Developing a Strategy to Manage Mobile Devices

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
mobile device management

Savvy enterprises are developing a strategic plan for managing mobile devices in order to maximize business opportunities and minimize IT challenges and risk.

By Samuel Greengard

As mobility has taken root and the walls of the workplace have disappeared, there has been a profound shift in the way organizations approach information technology. Workers are no longer chained to desktops, and there's no need to track down an Internet connection. Ubiquitous WiFi and cellular networks have transformed enterprise communication and collaboration into a 24x7x365 proposition.

However, this new era of connectedness also places enormous pressure and stress on IT. "We have entered an entirely different environment where BYOD [bring your own device] and consumer technologies rule," observes Daniel Eckert, managing director of Emerging Technologies at consulting firm PwC. "Although a mobile infrastructure is relatively easy and cost-effective to build and maintain, it raises new and sometimes difficult challenges. There's a need to manage people, devices and data."

Enter mobile device management. Although the term MDM is often associated with software applications that offer technical controls over devices—including the ability to register smartphones and tablets on a network, control how data flows on and off these devices, and wipe them in the event of a security breach—there's the more general issue of developing a strategy that maximizes business opportunities while minimizing IT challenges and risk.

"Organizations must develop a comprehensive mobility framework," says Patrick Rusby, research analyst at IT research firm Analysis Mason.

The migration to a post-PC world is occurring faster than anyone could have imagined. Smartphones and tablets now permeate the workplace: Gartner predicts sales of 1.2 billion of these devices in 2013—a 50 percent spike over last year. Sales of smart devices now make up 70 percent of the overall computing market.

What's more, workers are loading a growing array of apps onto their devices and are increasingly relying on them for both business and personal use. Within this new model, "An IT department requires a very different understanding of technology use," Rusby says.

An IT department must take a fundamentally different view of resources within a BYOD environment, Rusby adds. "It's critical to start from the position that the business must enable the use of devices rather than block them," he points out. "The most successful BYOD strategies do not impede employees desiring to use their personal devices for work, but they do ensure that enterprise security concerns are met." In some cases, organizations must also adopt policies and rules about how specific apps and services can be used.

Make no mistake, it's a new frontier of IT and business. PwC's Eckert points out that the new mobility environment crosses all sorts of boundaries. It touches on infrastructure and network issues, the types of applications and mobile apps an organization uses, human resources and policies, and security.

"[Mobility] expands and redefines the traditional boundaries of IT and the relationship people have with technology and work," he explains. Eckert believes that within five years, "Everything will be built for mobile channels, and organizations that fail to act will watch the competition bypass them."

As a result, it's critical to build a mobile and wireless infrastructure that supports collaboration and knowledge sharing but has strong controls in place, including policy and technology protections. Among other things, an enterprise must establish secure authentication, deploy endpoint security, and use an MDM tool that can track devices and allow system administrators and HR staff to register and unregister them on the network. It's also critical to lock and wipe devices that are lost, stolen or otherwise compromised.

"There must be a corporate certificate on the device to ensure that it's secure," Eckert says.

This article was originally published on 2013-09-18

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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