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A Sound Approach

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2009-10-26 Print this article Print

There’s no sense bemoaning the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise. That ‘genie’ escaped years ago. Now it’s up to IT executives to manage the myriad mobile devices used by employees, develop coherent usage policies and deploy security to protect corporate assets.

A Sound Approach

Mobile technology has emerged as a mainstream tool that reaches every level of an enterprise—and beyond. However, getting a handle on mobile assets and developing a strategy for managing them can prove daunting. Although software applications can handle the mechanics of keeping track of devices, they do nothing to help an organization develop a coherent strategy for purchasing, issuing, and overseeing the technology and the way it is used.

A 2009 mobility study conducted by Motorola found that the biggest challenges facing a mobile enterprise are cost of hardware; security concerns and risks; cost of software, integration, service and support; difficulties in employee training and support; and difficulties integrating mobile applications into the existing infrastructure. Although the survey focused on the hospitality industry, it’s clear that these issues are something that all organizations must cope with.

A starting point, Clark says, is to identify what tasks take precedence, and then map devices and tools to specific roles across the organization. While BlackBerrys may be ideal for executives who message heavily, an iPhone loaded with the right CRM application or database tool may unleash the full potential of a sales force or field support agent. “It’s important to eliminate steps, simplify data entry and access, and make people more strategic,” he says.

Of course, no two businesses are created equal. Safelite AutoGlass repairs and replaces automobile windshields at facilities and mobile service vans scattered across every U.S. state. The company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, found that by consolidating on a single platform—in this case, BlackBerrys equipped with a Bluetooth pen and a printer—it could streamline an array of processes and manage scheduling and field transactions far more efficiently. It adopted the mobile platform four years ago. Today, it has more than 3,300 smartphones in the field, says Chris Delong, director of open systems and infrastructure.

Standardizing on a single platform was all about dollars and sense. Since field technicians require the devices for messaging and handling transactions, the company installed a BlackBerry Enterprise Server and created a blacklist and whitelist of Web sites. There are no limits on voice calls. Instead, the company uses trip wires that indicate only whether an employee is placing international calls or venturing beyond an established threshold for calls or text messages.

Safelite allows some executives to use iPhones or Windows Mobile devices because they have more complex requirements. “There is a smattering of other devices but, from an operational perspective, the BlackBerry is the device of choice because it simplifies IT management and provides tight controls,” Delong notes.

In fact, the company oversees the entire mobile device environment with a four-person IT staff. “Standardization, along with a mature, robust BlackBerry platform, has allowed us to maximize ROI,” he adds.

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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