"Kill the Laptop (Its Corporate Days are Numbered)."

That was the oh-so-provocative title of a vendor breakout session at our recent CIO 100 conference. And the response was a bit stunning: a standing-room-only crowd and an unusual level of buzz around a breakout.

Mobility has become the hottest topic for CIOs everywhere, with escalating demands for mobile applications coming from every corner of the enterprise. And no wonder. Last year, some 5 billion smartphones were in use worldwide, according to Gartner, and by 2015 a projected 6.7 billion will be loose around the globe. When we recently surveyed 261 IT leaders on this topic, 54% of you said you are planning to boost spending on mobile application development this year.

Ah, but what a tangled web of leadership challenges awaits you once mobile development begins.

Mobile app development is fragmented, chaotic and fast-moving (not exactly a soothing combination of conditions).

The Digital Strategy Group at AARP, for instance, is pushing a mobile-first mind-set with its application developers because "we have to go where the numbers are going," says Sami Hassanyeh. He heads up the 50-person in-house development group, which happens to operate separately from IT and reports to a chief communications officer instead of the CIO.


As you may already be finding at your own company, talent management is a tricky aspect of any mobility strategy. The team behind a mobile app launch at some companies may require a nontraditional mix of developers, systems administrators, online marketers, editorial people and social media specialists. Other companies will keep these projects within IT and divvy up the responsibilities differently.

You should also expect to see more start-and-stop activities as companies put out their first mobile apps and then pause to work out multiyear road maps that more effectively deal with security and integration issues.

The end game seems clear. "Mobile use is growing so fast, it'll overtake desktops and PCs in the next year or two," notes Luke Wroblewski, former chief design architect at Yahoo. "We have to prepare for the inevitable shift."