Why it Might Not Matter Which Mobile Devices Employees Use in the Future

ZDnet published a piece in August titled “No matter how cool, phones are not tablets or computers. Or are they?” It spoke to the idea that because mobile devices can’t do all the same things and require different accessories or components to run effectively in an enterprise, many organisations today don’t think they can accommodate a full-scale BYOD environment. The story also touched upon the idea that a laptop is still crucial to computing, especially in terms of content creation and editing.

But mobile devices act in many of the same ways as desktops — they’re a vehicle for productivity and task completion. The future state of enterprise mobility — and the desktop — could very well allow employees to do whatever they need to do from whichever device they want. Here are some of the emerging possibilities that might one day make it irrelevant which mobile devices your employees bring into work.

Docking stations for mobile devices

Technology vendors are beginning to market docking stations that allow mobile devices to be used as desk phones and computers, with instant messaging, conferencing and extension dialing. If this trend continues, employees will eventually be able to use these mobile devices to communicate, create more content and leverage powerful productivity apps. According to a June 2012 report by McKinsey & Company, half of CIOs believe smartphones will eventually be modularly docked with a keyboard, screen and related devices in any location. Battery life and connectivity issues have so far kept this idea as only a possibility, but as both mobile devices and docking stations evolve, it stands to get closer to reality.

VDI to manage BYOD

VDI allows users to not only access their desktops from any device but also lets IT manage computing from a central location, providing easier administration and deployment. VDI can also be more secure because no corporate data will sit on employees’ mobile devices. IT maintains control over both the operating system and the apps on the mobile devices.

Increased smartphone power

Some industry evangelists say the increasing power of smartphones will someday squash the current concerns about CPU, battery life and storage ability in these mobile devices. With the power to run and perform well throughout a workday, it will be a matter of connecting these phones of the future to a monitor to use them like the desktops of yore.

The bottom line

In the end, the ZDnet piece concluded it won’t really matter which mobile devices employees use at work as they will all carry, in some capacity, the same general functionality to be productive inside and outside of the office. The form factor will not matter as much as the total capabilities available to employees to get their jobs done. But getting to this future mobility state takes planning. To prepare for what will be possible in the years to come, consult with an IT provider experienced in both desktop deployment and mobility solutions to craft the right strategy for your BYOD users.

How to Get Over Your Top 3 Mobility Pain Points in 2013

A recent mobility report released by iPass and MobileIron unveils a heap of statistics on the state of enterprise mobility and its effect on IT in 2013. While there are some positive figures, such as the fact that more than half of organisations have an actual BYOD policy, the report uncovered a number of pain points organisations adopting mobility solutions or BYOD plans have encountered in the last year. Left to linger, these issues can lead to extra costs and mobile management headaches for the IT department. Luckily, we’ve come up with a couple of ways to address these concerns that can save your organisation headaches down the road.

Pain Point #1 Rising costs

Solution: Ask your employees to share more of the costs

Cost is an issue that’s been heavily debated when it comes to mobility. Many reports claim BYOD leads to increased IT costs, while some organisations say mobility has saved them time and productivity. The iPass and MobileIron report said 68 per cent of IT managers expect their mobility costs will rise in the next year, mostly due to an increase in the number of mobile users and the number of mobile devices.

report by Good Technology shows organisations requiring employees to pay all mobile device and plan costs save $1,000 per employee per year in service-related costs. If you don’t think this will work at your organisation, you can include a small stipend or let employees claim expenses — you will still save more money than if you paid for all of BYOD-participating employees’ device and plan costs. If costs still worry you, require employees to itemise their mobile device bills so there is more oversight in terms of which portion is used for work.

Pain Point #2 Support struggles

Solution: Commit to only supporting a certain number of device types

While BYOD is certainly aimed at increasing flexibility, some organisations take this idea too far and let any and all devices through their doors. Out of nine IT concerns related to BYOD, participants in the iPass and MobileIron survey said their top two were supporting personal mobile devices and onboarding.

