Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mobile Device Management: Do You Have IT Under Control?

The proliferation of handheld, mobile devices has been a mixed blessing for businesses. Employees, linked wirelessly to work around the clock, can be far more productive than they were in the era when access to company-owned desktop computers defined the workday. But all of those mobile devices, many owned by employees, present enterprises with some challenges. When companies get mobile device management under control, though, they are in far better position to capture all the benefits of a more available, more productive workforce.

The shorthand for the bring-your-own-device trend – BYOD – echoes another acronym. The BYOB party invitation has little to do with enterprise IT challenges, and yet its pros and cons are similar to those of BYOD. When everyone brings his or her own beverage to a party:
  1. It’s less expensive for the host. (pro)
  2. Guests feel empowered to bring the beverage that fits their individual lifestyles and budgets. (pro)
  3. With their drinks of choice in hand, guests are likely to have a better time, contributing to the overall success of the event. (pro)
  4. The various beverages guests bring might not interact well with each other. (con)
  5. The host cedes control over a major component of the party, and whether he supplied the beverages or not, he’s still responsible for the results. (con)

You get the picture. So what can this teach us about mobile device management? A lot.
Employees want the freedom to use their own devices to interact with their work, and giving workers that option can be cost-effective for businesses. But enterprises need to embrace a new set of best practices for managing sensitive data and business productivity via employee mobile devices.
If BYOD is part of your business strategy, make sure you have these three mobile device management practices in place to protect your enterprise, your proprietary information and the productivity of your employees:
  1. Define your policy. Your employees own their devices, but you own the data with which they’re working. Therefore, you need a clear policy that covers the increased risks of BYOD. Outline maintenance, support and upgrade procedures, as well as security standards and what will happen in the event of device loss. 
  2. Deliver enterprise-created applications. To ensure that critical business decisions occur under the enterprise’s control, companies need to create their own mobile apps to facilitate appropriate user access to data. These enterprise apps must be able to securely draw data from and interact with any enterprise apps used in house, in the cloud or on the desktop.
  3. Establish a platform that fits the expanding range of devices and operating systems. When you invite your employees to bring their own devices, they will. They’ll bring iPhones and Androids, Blackberrys and Windows Mobile devices. They’ll bring different operating systems and different levels of support for mobile apps. They’ll expect their employer to be ready for them all. That can be a logistical impossibility unless you have a mobile application platform that allows you to develop an app that can present well on any device. The mobile application platform is an essential tool if you are to continue making business decisions regardless of what mobile hardware or software your employees use. 
Getting mobile device management under control doesn’t mean enterprises need to curb the BYOD trend. They can embrace it, and they can do so in a controlled way that protects corporate assets without curbing employee choice or productivity.

Regev Yativ
President & CEO, Magic Software Enterprises INC