Mobile Device Policies Evolve
By Samuel Greengard
The rapid adoption rate for mobile devices has created both new opportunities and new challenges for IT departments and businesses. According to a June study conducted by IT market research firm IDC, more than three-quarters of businesses still provide corporate-liable smartphones to employees, but about half have transitioned to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach to tablets.
Mobile technology provides "new opportunities for businesses to build closer relationships with their customers, but it also comes with a whole host of challenges around how to manage these devices in the enterprise," said Meredith Whalen, a senior vice president for IT Executive & Industry Research at IDC. Key issues include: understanding who is using BYOD devices, what business applications are running on them, and whether it's possible to remotely wipe the phone or tablet if it is lost or stolen.
The study, which tapped 52 CIOs and senior IT executives from the United States and Europe, found that company executives—as well as those in sales, IT and marketing job functions—were the biggest users of smartphones and tablets within organizations. For corporate-liable smartphones, 73 percent of organizations pay the entire mobile service bill (voice and data) directly to the mobile service provider. Likewise, 71 percent of companies pay the entire mobile service plan for corporate-liable tablets.
Not surprisingly, the upswing in mobile device use is driving fundamental changes in IT. Survey respondents indicated that it is necessary to mitigate risk and support costs associated with letting employees bring their own devices.
Overall, 45 percent of the companies polled provide limited IT help-desk support for business applications on individual-liable smartphones, while 42 percent say they provide limited IT help-desk support for business applications on individual-liable tablets. Both groups indicated that they relay hardware support issues back to mobile service providers.
At the other end of the spectrum, 33 percent of the organizations surveyed offer no support for individual-liable smartphones, and 44 percent provide no support for individual-liable tablets. Many executives indicated that they view tablets as a secondary device to a laptop or desktop computer.
IDC noted that, by including tablets in the same 2 1/2-year refresh cycle as smartphones rather than the cycle of laptops, organizations plunk down an additional 1 percent of their IT budget every year for tablet refreshes.
Whalen observed that many organizations are currently "working through their mobile device strategy and policy issues." In order to maximize the odds for success, IDC recommends that IT executives establish a governance committee, including finance, HR and legal, to outline a comprehensive BYOD strategy. This process should produce clearly defined use policies and cost-allocation methods.
In addition, she recommends that IT executives "identify the costs associated with developing and supporting multiple mobile platforms, and apply a governance strategy to mobile application development efforts to ensure projects are prioritized based on the highest value-add to the enterprise."
A policy framework should define which employees are given tablets, whether they are mobile or office workers, and the extent to which they are creating and consuming content, Whalen concluded.