It’s important for organisations to remember there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “No” to certain devices to decrease your IT support costs. There are also mobile device management solutions offering self-service enrolment and automated onboarding so the IT department isn’t tasked with setting up every user on every device. These MDM solutions can also be set up so employees can remove or add approved devices to the system themselves.

Pain Point #3 Security concerns

Solution: Protect — and be able to wipe — the data  

More than half of organisations surveyed in the iPass and MobileIron report had experienced a security issue amongst BYOD employees in the last 12 months. But the majority of these issues were related to stolen or lost devices. There are clear ways to prevent major data loss from happening in these situations: enable remote device wiping of corporate data; ensure the actual data, not just the endpoint, is protected through a mobile device management solution; or use a container approach where corporate data is always kept in a silo where it can’t be reached. Don’t forget you also have the option of outsourcing a mobile device management platform to an experienced IT provider so your IT department doesn’t have to worry about application security.

More than “Me Too!”: How Mobility Solutions Boost Productivity

In the race to match and beat competitors’ products, sometimes fairly essential features will be tabled in favour of the latest and greatest. And when those essentials are added, the marketers scratch the heads, figuring out how to promote these me-toos — these standard features the product should already have.

As some organisations see their competitors offer mobility solutions to their employees, or relax policy for BYOD, the me-too temptation creeps up. The question becomes this: When it comes to mobility solutions, should your organisation become a me-too? Questioning the groupthink of productivity and mobility solutions isn’t a bad reflex, but, in our experience, there’s a definite correlation between boosted worker productivity and widespread mobility solutions. And we’re not the only ones with those findings.

Giving the people what they want gives you more productive employees

You’ve probably heard many of your employees beg for mobility solutions to help them simplify their jobs. As it turns out, it’s not all out of envy. For organisations of all sizes, mobility solutions have reaped impressive ROI.

According to a recent Paychex infographic, 78 per cent of small business owners claim mobile apps are time-savers. They’ve also noticed that their mobility solutions have shaved more than five-and-a-half hours of their work week, and their employees have saved, on average, over 11 hours per week. And these mobility solutions results aren’t limited to the small business sector.

At a large technology company, employees given wireless tools increased their productivity by 100 hours a year — that’s two-and-a-half workweeks available for new projects. As many employees were given access to mobility solutions, they began automatically working in locations previously considered productivity-killers. They began filling small amounts of downtime with small tasks that normally sucked up their regular working hours.

The lesson is clear: When you give employees mobility solutions that can increase productivity, they take advantage of them.

Common tasks gone mobile

You may be thinking giving employees the ability to check email on mobile devices won’t do all that much to increase productivity. And you’re right. But with tailored mobility solutions, your employees can use mobile technology for tasks such as:

  • Field service operations: In many industries, field service technicians waste time filling out and checking paperwork such as invoices and calling the office for information they can’t obtain on their own. By providing business-specific information, apps that eliminate paperwork and an alert system that indicates the next appointment or shares important data, technicians can focus on the task at hand.
  • CRM on the go: When sales reps can access and update customer and prospect information from their mobile devices, you’re not just providing them the tools to keep customers happy; you’re drastically reducing the chance for missed or incorrectly entered information at a later date.
  • Mobile video conferencing: With video capabilities on so many mobility solutions, “Just calling in” doesn’t need to be an option for remote employees. Plus, the ability to give face time to clients from anywhere provides a tremendous competitive advantage.

Finding where mobility solutions can best help your organisation will necessitate an audit of employee processes and current technology. But even giving them a few tools now can definitely make for a more productive workforce.

The Desktop and the Mobile Device: A Case of Either Or?

Before its release last week, Windows 8 was already blazing a polarising line between diehard desktop-lovers and members of the mobile device movement. The first camp proclaimed there’d always be room for the desktop and that the mobile device will never allow for the level or productivity and task completion a standard PC does.Windows 8, the latter camp proudly cheered, will send the classic desktop to its deathbed as more employees give first priority to their personal mobile device.

