Developing a plan for managing the growing number of devices, apps and services in the enterprise
In today’s workplace, there is a wider range of devices and an increasing number of devices per person than ever before. IT has its hands full, to say the least, and different operating systems and custom apps have become an operational nightmare. This is because IT departments lack a consistent process for testing new devices and operating systems (OS) against the apps they’ve already written for a device using a previous version of an OS – and wind up behind the curve. It happens often – IT goes through the trouble of writing an app for a specific device type and it works well, but when the OS gets updated, there’s potential to break the app. This understandably becomes a major frustration for end users and for IT.
Retailers, in particular, tend to write apps specific to device types, creating a huge burden on IT. Consider a major retail chain with 68,000 iOS devices in its stores. The IT organization has many apps written for those devices, some of which are employee-facing, such as tablets to look up inventory, and some are client-facing, like kiosk-based apps. When an OS gets updated, there isn’t an out-of-the box efficient way to test all these apps, especially when end users often have the ability to update the OS on their own, without IT’s involvement.
When you head down the path of developing apps and/or services around a specific device type, you need an efficient way of introducing that device into your environment: How will you secure, provision, kit, configure and operate/update it on a daily basis?
Think about this scenario: In the world of mobility, device type and physical size are also important considerations. Increasingly, we’re seeing that if original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) don’t test all the peripherals that end-user companies use, they wind up confusing and upsetting IT folks in those industries.
For example, if a retail organization writes a barcode-scanning app for its employees then learns a few months later that the device manufacturer is going to change the format of the device, all the peripherals the company has invested in no longer fit. This happens a lot. Make sure when you’re talking to OEMs and suppliers that you work together to ensure devices being deployed will be what you need, not just today but down the road.
The key is developing an easy, well-managed process to ensure that devices are set up properly the first time, with the right policies layered on. This consumer device that is “pseudo-managed” before it even hits your IT environment now becomes an enterprise-friendly device.
IT organizations need to leverage the same governance and same process on the mobile side that they’ve used in the Windows space for a long time. These are no longer telecom devices, they’re enterprise endpoints like everything else you manage.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen mobility management develop from almost a side job in IT to a point where entire teams are responsible for determining the best way to introduce mobile devices into an environment, updating them properly and, just as important, ensuring they are using the right devices in the right situations. In the past, Windows devices all worked more or less same way. Today, you may be using Android, Windows and iOS. How do you manage all those and bring in new types of devices as they hit the market and employees demand them? It is crucial to set up a methodology within your IT organization to test new devices effectively and quickly.
We may have our own ideas of what end users want, but it’s up to IT to make sure the apps and data are secure, and that IT gets out of forcing business units to use a certain device type. Telling users they can’t use the device they want to use can be the nail in IT’s coffin. So how do you become flexible enough to offer different devices while maintaining data security? Historically, IT teams have not been staffed to make recommendations to their end users.
How much risk are you comfortable with? IT organizations may benefit from having an outside organization evaluate risk tolerance. Based on that evaluation, recommendations can be made about which types of solutions, security and governance will and won’t work. These types of conversations often help IT teams get out of their own way and make real progress to move beyond deployment mode.
Imagine your organization needs 1,000 iPads. How do you ensure those devices are available at the time you need them deployed, and then are effectively managed? The ability to purchase them through a specialized distribution partner brings a distinct advantage, since the warranty on those tablets doesn’t begin until they’re deployed, not when they’re purchased. And navigating the maintenance of such devices can best be left to mobility managed service providers – enabling IT to focus on driving its business strategy.
I’m not the only one suggesting the outsourcing of mobility services: In a recent article, Eric Klein of VDC Research said, “…outsourcing could reduce support costs and even improve the way internal employees view the IT department. At a high level, moving to managed mobility services often means reducing the cost of deploying and managing the mobile environment... Third parties can reduce the complexity of managing and securing mobile deployments, while helping IT deliver the level of service they require for business-critical mobility.”
Navigating the challenges of managing enterprise mobility management with proper IT governance, can be time consuming. At a time when IT is already stretched thin, experts are available to provide rapid help with these challenges.
What are your thoughts on mobility management? I look forward to your comments and questions.