New research from analyst firm Forrester suggests organisations can now make a case for adopting the Apple iPhone to deliver content and collaboration applications to mobile staff.
Only a year ago, Forrester provided 10 reasons why enterprises should not adopt the iPhone. For its latest report, Forrester interviewed two vendors and three user companies — Apple, Kraft Foods, Oracle, Notify Technology and an unnamed California-based pharmaceutical company — to identify the benefits and drawbacks of implementing the iPhone in a corporate setting.
According to Kraft, Oracle and the pharmaceutical company, the advantages outweigh the problems. Each company had a different reason for implementing the device:
Kraft Foods: Driving culture change
Kraft uses iPhone support to demonstrate that IT is serious about supporting culture change. The company was part of Apple's iPhone enterprise beta program in April 2008, and by January 2009 almost half the company's mobile users had iPhones, with about 400 new iPhones ordered each month.
Oracle: Employee demand
Employees began asking for email and calendar support for iPhones they bought themselves, and Oracle was able to respond using the open standards included in its own Beehive collaboration software. iPhone's support for Internet Message Access Protocol (Imap) and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) speeded up the rollout, and the upcoming support for Calendaring Extensions to WebDAV, or CalDAV, in iPhone 3.0 will help further. The company now has 4,000 iPhone users globally.
Pharmaceutical company: An internal advocate
Thanks to the company's senior IT director, the iPhone has become the company's 'enterprise netbook', with support for the campus-wide wireless network. With Apple's support for ActiveSync with iPhone 3G, it took the company three days to get the systems running to support the device. The company saw significant cost savings in data and voice tariffs.
Forrester's top 10
The Forrester report sets out the top 10 lessons of iPhone adoption in the enterprise, as follows:
1. The iPhone is more than just another device
There are greater opportunities for mobile collaboration with the iPhone, thanks to a better user experience and a growing developer toolkit and ecosystem. The internet feels natural on an iPhone, and a chore on a BlackBerry. Document viewing, WebEx presentations and internet access are just better on the iPhone. As developers build new applications for SharePoint access, data analysis, multi-way conferencing and training, the workforce can leave their laptops at work.
2. It gives employees freedom to choose their own tools
Sometimes it makes sense to give employees the freedom to choose the tools they want. If an iPhone makes an employee happy, then supporting it will deliver the collateral benefits of a happier workforce and a new line of communication between IT and employees.
3. The iPhone changes the support model to self-service
Community-led iPhone support can mean lower support costs. Your internal iPhone community can support itself if you provide a moderated wiki — it needs to be moderated to keep inappropriate security workarounds from being widely shared. Your own helpdesk can contribute its expertise to the community support site.
4. It can save money
A hard look at data and voice tariffs sometimes reveals hidden savings. In one case, a US iPhone adopter found that the data tariffs for previous mobile devices were more expensive than the consumer tariffs AT&T is offering for iPhones. That US adopter was able make its baseline tariff pricing 30 percent lower for all phones because it supported the iPhone.
5. The iPhone helps IT stay out of device and mobile-tariff issues
When employees buy an iPhone, they get hardware and accessories from the Apple Store. That process is good for enterprise IT. And with the standardised pricing of iPhone services in the US from AT&T, you can stay out of tariff issues as well. You have, in effect, outsourced responsibility for the device, network and tariffs to others, while retaining control over device policies and management.
6. It allows IT to use policy profiles to implement security requirements
In some of the companies Forrester interviewed, employees who purchase their own phones, including iPhones, had to sign an agreement to abide by the firms' security policies — for example, PINs to access the device, 90-day re-certification, agreement to allow a remote wipe if leaving the company. VPN configuration, digital certificates and other policy information are automatically configured when employees first set up their iPhone.
7. The iPhone allows IT to adopt self-provisioning for apps and configuration
Apple has made configuration and application tools available wirelessly through a URL. This availability gives enterprises a scalable way to walk users through a self-provisioning and installation process. Though some applications — such as Cisco's WebEx, Oracle Business Indicators and Salesforce Mobile — are available through Apple's AppStore, the best way to put a corporate application or digital certificate on an iPhone is through a portal link or a URL sent through email or SMS.
8. iPhone and ActiveSync is a work in progress for calendaring
This issue is the single biggest enterprise end user problem Forrester identified, and it will continue until Apple and Microsoft decide how to make calendaring work for Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007. iPhone 3.0 may address this problem.
9. A lack of management tools and full support for VPNs may be a deal-breaker
Compared with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, the management and guaranteed message delivery tools for iPhone are weak. Moreover, iPhone 2.x provides native Cisco IPsec VPN support, but password caching and a requirement to invoke the VPN may make letting iPhones inside the firewall a non-starter. These issues may be fixed with iPhone 3.0.
10. Early-generation problems make for a frustrating user experience
Cut-and-paste, landscape mode for email, click-to-call and Flash support are all sorely missed. Some of these deficiencies will be fixed with iPhone 3.0.