As organisations consider how far to dip their toes into mobility, it’s important to remind them that at this point, both desktop and mobile computing are still theirs for the taking. There is no computing ultimatum right now, and there might not ever be. What makes more sense than choosing which side of the dividing line to stand on is determining how both computing styles can fit the many and varied needs of your organisation.

The mobile device fills the gap

Think of mobility as a way to ensure productivity continues even when your employees are away from their desks. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled “The re‑emergence of enterprise mobility” describes the mobile device as an “intelligent network node.” Specifically, the mobile device offers more modes of contact than desktops: email, phone, text, video, chat and social media. This increases the chance you will be able to reach employees in some capacity while they’re on the road.     

Sharing content between the desktop and the mobile device

There are tools and applications that enable you to share content across devices, making it easier to integrate mobility into your desktop strategy. For instance, organisations can share their SharePoint portals on tablets and mobile phones with mobile web apps and customised mobile solutions. Employees can then access the same documents and calendarsthey use on their desktops. SharePoint 2013 will offer even more options in the form of new mobile browser experiences.

The desktop and the mobile device: What works for your industry?

CIO Australia article from earlier this year suggests that certain industries may be more primed for mobility than others. These are usually organisations with highly mobile employees, remote employees and employees needing to share data frequently throughout the day. Supply chain processes, disaster recovery and business continuity capability and social networking are also good areas for mobile optimising.

Before you start letting a flurry of personal devices into your organisation, consult with an IT provider that can help your business plot its desktop-mobility strategy. Datacom experts can share insight on every aspect of your deployment, from hardware procurement for both the desktop and the mobile device through to licensing and security.

Protecting Your Workforce from Social Media Threats Part II: Applying Technology Solutions

In Part 1, we discussed how setting a policy for social media users at your organisation is the cornerstone of ensuring security and compliance. Now we’ll get into the technical security measures you can leverage to guard social media users against cyber threats, whether they are accessing the sites from a computer, a corporate mobile device or a personal device.

Industry recommendations for social media users

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) recommends regularly security patching, content filtering and limiting network throughput to protect social media users from cyber threats. And while anti-virus alone won’t do the job of protecting social media users against cyber threats, organisations should have it in place on all systems and update it regularly. The same goes for your anti-malware protection to guard against cyber threats. If you know employees will access social media sites in a public place through Wi-Fi, consider requiring them to log in through a virtual private network (VPN) to avoid cyber threats. That way, data stays encrypted and no one but your employees will be able to access it. Through its network infrastructure solutions, Datacom can assist organisations in configuring a VPN and other secure mobility solutions to guard social media users from cyber threats on a mobile device or desktop.

Mobile device management to arm against cyber threats

A must for organisations with social media users is mobile device management software, which will let the IT department control, track and secure mobile devices, whether they are company- or personally-owned, in one network. Datacom recommends mobile device management solutions that can not only manage and secure the device, but also oversee the applications and data on it. A solid mobile device management solution will also let the IT department distribute applications and data and employ application white-listing so only approved social media apps are allowed. Through mobile device management, organisations can institute password protection, a data wiping procedure for compromised devices and quickly decommission devices from the system. If you need help formulating a policy to handle application use in a Bring Your Own Device scenario, look over our BYOD checklist.

Remember, you can let your employees become social media users in a secure, controlled way if you put the right usage policies in place and have the right technology solutions to guard against cyber threats.

Unified Communications in the Cloud – Your Key to Interconnected Mobility?

With all the potentially disparate technologies unified communications and collaboration involve, pinpointing what you should look for in your UCC solution is no easy task. Add in a Bring Your Own Device scenario, and there’s certainly something for everyone – and more for your overtasked IT department to manage. If you listen to all the voices, you’ll likely wind up with a jumble of technologies that don’t work together or across devices, which defeats the very aim of your foray into UCC.

One solution to achieving interconnectedness and mobility in unified communications is by using the cloud. Cloud lends an easier approach to implementing and integrating various UCC technologies and making them available to users both on and offsite using corporate or personal devices.

