Coming Soon: ‘The Mobility Operations Professional’

Candidates for mobility operations jobs should have a broad technology background with a wide range of skills. But the space won’t hit critical mass for several years.

By Sonia Lelii

Dice News Staff | August 2008

Smartphones. BlackBerrys. Wireless-connected laptops. The proliferation of mobile technologies in business is paving the way for a new type of IT professional: the mobility operations professional.

It’s an emerging IT role that’s expected to grow in coming years as companies begin to recognize all these free-floating devices will have to be centrally managed, according to a new Forrester Research report, The Business Mobility Imperative.

Based on a survey of 531 North American “mobility decision-makers” conducted with Network World in February 2008, the report concludes that “many companies are combining roles to manage everything from laptops to smartphones. But to streamline mobility decisions and maintain the edge mobility investments provide, it is critical that companies take into account the multiple elements they must manage. Forming a mobility operations role is the right path toward managing that complexity.”

At the Beginning

If you’re searching for job openings, you’ve probably found mobility operations to be scarce. Most organizations today manage these tasks in a decentralized fashion. For instance, device managers usually oversee company-issued equipment and its security software, while another group – usually functioning outside of IT – manages the cellular carrier relationships.

“It’s a little early for job requisitions,” says Chris Silva, a Forrester mobile infrastructure analyst. “In organizations where the role has been created, it’s mostly reactive due to the growth of the number of devices. They realized that they needed to centralize mobility operations.”

Forrester found only a handful – about ten – companies have made a place for a professional who, for example, oversees what device managers do as well as managing the cellular carrier relationships. Those 10 companies were at the enterprise-level, with 1,000 employees or more.

The researcher projects the need for this central role will reach critical mass in about five years. The tipping point will be when companies begin to use more in-line business applications on mobile devices. Those applications include Customer Relationship Management (CRM), field service applications and sales force automation. Another tipping point will be the inevitable increased use of wireless networks and the growth of company-issued smartphones.

Companies are expected to double the number of smartphones they issue between 2008 and 2013, Silva says.

Candidates for mobility operations jobs should have a broad technology background with a wide range of skills, says Forrester. Typically, the mobile operations manager will own the mobile network, device platform, PCs, voice applications and the security tied to those apps, as well as the company’s relationships with the carriers. As for the in-line business applications, the mobile operations manager will function as a consultant to the group overseeing them.

The standards-body IEEE – formerly known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – has created a Wireless Communications Engineering Technologies certification program (WCET) that IT professionals can use to start building a core set of skills. The certification looks at security, how wireless networks work and radio frequency management. “It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s one of the best qualified certifications for the short-term,” says Silva.

Sonia Lelii can be reached at sonia.lelii