User needs important consideration in mobile migration

Clear, detailed roadmap and gradual implementation key for companies looking to move their employees from one mobile platform to another, note industry players.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

Companies will face many challenges as they move from one mobile platform to another but can attain a successful migration if they ensure the new platform meets all their users' needs and they gradually scale out the implementation, industry insiders say.

Mort Rosenthal, CEO of Enterprise Mobile, which is a U.S.-based firm that aids companies with their migration plans, said companies will need to make sure employees will not lose any data or critical functionality when switching platforms.

Rosenthal cited the example of e-mail as one feature that should not be neglected by enterprise customers. There are tools such as Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync, for instance, that can be activated on different devices and platforms to ensure users do not lose access to their e-mail or contact data during a planned platform migration, he said.

"To make a successful transition, companies need to make sure they fully understand what the new platform offers and how to make its functionality available to mobile workers," said Rosenthal in an e-mail interview.

Furthermore, the new mobile device chosen by the company should meet user requirements as well, if not better, than the original platform, he noted. These new devices will then need to be activated on the appropriate carrier service, configured with the right security settings and loaded with business apps that users rely on for their work scope, he added.

For more complex migrations, he recommended that companies run two mobile platforms in tandem during the initial period to address teething problems, before moving completely to the new platform, Rosenthal said.

User support will also be vital during the transition period and companies need to be ready to provide answers to questions relating to device, connectivity and software issues, he noted.

Ensuring consistent user experience
When Standard Chartered Bank announced its plans to switch from Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry to Apple's iPhone in May this year, the "key priority" was to ensure its employees a smooth and consistent user experience, with minimal disruption during the transition.

To conduct a smooth migration, Standard Chartered Singapore's CIO Trevor Haeger said the bank sought feedback from its staff and placed equal emphasis on easing first-time iPhone users with the device's basic features as well as introducing more sophisticated functions to advanced users.

Haeger added that considerations during the deployment included stability and compatibility of the bank's IT systems with Apple's mobile platform, wireless VPN (virtual private network) connectivity, application development, browsing capability and data security.

Application development, in particular, was identified as a pressing need. In its May press release, Standard Chartered said the move to Apple's mobile platform was prompted in part to "address the dearth in robust enterprise apps" available in the market today.

Haeger elaborated: "The iPhone has created an environment for us to develop customized apps that not only deliver targeted information, but also allow staff to perform more complicated tasks on-the-go."

He pointed out that by end-2010, the bank will introduce a range of customized apps for internal use to address areas such as human resource, customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI), among others.

After the initial deployment phase, he said Standard Chartered has continued to upscale and strengthen its infrastructure and core capabilities. "We ensured that we were comfortable with the level of effectiveness and service delivery before [deploying] across our markets on a large scale," added Haeger.

The CIO said the bank is "well on track" to replace all 8,000 existing mobile devices globally and expects the device count to nearly double to 15,000 iPhones by the end of 2010.

RIM states its proposition
While migration plans such as Standard Chartered may spell good times for Apple, RIM sits on the other side of the coin.

The BlackBerry maker has been challenged in the enterprise space by both Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms in recent times, especially after both OS makers began including enterprise-friendly features.

iOS now supports features such as e-mail message encryption, remote device wipes, passcode locks, protected configuration profiles and continuous platform refresh. Google's Android version 2.2, also known as Froyo, also boosted its security features, improved support for Exchange and delivered automatic app updates.

However, RIM has made migration to its BlackBerry platform hassle-free for businesses that do decide to support the mobile device, said a company spokesperson.

The smartphone maker, which remains the global market leader in enterprise mobile handsets, said its BlackBerry Enterprise Server software sits next to the enterprise customer's e-mail server and is easy to install and manage.

The RIM spokesperson said: "Once deployed, it can remotely manage the setup and calibration of all users' accounts such as e-mail, contacts, calendar, access permissions, and so on, automatically.

"Standards-based protocols and development tools also help ensure that practically any existing enterprise application, infrastructure or system can be wirelessly-enabled without being replaced or rebuilt."

Additionally, the BlackBerry platform has a user-friendly management portal for easy deployment, review and monitoring of third-party applications, IT policies, device models, software versions and serial numbers. He noted that this enables IT departments to track key device statistics "effectively".

However, the Canadian company was recently plagued by regulatory scrutiny from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India, which expressed wishes to gain access to their citizens' e-mail and text messages that are encrypted--during transmission--using RIM's security features.

Rival mobile platform operators Google and Apple did not respond to ZDNet Asia's queries.

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