Mobility is driving unified communications adoption

The increasing presence of the mobile device in the workplace is the biggest impetus to implement unified communications and collaboration solutions, according to a survey by IDGE Enterprise. Stretching everything an employee can do at his or her desk to a mobile device is a goal for 67 per cent of those IT leaders who responded to the survey. Smartphone and mobile desktop access is already involved in 80 per cent of unified communications deployments, according to a separate poll by CDW.

At the same time, internal IT departments don’t always have the skills or knowledge to support unified communications technologies across devices. A survey by Siemens shows IT departments have problems implementing and managing new unified communications and collaboration tools in 78 per cent of organisations.

How cloud helps

Cloud brings together different unified communications technologies and components and delivers them to these different device types, with little need for extra infrastructure or physical deployments. With this approach, organisations can transform their dearth of disparate devices into a connected employee network. There’s a benefit to remote or mobile employees as well. By deploying unified communications through the cloud, these workers can get communications while they’re off the company network.

As for the management aspect, UCC delivered through a cloud provider could give organisations a window into security and access controls for different mobile devices. As new technologies get added, the organisation doesn’t need to worry about migrations or replacing old systems because cloud allows different technologies to coexist.

What are the goals you’re hoping to achieve with your UCC solution?

5 Bring Your Own Device Best Practices

By Julian Buckley

Just because Bring Your Own Device is new to your organisation doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done — successfully — before. We can learn from those businesses that immediately jumped on the BYOD bandwagon. Use these lessons of right and wrong to do even better with your BYOD programme.

1. Give controlled freedom

Yes, BYOD is all about the employee and what mobile device and platform he or she wants to use. That doesn’t mean your IT department can’t implement some restrictions, such as allowing workers to choose from a pre-approved list of devices it has already “tried and tested.” The hard truth is that IT will only have capacity to support certain devices. It’s the organisations that let their workforces choose from a BYOD buffet that tend to see support costs soar; locking this down to a known list of devices can help organisations baseline these costs.

A best practice identified by the International Data Corporation (IDC) involves IT letting employees choose from a shortlist of mobile devices that can be supported in-house. How do you create this shortlist? Do something bold — actually talk to your employees. Ask them about the devices they use at home, why they use them and how they differ from the devices offered at work. You’ll be able to get an early picture of what your BYOD programme will look like — and how your IT department can support it.

2. Don’t put all your apps in one basket

Do you really need to make all your legacy applications available to your mobile workforce? Focus first on business-critical apps that carry solid value, such as dashboards covering metrics and goals and workflow charts. You can use the same survey approach here that you did with the devices: which tools and applications help employees get their jobs done best?

Also keep in mind the need for ongoing mobile app development, especially if different versions need to be written.Outsourcing application development to a provider that can tackle mobile device integration and connectivity so all your employees can take advantage of the custom mobile application is one way to avoid sucking up your IT staff‘s resources.

3. Innovate and compromise

Many organisations are finding that an innovative, supportive BYOD strategy helps retain staff, attracts new hires and ensures better use of technology within a workplace. Just because there’s a new operating system (Mac’s Mountain Lion or Microsoft’s Windows 8) out on the market doesn’t mean your organisation should ban or block it from entering into your BYOD strategy. Enabling your workforce to use the latest and greatest can be a great productivity-improver and assist with staff morale and greater freedom.

4. Secure the data and the device

Treat the device as the first barrier to entry and lock down the data where possible. What if the worst happens and a hacker or street-side thief does get into the phone or tablet? If corporate data is inaccessible — sitting in the data centre instead of on the actual mobile device, for instance, — the rogue individual won’t be able to steal it. Leveraging technologies such as Citrix XenApp or VMware Horizon can bring the applications to the users whilst retaining the data centrally in your environment. Having user policies in place that restrict access to corporate information and applications for certain employee groups also prevents sending too much sensitive data into the world.

5. Reduce support costs by educating users

Your new BYOD-inspired workforce might have some legitimate tech support issues. Many others will stem from a lack of self-help enablement and complex guidelines for things like user enrolment, switching approved devices and password reset. Give users the ability to do as much as they can on their own so they aren’t needlessly flooding the help desk with inane enquiries.

What BYOD best practices would you add to this list?

