Nokia initiates MDM rollout for 25,000 staff

Nokia is currently in the process of implementing a mobile device management offering from AirWatch, which will impact around 25,000 staff members globally.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is all the rage these days, but there are plenty of companies spurning the trend. One of them is Nokia, which understandably doesn't allow its staff to bring mobile devices into the workplace. Instead, the mobile phone vendor issues employees with devices from its Nokia Lumia range , which runs on the Windows Phone platform.

After announcing that it would ditch its flagship Symbian mobile OS back in 2011 , Nokia has been heavily invested in Microsoft's mobile OS offerings. Most recently, Nokia has been geared toward promoting its Lumia range loaded with Windows Phone 8.

While it peddles the Windows 8 smartphones to consumers, Nokia needed to sort out its internal mobile device management (MDM) strategy. Since it's no longer developing its own mobile OS, the vendor looked for a third-party partner that could help it manage a large fleet of phones running on Windows Phone 8 internally.

In late 2012, Nokia kicked off trials of an MDM offering provided by AirWatch. The mobile vendor picked AirWatch because it was looking for a partner that would be able to cater to Nokia's unique need to co-develop an MDM system together for now and for the future, Nokia global head of business to business sales Niko Mykkänen told ZDNet.

"At the time, Windows Phone 8 was a very young platform, and there were things we had to work on very closely with AirWatch at the end of last year to get things going," he said.

After some major job cuts in recent years, Nokia currently has around 38,000 staff members globally (excluding Nokia-Siemens), and 25,000 of those have company-issued Lumia phones that need to come under the MDM. The initial pilot involved only 500 staff members, and Nokia is now well on its way to bring more employees onto the new MDM that it developed with AirWatch.

One of the major features that Nokia wanted from the MDM was the ability to remotely wipe data off employees' phones. According to Mykkänen, personal and work data on company-issued handsets are not separated.

"The same storage is used there," he said. "When we are rolling out the solution, we make sure to communicate to employees that there are security things to consider, and the employees should accept that."

Mykkänen said Nokia has had MDM programs before, and has not had any issues with keeping personal and corporate data together. Workers also have the ability to back up their personal data on Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage system.

Another crucial feature that Nokia required from the MDM was to facilitate in-house app distribution and updates.

"Nokia staff have lots of apps for in-house use, and it's always been a costly thing to keep them updated on the phone," Mykkänen said. Nokia and AirWatch worked together to address that issue with the MDM.

Ultimately, installing the MDM isn't much of a technical project for Nokia. Rather, it's more of a change management project, and the company spent a lot of time before the rollout prepping employees for the changes.

Nokia hopes to complete its MDM rollout by the end of Q2 this year.