Four years ago, I went to a Microsoft conference emphasizing enterprise mobile phone applications. At the tables in the conference room, at least half the participants took out two phones and set them down. One phone was a business phone, and one a personal phone, and they were sometimes identical phone models.
There were a number of reasons for this, ranging from family plans driving personal purchases to game playing during downtime to obvious work security issues. It obviously demonstrated a sub-optimal strategy for dealing with the requirements at work, offering more confusion, learning curve time, and the possibility of losing two devices instead of one.
Unfortunately, that situation still exists; the numbers show many users still carrying two phones: a study by Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice shows about half the surveyed users carry two devices. Although many companies would like to continue to choose devices for their employees, history is working against them.
The device management issues are extensive, and many are obvious, such as security for enterprise database access. Other issues include the ability to manage passwords independently for personal and business use, remote wipe in the case of phone theft or employee separation, and time management. At the same time, use of the phone as a personal device needs to be permitted.
One big issue looms over mobile device management – the need for cross-platform and cross-operator support. It’s not that difficult to implement on a single platform, and there are single vendor solutions available, but isn’t a particularly useful solution since one of the motivations for mobile device management is the use of personal phones by employees.
The very first step to dealing with increasing device chaos is recognizing that mobile device management is a problem that will fester and grow over time. Companies in which mobile devices are critical for logistics implement quickly, but some others have moved very slowly, either requiring multiple devices or leaving it to users to sort it out and losing control.
Numerous decision factors confront the IT manager choosing a solution for mobile device management. There is a plethora of vendors to choose from with a variety of solutions, far too many to enumerate here. The most important criterion is that the solution supports the platforms commonly in use. It is unlikely that an obsolete platform like Symbian will be supported, but key platforms for corporate users such as Blackberry, IOS and Android should be supported. One issue with IOS is that Apple has to provide a certificate for SSL and this takes time. Apple has shortened the certification period, but it still is an implementation delay.
Once the right platforms are supported, other criteria need to be met. Ease of onboarding and offboarding devices is critical. Security may require company-specific capabilities. Cloud versus enterprise storage is another key choice. And speed and completeness of remote wipe is critical to any solution. There are over one hundred vendors to choose from, so every conceivable solution is out there.
It’s also critical to engage the users. Too many failures in enterprise mobile implementation come from a pure top-down approach. Instead, users should participate in the process from planning to deployment. One approach that can really help is “train the trainer,” with peers teaching users about the functionality and how it affects their phone usage.
Looking forward, every company will need to make sure that their enterprise is protected yet their users supported on any device. MDM is critical and the solutions are easily found.