Julian Buckley is the Business Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in QLD.  Julian leads a team of solution architects, project managers and consulting engineers that evangelise, design, scope, deliver and implement purpose-built, client-focused infrastructure and virtualisation solutions for our customers. His team in QLD focuses on long-term relationships with clients, building end-to-end enterprise ICT architecture for corporate, education and government clients across Microsoft, Citrix and VMware technology sets. A local leader in virtualisation in the QLD market, Julian’s team can help all clients achieve greater return on investment, reliability and performance through best practice, industry-leading solutions.

Pros of Outsourcing Mobile Application Development and Management

Creating enterprise mobile applications for your organisation can improve efficiency, service, flexibility and productivity. If software development isn’t one of your core business functions, however, it can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing technology used in creating mobile apps, and your IT department will likely grapple with the development process. Outsourcing your mobile applications – both the development and management of them – lets your IT department continue focussing on its core competencies.

It alleviates device management headaches

Developing mobile apps is one thing; making sure you can deliver them to different devices is another. If you leave your mobile apps project with internal IT staff, they’ll likely spend considerable time addressing management and security features across a range of different tablets and smartphones. In addition to actually developing software for you, an IT outsourcer can oversee device integration and connectivity so all your employees can take advantage of the custom mobile application. IT outsourcers that offer field service support can help iron out any hiccups that occur duringapplication delivery.

It cuts down on testing time

Increasing fragmentation of mobile operating systems and device models has made mobile apps testing more complex. There is a serious risk that turning inward to the IT department for mobile apps development will run up costs and resources and extend project time. Outsourcing application development allows you to benefit from a proven testing methodology. For instance, Datacom software developers rely upon Test-Driven Development, a technique involving automated unit tests that guide application design and force decoupling of dependencies so software can continually be evaluated to ensure it remains working. This method ensures our developers only create production code when they understand the ultimate outcome and how to test the result.

It gives application management better attention

IT departments unfamiliar with mobile apps development might dust off their hands once they finish creating and delivering the new software. This is a mistake, as application performance and measurement won’t be addressed. In addition, mobile device application development might also require different management tools than traditional software, as it involves varied end-user behaviour and experiences. An IT outsourcer can help you take advantage of application managementbased on service-level agreements that account for reliability and availability measurements. The best outsourced mobile application services also allow organisations access to shared tracking systems so customers can continually monitor application performance.

How has your organisation benefited from outsourcing mobile application development and/or management?

Shaping Your Mobile Device Management Strategy: Part II

By Jean-Pierre Walle

Often I sit down with a company looking for a mobile device management solution to oversee a Bring Your Own Device programme only to discover they don’t have any policies guiding the use of personal smartphones or tablets at work. In my research, 72 per cent of organisations do not have defined policies for BYOD.

MDM tools are the vehicles by which you enforce company policies for BYOD; they do not set these policies for you. Fortunately, Datacom mobility experts can help organisations develop these policies in the early stages of their BYOD programmes. But this is just the first step. There are other boxes to tick before you choose a MDM tool for your workforce. Most crucial are deciding how you want your MDM solution to handle security, provisioning and configuration, user support, enrolling new users and exiting former ones, personal data and end-point protection.

Do you auto-lock your devices? Less than 10 per cent of people who bring their own devices to work use auto-lock, according to an ESET/Harris Interactive study conducted earlier this year. If a device isn’t locked – the most basic security measure –, no MDM solution will be able to protect it. Before you even entertain managing devices, you must ensure every employee enables auto-lock on their mobile device. Start with your own phone or tablet so you lead by example.

Which device types will you support? This is the million-dollar question for many organisations and being choosy can reduce the chance of too many devices taking over the workplace. You will need to consider platforms, operating systems, models and versions to get a sense of how much support you will need to allow through your MDM solution. You might also consider blocking unauthorised, modified or jail-broken devices. If you’re struggling with choosing which devices to support, Datacom mobility experts can tell you which devices are more manageable than others.

