Standardization Is Difficult

By Samuel Greengard 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.

Standardization Is Difficult

Safelite’s situation is not typical, and many firms find it difficult to standardize on a single mobile device or platform. Different departments and employees have diverse needs, so locking in on a single system can undermine productivity. As Gartner’s Clark puts it: “An organization that lacks flexibility and the right tools can find itself at a strategic disadvantage.”

Platforms and preferences are key issues facing the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. The Columbus, Ohio, firm, with $1.7 billion in 2008 sales, has traditionally relied on BlackBerrys for messaging and voice communication. It has also used cellular broadband-equipped laptops for certain situations. “The goal has been to make data widely available within a secure, managed environment,” says Robert Burkhart, director of new technology.

In the past, Nationwide owned smartphones and various employee-used devices, but it may soon shift to an employee ownership model. The proliferation of iPhones and other devices—along with more advanced management and security capabilities—is forcing decision-makers to rethink things.

“There’s no reason for people to carry two or more devices,” Burkhart says. “And pricing plans have come down to the point where limits for personal calls and minutes aren’t necessary.” But the firm will likely continue to impose caps on data usage.

To embrace a more open and flexible environment, Nationwide turned to Sybase Afaria, which supports Open Mobile Alliance Device Management standards. Burkhart says the environment also helps reduce costs by offering troubleshooting and help-desk capabilities, while passing the bulk of the responsibility onto manufacturers and carriers.

Gartner’s Clark says it’s essential to understand organizational roles and usage patterns so the enterprise doesn’t overspend on devices or on calling and data plans. “Not everyone needs an iPhone,” he says. “Not everyone needs a data plan loaded with minutes. An organization must look at the efficient use of resources and basic cost-containment issues.”

This article was originally published on 2009-10-26
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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