Mobile Devices a Headache for Enterprise Management

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Companies expect to support a growing range of smartphones and mobile employees -- but their mobile infrastructure lacks key elements to do so efficiently and cost-effectively, new research finds.

Trends indicate that mobile messaging and other applications are increasingly important to companies. But many organizations don't have in place the procedures and products needed to secure and manage mobility, and to minimize costly downtime, according to Osterman Research's survey of 125 IT decision-makers.

The report was sponsored by Zenprise, a company that sells an application to automate the management and troubleshooting of mobile devices. (The company recently extended its mobile management to Windows Mobile handhelds.)

Survey respondents were from companies of various sizes and vertical industries. The average size was 15,000 employees. (A copy of the report is available online. Registration is required.)

Based on the online survey results, Osterman predicts the percentage of employees with company-supplied mobile devices will rise from 23% in 2008, to 30% in 2009, and to 46% by the end of 2011.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows Mobile are by far the dominant mobile platforms for companies, and will continue to be so. Respondents were asked which mobile device currently is used most often for work purposes: 56% named the BlackBerry, 19% Windows Mobile, and10% Palm Treo. The iPhone was named by 5%.

In addition, the survey found that 82% of respondents supported BlackBerry devices in 2008, and 66% supported Windows Mobile. But Apple iPhone use is growing dramatically: 20% said they supported iPhones in 2008, and 44% said they will support them in 2009. Symbian-based mobile devices, though still a small number overall, also will grow this year: 14% of respondents say they'll be supporting these devices, up from 10% in 2008.

Both sets of data indicate an increasingly heterogeneous mobile enterprise, with the attendant complexity of securing and managing it, according to the Osterman report. It's likely that enterprises will turn to a range of software tools for doing so, or turn to emerging hosted services for these tasks, according to the report.

On the end-user front, mobile users tend to be those with specific, high value job functions. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their technical senior managers use mobile messaging devices; 78% said non-technical senior managers carry them. About two out of three respondents named non-sales traveling employees, mid-level technical managers and mobile sales staff as device users in their companies.

Given this user profile, the survey respondents were asked to judge the business impact of mobile messaging downtime: 8% said the impact would be critical, and 27% said serious. Another 47% said there would be "some impact" from such downtime.

Downtime for BlackBerry users in the survey, and the related impact on employee productivity and decision-making, varies widely, the report found. For example, at the extremes, 14% reported zero downtime during a typical month, and 17% reported 31 to 60 minutes of downtime. More typically, 34% said they have up to 15 minutes each month, and 21% from 16 to 30 minutes. "...We found that the typical organization experiences a mean of 29 minutes of downtime per month in their BlackBerry environment," the authors wrote.

To get a feel for the impact on enterprise productivity, respondents were asked "When you have an outage in the BlackBerry infrastructure, how much less productive is the typical BlackBerry user?"

Just over half of the respondents said users were 1% to 10% less productive as a result of an outage; 17% said users were 11% to 25% less productive. About one in five said their users were 26% to 50% less productive.

The survey also sought to quantify the amount of time IT invested managing and troubleshooting mobile environments. The hours listed are for the median hours per week per 1,000 BlackBerry users:

Troubleshooting user issues: 35.5
Troubleshooting Exchange/BES interactions: 8.2
Troubleshooting BlackBerry Enterprise Server 7.3
Troubleshooting network issues 3.6
Others issues 0.6

Despite these efforts, the report found evidence that suggests many companies are not well-organized or well-equipped to minimize mobility disruptions. Asked how confident they were that all elements of their mobile messaging platform are fully protected against downtime, 39% said they were "very confident" or "confident." Another 39% said they were somewhat confident, and 17% were "not too confident." Five percent admitted they were "not at all confident."

Perhaps not too surprising given the report's sponsor, the authors suggest that enterprise IT groups can maximize employee productivity, where a company relies heavily on always-on mobile messaging and applications, by automating mobile management and troubleshooting tasks.

To that end, BlackBerry Enterprise Server remains the dominant mobile management platform, in use by 79% of the sample. Microsoft Systems Center Mobile Device Manager (MDM) is used by 33%, and HP Mobile Device Management by 12%. But enterprise adoption of the Microsoft application is accelerating, in part due to the release last year of Windows Mobile 6.1, which included direct hooks into MDM: 45% of the survey sample said they'll be using MDM in 2009.

This story, "Mobile Devices a Headache for Enterprise Management" was originally published by Network World.

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