The adoption of mobile devices that provide quick access to the internet, email and line-of-business applications is becoming a vital aspect of any company's IT strategy. But despite their growing popularity, managing mobile devices and their applications, as well as securing the data on the devices, has become an increasingly difficult task. That's why the issue of central device management has risen to the top of the mobile priority list for many CIOs.
CIOs and IT managers across industries are all asking the same question: With so many factors to consider, how can we efficiently and effectively deploy a mobile strategy?
The solution is central device management. Device management is not the solution for efficiently and effectively deploying a mobile strategy. It is one component of managing a mobility strategy.
A device management strategy enables an organization's IT department to know who has mobile devices and to set policies as to what applications and information can be accessed by those mobile devices. It also enables an organization to know what applications are on whose phone and push out any upgrades to the applications to the appropriate devices. IT can also use this information to manage the software licenses on the mobile devices and control what information on the corporate network mobile users are able to access.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of central device management is that it provides security so that a company can determine what applications can and cannot be loaded on devices, such as personal applications not needed for work purposes, and offers the ability to automatically remove the contents of that device to protect any corporate information if devices are lost, such as if a traveling employee accidentally leaves his device in the airport where anyone could pick it up and access private information.
The ability to secure, configure, update and manage countless handheld devices from one location provides IT managers with a standardized set of practices across the entire enterprise. Implementing central device management policies allows IT departments to gain control over mobile device proliferation in a safe, secure and fair way without putting unnecessary burden on the mobile workforce using the devices or the IT managers controlling them.
When implementing a central device management strategy, consider the following questions to guide your planning:
- What data and applications are essential to each user? Take the time to understand the unique roles of employees in your organization, how they work and the level of access they need to do their jobs. While the sales team, for example, may require access to customer information while out of the office, administrative staff may only need to access email and calendars. This is an important component to any strategic mobile deployment and central device management is critical in order to achieve it. Why? Because IT managers can create groups and identify what each group of mobile workers are using on their phone. Also, when it comes time to update business applications with new versions of the software, IT knows what software employees are using and can easily push out the software upgrades to each user individually or to groups of users.
- Are there government and compliance regulations we must consider? Within different industries, most notably financial services and healthcare, there are a host of regulations that may impact policy decisions. Knowing these limitations will help IT managers determine what information can be put on which user or group's device.
The implementation of a central device management plan can be done internally by an organization's IT department or outsourced to a company that will handle the process end to end, from choosing devices and determining service plans to loading applications, conducting training, and working with the company to determine user groups and access controls.
- What proactive security policies should we employ? Because mobile devices are more apt to be lost or stolen outside of the office, security must remain a top concern. One lost smartphone can result in not only threats to sensitive data, but also costly legal and loyalty damages. Employing central device management allows IT managers to create password policies that are centrally managed and deployed and call for password entries on all devices. Additionally, self-destruct and lockout capabilities can be put into effect, essentially allowing for an IT manager at company headquarters to kill a device that has, for example, been left in a cab or lost anywhere in the world. IT can also remotely back up valuable data that is stored on devices.
Beyond saving IT managers the hassle and headaches, central device management also saves costs in the short and in the long term. The once-costly ad hoc mobile solutions that many enterprises implement can be eradicated by this one central solution and workers no longer need to waste any time performing their own maintenance and configuration. As a result, workers increase productivity, all while IT is running mobility more efficiently from their end as well.
Central device management offers far easier oversight of devices, plans and providers and far less hassle for IT managers. If deployed and planned appropriately, its impact is likely to be significant, fundamentally changing the way an organization reacts internally, as well as with customers and partners.
Mort Rosenthal is CEO of Enterprise Mobile.