Managing Mobile Chaos

While employees relish the anywhere, anytime power of smartphones and tablets, IT executives shudder at the security risks associated with the advent of free-roaming, employee-owned devices that have a direct pipeline to the corporate honeypot: data.

Despite this concern, worker demands for portability, flexibility and accessibility are so great that many IT execs have accepted this handheld anarchy—sometimes termed BYOD (bring your own device)—and have begun actively managing it. As a result, the market for mobile device management (MDM) is growing rapidly, driven by three main trends.

First, smartphones and similar mobile devices are morphing from consumer gadgets into enterprise tools, boosted by apps that can do everything from tracking customers, schedules and expenses to creating texts, presentations and spreadsheets.

The second trend is hybrid computing, which offers functionality both in the cloud and in corporate data centers.

Finally, executive demand for agility is leading to corporate flexibility, even in firms with a strict allegiance to standards. According to “The Mobile Operating System Wars Escalate,” a 2011 study by Forrester Research, 48 percent of companies surveyed support two or more mobile operating systems, and 59 percent offer some support for employee-owned devices.

“BlackBerries are sitting in drawers because users want technology that fits their requirements, not the corporation’s,” says Christian Kane, researcher, infrastructure and operations, for Forrester. “As a result, corporations are turning to solutions that are device-agnostic, while still enabling management and security. Corporations are benefiting from lower provisioning and other costs, while giving employees more choice.”

Organizations such as Merit Medical Systems, Marquette University and Q2ebanking are turning to MDM solutions that incorporate many of the features familiar from PC management, with the addition of on-the-go functionality, such as remote wipe/lock, real-time device monitoring, location broadcast and software distribution.


Training and Product Updates

Merit Medical, based in South Jordan, Utah, turned to mobile device management several years ago to address training and product updates for its worldwide sales force. The $297 million medical-device manufacturer then integrated cloud-based applications, such as the Google suite and CRM offerings from, into its tool chest, and it’s now envisioning integrating distributors and customers into a mobile con-stellation, complete with in-house e-commerce capabilities.

In the medical-device industry, regulatory issues, new research and advancing product development shorten the shelf-life of information, and prospects and customers demand the most current information. After distributing iPhones to its remote sales force three years ago, Merit provided product and training information via email, spreadsheets and PDFs. While this information was beneficial, “the process didn’t work very well,” admits Lincoln Cannon, director of Web systems, because the latest information got lost among similar documents.