Commentary -In the early days of PDAs, the enterprise was dominated by Palm Pilots and Blackberries that catered to the enterprise audience. The devices had personal information management at the center of their offering, and eventually came to symbolize the state of the art business professional. Now we have devices of all sizes and types, with more new entries into the market than ever before. This article describes a handful of things to keep an eye on, when looking to adopt consumer mobile technology in the enterprise.
Consumer Mobile Must-Know #1 - Security (or lack there of)
The biggest concern for most enterprises when considering incorporating a consumer-based mobile device is the potential security leaks, and lack of robust safeguards for the device. As mobile technology becomes more popular, security vulnerabilities become exploited by larger groups of people, and the potential to have your device hacked increases exponentially. As such, the need to protect data being transferred to and from the mobile devices increases as well.
Products have begun to spring up, allowing varying levels of encryption, from protecting the whole device to protecting just the ingoing/outgoing corporate data. Not only that, but most mobile device management suites allow for remote management capabilities, such as remote wiping and geo-locating device. The appropriate level of protection for corporate data not only pertains to the policies and procedures surrounding the introduction of the devices into your corporate setting, but also to the associated infrastructure purchases to support the mobile device management option of choice. Having a clearly identified strategy when it comes to mobile device security, is of the essence. Knowing what security vulnerabilities for each mobile platform is also important, as new operating system releases, device updates, or altogether new mobile devices are released quite frequently.
Consumer Mobile Must-Know #2 - Infrastructure integration
It’s important to ensure that the mobile technology you’re looking to integrate into your enterprise is compatible with the internal systems you’re targeting for integration. Establishing a clear understanding and approach towards syncing data between repositories, and the mobile device will involve everyone from system administrators to enterprise architects, depending the level of integration being targeted for the mobile device implementation. Starting small however, and scaling up over time is typically the most successful approach towards successfully incorporating the technology with the enterprise. Establishing enough of a win right off the bat to justify the TCO, and break even on the initial investment will allow for guaranteeing that issues like user adoption for the selected device won’t hinder larger systems integration efforts down the road.
Consumer Mobile Must-Know #3 - App stores and mobile marketplaces
Establishing a course of action to handle access to third party applications, both in external app stores and pre-installed applications on the devices themselves, is important in ensuring proper configuration management for devices that will potentially access sensitive internal information. The level of control should parallel the level of information sensitivity, and ensure that the barrier towards utilizing the device isn’t so severe that the device becomes unusable. This is largely a balancing act, but one that should be conducted early on, when developing an implementation strategy for mobile devices, so as to not have to jump into fire fighting mode and quell the stem of unauthorized software.
Consumer Mobile Must-Know #4 - Personalization
When considering a configuration management approach, knowing what features to allow and to not allow, will save costly reconfiguration steps further down the road. Limiting features such as adding personal e-mail accounts to the devices, or certain types of instant messengers will not only help to limit the device’s potential liability, but will also keep unneeded distractions from the end user’s device.
Consumer Mobile Must-Know #5 - Features, functions, and bills
It’s being talked about more and more, that enterprises will pay a subsidy for a mobile device and let the end user worry about the rest. For some companies, not having to monitor and track each corporate-owned device, but rather just worry about making the data available, is the best route to take. However, in giving up control of the device, the cost of establishing sufficient controls and safeguards for non-corporate owned equipment may far outweigh the cost benefit of allowing employees to use their own devices at a discounted rate.
How to prepare
Make quarterly reviews with subject matter experts, either through a consulting company or carrier, a must have as it will ensure that you’re not caught off guard should your OEM of choice decide to make a sharp left turn as mergers, acquisitions, roadmap changes, etc are going to continue to grow in frequency as the smart phone space continues to grow in intensity world wide.
Daniel Maycock is a consultant at Seattle-based Slalom Consulting, working on their national research and development team. He specializes in evaluating new technologies, as well as providing strategy & guidance to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to Slalom, Daniel was the principle mobility specialist at The Boeing Company. In this role he developed mobile service architectures and increased user adoption of mobile devices and services throughout the entire enterprise.