It's not brain surgery, but establishing a plan for mobility before you take that first step is a good way to avoid problems and develop a mobile management strategy that works for IT and your mobile workforce. Here is a basic game plan.
The rule of thumb in IT and mobility is much like the 'measure twice, cut once' rule of thumb in carpentry. Know your system, know its limitations, and don't go for cutting edge if the technology doesn't cut it in terms of your overall mobility plans and strategies. With that in mind, here are some basic rules and recommendations that should be followed as you plan your mobile strategy or renovate your existing remote user network.
1 Look before leaping. Examine how your people work in the field or remotely, and talk to them about their needs. Look at generally available mobile applications (since custom-built software is expensive and usually unnecessary) to see if these fit into your organization's work flow and are compatible with your existing back-end applications.
2 Talk to your road warriors. What types of tools and applications would help improve their productivity and work efforts? What are their job function and activities? If they are on the go most of the time, then a smartphone or netbook might be the right device. If they deal with a lot of forms, paperwork and catalog data, then a notebook computer with large storage capacity and a penchant for graphics might be a better choice.
3 Ping your peers. Build a network of IT folks with whom you can swap tips and tricks and ask questions related to mobility. Connect at conferences, trade shows or educational events, meet up at the local watering hole or burger joint after work, join (or create) an online social networking group around your specific area of mobility.
The annual Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit (Nov. 3-5, 2010), offers the chance to interact with peers from a range of industries.
4 Match form to function in device selection. Choose a device that is compatible with industry standards, is in sync with your applications needs, provides flexible and manageable security, and does not carry a heavy service and support load. Look beyond the initial price and evaluate long-term costs, such as wireless data charges, service plans, per-person use charges, and the a la carte pricing usually associated with mobile resource management (MRM) solutions.
5 Mind your own business. More specifically, choose technology providers and third-party integrators who know how well you mind your business and who know the 'pain points' of your day-to-day business activities. Find a solution provider who knows your industry inside and out, and has a client track record to prove it. The ideal candidate should also be aware of any compliance or compatibility issues that must be addressed, especially in terms of accounting and database systems.
6 Ponder Policy Management. This includes user guidelines, security safeguards, maintenance and upgrades, and what to do when a device gets lost. Users should have a clear and common set of rules for each device, including log-on procedures, protecting passwords, the types of applications used on the device (both business and personal), and best practices for VPN access. Mobile policies should also establish rules for syncing data with a corporate resource and making use of encryption to
protect data in transit.
7 Take flight with a pilot program. Include a cross-section of executives and user types, or confine your pilot to a single department or to one or two applications. Involve highly motivated 'mobile champions' who will mentor other people in the company. Your pilot project will root out any problems between users and devices, and could reveal whether the devices chosen are up to the job at hand. A lot of companies will establish user policies and procedures after a pilot, although we recommend creating some policy ground rules first and then tweaking them as the pilot unfolds.
8 Expand your pilot into other areas of the company. No two mobile users or departments are exactly alike, so plan for more than one pilot to test mobility in different applications scenarios and under different user conditions. Recommendations and changes that come from the initial pilot should be applied in subsequent pilot programs that perhaps have a greater focus on working with key IT applications.
9 Test and retest your security safeguards. Require users to change passwords every few months, and review mobile policies when they do so. Audit mobile systems usage (in terms of the applications being used) and making use of security applications that automate required safeguards.
10 Plan ahead and plan for the unexpected. Servicing and supporting mobile devices can be a large and expensive proposition without a management plan. This plan should include steps to take if a device is lost or stolen, as well as steps on how to get that device up and running again. Built-in self-help portals allow users to easily reset passwords or recover data and applications. Regular diagnostic routines check the health and well being of a mobile device. Some programs allow an IT department or Help Desk to take control of an ailing mobile device, or automatically check a mobile device for compliance with internal and external regulations.