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Mobile Device Management: Getting Started

A Moving Target

Mobile Device Management: Getting Started
One of the biggest pain points when it comes to MDM is time pressure because, with mobile devices, there is always something new and different to cope with, says SAP's Bussmann. And there can be a lot of need for IT support.

When SAP began its mobile deployment project in 2010, demand from workers was already high, starting with the first controlled deployment of 1,500 devices, he explains. To cope with this, the company decided to provide the initial user support for those first devices via Web 2.0 using wikis and online help portals. This was a method to reduce demands on the IT teams and give users the help they needed on demand, he said.

"We had only two or three months to enable those devices so we didn't have time for setting up traditional support," Bussmann says. "You look at the Apple devices. There's no big menu there to operate them; they're very intuitive. This approach is similar to that."

At first, Bussmann admits, he wasn't sure that users would accept this non-traditional help system. "To be honest, I told my guys that I'm not sure the users are going to go for that. But there's been a change of user behavior, definitely."

At Edelman, one of the biggest challenges of the MDM strategy has been that the target is constantly moving, Iatonna says. "It's not possible to have a solution for every smartphone out there because there are so many models. You can't have the resources for all of it." Their answer is found in AirWatch, which covers the bulk of the devices on the market and reduces the company's risk to an acceptable level, he says.

Iatonna looked at several different MDM vendors before choosing AirWatch, he says, but one of the biggest lessons he learned was that the marketplace is relatively immature. "There's a ton of people rushing to market right now. Often times what I was seeing from vendors was a significant gap between what is promised and what is actually available as a real feature in a product. Maybe that's a reflection of how quickly the handset market is changing."

When employees do come in with their personal tablets or other devices and want to use them for their jobs, it's also important that workable policies are in place for things such as support expectations. Users may want device support in areas where the a company isn't able to provide it, so those things have to be discussed ahead of time, he said. "The waters are still very muddy," Iatonna says.

MDM Lessons Learned

Mobile Device Management: Getting Started
Examine how your MDM usage policies will be viewed wherever your company does business, from state to state in the U.S. and in other nations, says Jacobs' Carmody. By asking employees to pay for their mobile bills or devices, you might be affecting changes in employment contracts that could require further reviews with labor unions or other agencies, she explains. If it's not in an existing contract as part of their employment, then you have to follow the contract as it is, she says, especially in locations including Europe, where contract changes are harder to complete.

Another good idea: Put policies into place that lay out which applications will be approved and permissible on employee devices so users can get support as needed, Carmody suggests.

In the larger scheme of things, your MDM deployment could even help you as IT moves more toward the cloud and the possibility of virtual desktops for workers, Carmody says. The lessons you learn -- especially about mobile security -- today can help you with such future initiatives, she explains, so be sure to share that information broadly within the IT team.

At Carfax, one unexpected benefit of the move to more productive mobile devices has been that some workers are now using them instead of their previously issued laptops, Matthews says. "This year I expect that some workers will tell us that they don't need their laptops anymore," which will have the side benefit of simplifying maintenance and support for the IT staff, he explains.

One lesson has become very clear, according to Matthews. "Don't let your fears keep you from trying things," he says. "You will see different ways to reach out to customers that you wouldn't have seen if you didn't look at these mobile devices."

For example, he says, "We have created mobile sales and marketing applications that allow our field reps and customers to have much more valuable conversations with more real-time information," including customer-specific data. "This allows our reps to be much more effective and efficient in how they manage their activities and customers."

In addition, make sure you have a real long-term strategy and understand your needs before you start the project, Netcentric analyst Benedict says. "Don't even bother to implement mobile technology if you don't have a mobile management strategy -- it will be totally wasted."

The way to do that is to become fully educated in what's possible, Benedict says. "Go to big conferences, view webinars, read books and bring educators in to teach and show what's available. Don't build a strategy based on your limited knowledge." Learn about what is possible, he adds.

Next page: Where MDM Can Still Get Better

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