Luis Oliveira, VP of IT at the 123-outlet Ignite Restaurant Group in Houston, TX, says the company is working on finding the right smartphone platforms to expand its user base.
More than 90% of the 70-80 smartphones in use at the organization are corporate-owned, but in 12 months time that scenario may change, says Oliveira.
"Right now, we're using mobility mostly for regional managers and regional directors and executives, who all have smartphones," says Oliveira. "Most use them for email and opening attachments. One of our biggest challenges is trying to find the best platform to deliver dashboards and reports on a mobile platform."
Ignite only supports BlackBerry smartphones, most of which are under a single-carrier nationwide wireless contract with Verizon.
"We're open to letting the users have their own devices and come up with some kind of solution in terms of expensing [the monthly fees]. Allowing people to get their own device allows for broader use" says Oliveira.
However, he notes, "having everything corporate-owned is easier because we control everything we have."
The company has a variety of business intelligence tools that were developed in-house using the .NET framework which Oliveira and his team are migrating to SharePoint.
"We'd like to have dashboard reports that you can see on your smartphones that will have key metrics in a graphic way and you can click thru and get more detailed information," he says. "For people on the road all the time, who may be responsible for anywhere from 10 to 100 restaurants, I want to provide them with a tool to get access to these reports."
Oliveira notes that in 12 months the mix of smartphones and payment models in use at the company will likely change. "We'll keep buying BlackBerrys," he says. "Our first contracts with Verizon will start expiring early next year, and I think that by that time we'll have added in a second type of smartphone with Verizon or someone else that we will provide to new people. Depending on what solution it is, if it doesn't involve new BES licenses, we may start allowing people to buy their own phones."
For example, says Oliveira, GMs at each of the 123 restaurants aren't currently provided corporate-liable smartphones. "But they all have smartphone devices, and a few of them had requested to connect to BES," he says. "If we had a solution that would require me to not buy more BES licenses, I would be more willing to be proactive to say 'this is available.' Right now, we don't really encourage that. We allow them as they ask, but depending on which solution we have we may be more proactive."
Security is a big sticking point, and there are a lot of questions still to be answered. "How do we manage it?," says Oliveira. "If you get to a point where we have applications served locally, how do we have more control over the device? How do we remove the data if the device is lost? If it's just browser-based, I can't do anything about it. If we end up with apps that have data [stored] locally on the device, then security is a main concern. If I start opening it up to GMs for their personal devices, and if they leave the company, then it's something else that I have to worry about, removing access to everything, and how do you wipe the whole device [when they have personal information stored there as well.]".