right way at the moment, so we need to change the apps to fit the device. So we need some investment in a smarter app that sits on and is designed for a particular device. That, I think, would be the biggest breakthrough for us in terms of that. The user segmentationâ??s important, but really it's going to be that trade marketing model of how to use these devices.

EME: Who do you work with in terms of providing those solutions for you?

Phil: Well, at the moment it's a bit interesting, because BAT at the moment, and for the next three years, has got a massive SAP roll in. It's 100 markets in 1,000 days, which is pretty spectacular at anyoneâ??s pace, so that is taking the majority of the effort and time from BAT, IT and from the business, where everyoneâ??s busy getting that sorted.

However, the demand for digital marketing and the demand for mobile is still coming towards us, so, yes, the difficulty there is how much time we can you spend on it.

The appropriate-building side of things, we donâ??t have particular partners at the moment. We've just started, it's been going about nine months now, a digital group, specifically within IT have a two-speed IT, so one set of IT is very good at doing things in typical waterfall, with PRINCE2 and all the big projects, and those things re the ones you donâ??t want to get wrong, where if you change things in a data centre you can take half your business down. So you do things in a steady, proper project way. You take a year or so.

When you get to digital and mobile, because mobile is the place you're going to enable someone like digital, then we find ourselves in an agile set of methodologies. We find ourselves with small boutique players, who help us with bits of infrastructure, bits of application, develop bespoke things for us, but we're very much in the mode at the moment of trying to build that small ecosystem of people we know and trust, but they're typically not your big Accentures or your Cap Geminis, or anything like that.

EME: Do you tend to work with the big and successful companies to implement technology for you, or are you open to working with smaller, more boutique organisations that focus on particular areas like apps?

Phil: Yes. On the big stuff, on the PRINCE lifecycle, we have big suppliers like Wipro support our apps, Fujitsu does our help desk, HCL looks after our data centres, T-Systems provide them, IBM are the systems integrator for the Tow program, and BT do our wide area network, so those are the big, traditional suppliers on that side.

When you come over on to the more mobile and digital side, then we're starting to play with small companies. It is changing, and I donâ??t know how it's going to shake out, because it could end up that IBM have got a solution that does digital for you, but you've got to think that it's really a different world here, so is IBM going to be agile enough for you? Or are you going to learn from these small, noisy, hungry companies how to do this?

At the moment we think that's more like it. Would it shake out in the future that out of the top ten suppliers, some of which I named on the PRINCE side of things then some of those people won't survive? Yes, probably they won't. And what will the future world look like? Who knows?

EME: What industries do you think are operating a very tight enterprise mobility network?

Phil: There are characters I know around the piece. Typically the sort of infrastructure services companies, like National Grid. I know they do some interesting stuff Dave Listerâ??s a colleague of mine. I've seen some of the stuff Unilever is also doing. That's another FMCG, so I'd be intrigued, mostly, by what FMCGâ??s are doing, but I donâ??t personally know of any fabulous examples. I think everyoneâ??s pretty much struggling around the, what should we do?

I think at this point anyone whoâ??s gone and done something spectacular, then give it a couple of years, and see whether it looks a little bit tarnished or not, because I think this is going to move on. So remember, your first question you said, how effective do you think we are in driving these things? I think we're effective at the moment by not over-driving some of these things, and asking the tough questions, really, what does mobility give us? What answer would you like? Because I donâ??t think they have an answer, either. I donâ??t think anyone has an answer.