How will you classify and manage assets? You can group mobile devices by operating system or version, classify them based on whether they have been provisioned or decommissioned and monitor specific physical details and device location. You also have choices related to integrating this inventory with your other hardware assets. You can elect to report on these assets, tracking any compliance status and policy violations.

How will you activate the MDM solution on each device? IT can do this physically on each device or you can allow desktop or mail gateway sync. Datacom also offers organisations the ability to conduct over-the-air enrolment and configuration. Keep in mind how you want to remove users who leave the organisation.

How will devices be configured? You can choose to self-service provision, which personalises devices, activates security policies and sets up the network connection.

How do you want to secure the device? What sort of password policy do you want for personal devices? How many characters will be required and how many login attempts are allowed before it must be reset? MDM services offered through Datacom also allow two-factor authentication and may be able to leverage native device encryption depending on the device OS. Your BYOD policies will guide much of the end-point protection you leverage.

How do you want to secure the data? This item is separate from device security, as how you protect the data is ultimately what will keep corporate information safe should a device be compromised. You can elect to do a remote data wipe if you find the device has been left in a public place, operated by another user or lost.

What restrictions will you enforce? It’s possible to restrict access to music downloading applications, cameras and non-enterprise applications and block document sync.

How will you monitor apps? MDM services allow you to keep an inventory of which apps have been installed, lock access to the app store and host custom enterprise apps. You can also offer enterprise software via downloading, web links or access to third-party stores.

Who will help users when they need it? MDM tools can be configured so users can help themselves for easy tasks such as password reset. You can also allow your help desk to interact with remote users through settings on certain MDM products.

Jean-Pierre Walle has over 23 years of experience in IT and telecommunications. He currently serves as a Business Unit Manager for Datacom NZ, a role in which he oversees End-User Services. His teams specialise in managed services for mobile device management, 24×7, global remote desktop support and end-to-end service for SME/SMB customers. In addition to managing these teams, Jean-Pierre oversees the service delivery, P&L and development aspects of these managed services. He is also an ITIL® practitioner. 

Shaping Your Mobile Device Management Strategy: Part I

Now that mobile device management (MDM) isn’t a matter of when your organisation will need it but how you’ve managed to get by so long without it, the smart CIO is the one actively working on an MDM strategy.

With many employees using personal laptops, smartphones and tablets, IT executives and managers are faced with difficult issues covering the gamut of procurement and contracts to support and repair. Through a proper MDM strategy, your organisation will be able to not only manage myriad devices, but also boost employee productivity while ensuring data security and keeping costs low. Besides creating and enforcing MDM departmental procedures, you can select software and tools to help your department manage their mobile devices.

Of course, the right policies and the right tools will differ based on every organisation’s unique situation. But as you shape your own MDM strategy, consider these guidelines:

1.    Protecting corporate and financial data is always the top priority. You can’t boost worker productivity and, in turn, improve operations if you’re constantly putting mobile devices on lockdown due to security breaches. Most IT departments forbid any confidential corporate data on an unencrypted device or network. Barring your employees from conducting business on the hotel’s convenient open wireless network may be the source of some consternation, but it’s your safest bet. And when employees need to use a corporate or personal credit card online, they’ll need to use some other device, plain and simple.

2.    Provide the right communications applications on mobile devices. Too often employees are not given the tools they need, and, as such, they’ll use their personal email addresses or social media accounts. While the CIO’s role is certainly not to thwart proactive employees, he or she must ensure business is conducted securely and with the proper tools. If your organisation provides the proper communications software — for instance, extending your unified communications platform to mobile devices —, your employees won’t have to use personal applications to conduct business.

3.    Find a vendor that manages technology and support top to bottom. A good IT outsourcer can source the right MDM tools and solutions for your organisation, leaving your employees the freedom to use their mobile devices for work, not constantly work on their mobile devices. Your vendor should handle the MDM software recommendations and implementation procedure. They should also be able to tell you everything you can do with your MDM solution, such as monitoring and reporting.

As your organisation evolves, so must your MDM strategy. But establishing a solid foundation for your MDM strategy now is your best shot to handle the vagaries of the mobile device world.