As mobile devices have reshaped the way we work over the past decade, IT leaders in regulated industries have too often found themselves responding to, rather than leading, the change. This is by no means a criticism; the pace of innovation in this app-driven economy has simply been so accelerated that many enterprises have been left behind. And, as I said in my previous post on millennial adoption of mobility, I also have to push myself and my teams to stay up-to-date on the latest mobile productivity tools and best practices.

Regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, and especially federal government agencies face complex and sensitive issues that can pose barriers to effectively deploying mobile devices and apps. Whether it’s HIPAA mandates, financial client privacy rules within the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, or NIST guidelines on federal information security, the regulatory requirements for securing information on mobile devices are more stringent and the consequences of a breach more severe for leaders in these industries.

That said, the productivity gains and related benefits of effectively harnessing mobile devices and applications are too great to pass up. This is the mobile productivity paradox that we all face as business leaders. We want to unlock innovation by providing employees with the easy-to-use mobile productivity applications they demand, but we fear becoming the next embarrassing headline about leaked customer data or confidential emails. What’s needed is a balanced, strategic approach that objectively assesses risk and reward.

Our recent mobile productivity study, developed in partnership with growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, revealed some startling differences in the way employees across regulated industries are using mobile devices.

Financial Services Leads the Way

In the face of strict regulations around financial client information privacy, finance firms are leading the pack. They’re out front in implementing corporate-issued smartphone programs (31 percent compared with 27 percent for all industries), and as a result, have fewer employees using personal devices for business use. Across the board, financial organizations are much more likely to use a variety of apps: 50 percent use custom tools designed entirely or partially in-house (compared with 40 percent of overall respondents); 39 percent use apps designed specifically for their company by a third party (compared with 36 percent overall); and 32 percent use software built by third parties but mandated for use by their employer (versus 29 percent). Only 18 percent say their firms are not supporting productivity apps at all.

Government Is Missing Out

Federal government agencies, on the other hand, are finding themselves on the back foot. While a relatively good number (30 percent) of government employees are being provided with corporate-issued smartphones, they’re lagging significantly in the use of targeted productivity applications. Just 30 percent have custom business applications built in-house, 25 percent have apps custom-built by a third party, and only 24 percent support off-the-shelf apps for employee use. A massive 42 percent of government employees say their agency doesn’t support any mobile apps at all. In today’s world, that puts them well behind the curve.

The Opportunity Cost

Our study found that employees across the board estimate an efficiency gain of 34 percent due to the use of smartphones at work. Employees also estimated that they gained back 58 minutes of productive work each day, together with 58 minutes of personal time. At the top of the list of smartphone benefits are speed of innovation, flexible work opportunities and quality of collaboration — advantages that all the business leaders I know in regulated industries aspire to provide their teams.

Achieving the Risk/Innovation Balance

Moving to the front of the mobility pack and taking advantage of these benefits doesn’t mean taking big security risks for your organization. Here’s my three-step strategy for IT leaders in regulated industries to conquer the mobile productivity paradox:

  1. Get a mobile security assessment: We’ve partnered with Booz Allen Hamilton to offer a comprehensive assessment service that lets you fully understand the state of your security today, what your vulnerabilities are and how you can move forward.

  2. Choose the most secure platform: We listened to the needs of our customers in regulated industries and have spent three years refining Samsung Knox, which was recently awarded the most “strong” ratings of any mobile platform in the market by Gartner. Knox provides multilayered security that’s built into our Galaxy mobile devices. Meld that with an outstanding smartphone from our line of enterprise-ready devices, and you have yourself a winning combination.

  3. Build better apps and secure them with Knox: If you’re not empowering your employees with mobile apps that provide on-the-go access to data and streamline workflows, do it now. Contact our application services team to get a consultation. And when you deploy your apps, secure them within an enterprise-grade containerization solution like Knox Workspace to give yourself that extra peace of mind.

Want to understand the cost calculus of deploying mobile devices to your workforce? We have a roadmap for you.