Leveraging the Apple Opportunity Through a Five Step Plan

By Kevin Hart, CEO, Tekserve — April 12, 2012

The culture of mobility has transformed enterprise computing, and Apple is leading the charge. Long recognized as a consumer-first company, Apple is now reshaping both consumer electronics and enterprise IT departments, as the line between the two continues to blur and more companies seek to embrace and support iPhones, iPads and Macs in their corporate environments. 
 
For those companies that have yet to embrace these tools, the pressure is on. Employees are demanding the ability to use their favorite consumer devices in the workplace, while industry analysts like David Johnson at Forrester Research are urging companies to repeal prohibition and allow access. CIOs are quickly coming to the realization that with Apple, they have the opportunity to embrace a technology with the ability to change the way business is done for years to come. 
 
But Apple products are not traditional IT tools, and in their rush to capitalize, CIOs need to take careful steps to plan their implementations, ensuring that the products being deployed are resulting in tangible business value for their organizations. Here are five key recommendations for any CIO looking to harness the opportunities and potential of Apple in the enterprise: 
 
1. Evaluate
 
Before implementing Apple products into your infrastructure, you need to evaluate your employees' current use of these products. That means determining which workers are using them and how, and what kind of support those users need from IT. If a percentage of your workforce is successfully using iPads in a sales capacity (which is likely), then consider a Bring-Your-Own-Device program, outfitting the rest of your team with them and offering reimbursement for those who want to use their own. If your employees want Macs, and some are already using them, consider switching to Macs as part of your next IT upgrade, as the familiarity with what they're already using at home is what this “consumerization” trend is all about.  
 
Listening to your employees is crucial here. Since Apple products are built with the user in mind, your users should be an essential element in your decision of whether to provide access to these products. Understanding which Apple products your users want, and which are being used already, will help you map out a coherent strategy for integrating and supporting these tools in your IT organization. 
 
Evaluation also extends to understanding if your business environment is suited for Apple product implementation. If your workplace has certain restrictions in place (for instance, high-security workplaces may not allow phones/devices with cameras), then you may have to alter your implementation strategy.
 
2. Make a Plan
 
Once you know how Apple products are and aren't being used, you can develop a go-forward plan for integrating the technologies into your overall IT strategy. This plan should include which products you'll deploy, what the timeline will look like and how you'll manage the deployment effort. Factors to consider are: whether you'll launch a pilot project to test the waters (I'd highly recommend doing this); which applications you'll pre-install, when, and across how many devices; a roadmap for rolling out the products and whether you will incorporate user training following the roll out. With a well-thought-out plan, you'll be prepared for any unforeseen issues that arise during deployment, and be better equipped to realize the potential of Apple products in your business right out of the gate. 
 
3. Develop Policies for Use
 
Security of corporate data should be a top concern for any IT department, so you'll need to ensure your rollout doesn't result in a compromise of this data. A thoughtful, prudent rollout of Apple will mitigate risks associated with rogue apps or other unprotected uses of the company's IP. To ensure security, you'll need to create policies to govern employee use of consumer devices. If iPhones and iPads will be provided to the employees, will you allow access to the App Store during working hours – or at all? Which apps and/or games will be acceptable for company use? Are there already corporate policies in place to regulate employee use of IT? If so, you'll need to determine whether the new devices are compatible with these and, if not, think about updating your policies accordingly. With the right policies in place, you can ensure employees aren't using their company-issued tools for unauthorized purposes.  
 
One thing to remember, again, is that Apple's devices are different from traditional IT tools. Rather than just consuming employees' attention for their eight hours a day in the office, these devices can become essential to users in their day-to-day lives. Any restrictions you enforce, and the impact of these restrictions, have to be considered in this context. Make sure your policies accommodate for the incredible potential of these devices to be essential to employees 24/7, and they'll thank you for it.  
 
4. Use Management Tools
 
With your policies set, Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Management tools will help you enforce them while ensuring security and compliance. These solutions, offered by vendors such as AirWatch, Casper, MobileIron and others, enable IT to remotely wipe a device in case of loss or theft, before any corporate data is leaked. A good comparison of the different solutions available can be found at www.enterpriseios.com. 
 
But MDM tools have a number of advantages in addition to security. With the right tool, IT can push corporate-purchased or corporate-developed apps to users, set up identity certificates for remote access and encrypted mail, and send push notifications and policy configuration changes, all over the air and to anywhere in the world. Additionally, they can let the administrator know when a device is roaming out of the country or network, enabling them to promptly switch to an international data plan and reduce excessive roaming costs. This all has benefits for end users as well, as they can be assured of having the most up-to-date policy information sent to them automatically. 
 
Management should be a critical part of any good mobility strategy, so don't even think about rolling out Apple in the enterprise without it.  
 
5. Revisit Your Strategy Frequently
 
Apple's innovation and tendency to constantly reshape the technology landscape means you'll need to revisit your approach often to make sure you're making the best use of what the company has to offer.  Your strategy should be constructed in such a way as to be lightweight, nimble and adaptable to any change that comes down the pike. Rather than building a bulletproof strategy that tries to account for any and all future scenarios, you need to evaluate what's going on right now and put together a process that's easy to repeat, in the event that you need to change on the fly.
 
The world has changed. Your employees are probably bringing Apple products into the workplace, giving CIOs a tremendous opportunity to strengthen IT's relationship with employees and make it more essential than ever. Rather than scrambling to keep up, and using outmoded IT practices and procedures to cope with these changes, developing a nimble strategy for integrating and managing these products will position you to adapt to whatever changes Apple has in store, while giving employees what they want: access to the best and most user-friendly products on the market.

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