Apple, which certainly knows a good thing when it sees it, is trying to squeeze into the enterprise space with the release of the iPhone 2.0.
This PCWorld.com story says the device supports Microsoft Exchange and offers GPS, faster downloads and other features that will attract business users. The story concludes, however, that the initiative has some enterprise problems. For instance, corporate users may not want to install iTunes, which is necessary to get access to the software developers kit (SDK). Other problems mentioned also seem pretty significant: inadequate tools and lack of a support organization.
I wasn't thinking of the iPhone 2.0 introduction when I wrote a post last week on mobile device management, but it seems like an even more important topic now that Apple has apparently come only part way into the enterprise mobility tent. Employees are people, and they are attracted by iPhones -- and almost certainly will be more tempted to take the leap and use the iPhone for work if it's marginally more business-friendly. Whether they do or not is an important question. Perhaps even more important is whether companies execute this -- or any other -- mobile initiative within a mobile device management framework.
Forrester says that somebody should be in charge of managing mobile devices. This person, according to this account in The Wall Street Journal, should be in charge of both the devices and creating the policies to optimize their use. Though the story doesn't say so, creating policies almost certainly will be a group effort and the subject of much debate in the organization.
Regardless, the lines between business and consumer mobility are blurred. The story quotes a Visage study that says 80 percent of employees with company-supplied devices use them for personal use, and 89 percent of respondents use personal devices for work. The study says corporate policies simply aren't keeping up with this transition. It doesn't phrase it this way, but the bottom line finding is that there is a management free-for-all that could come back to haunt the organization.
Cisco is taking a crack at helping organizations better manage assets. Late last month, the company introduced the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE), which is part of Cisco Motion. The MSE features application programming interfaces (APIs) to software applications that will provide enterprises with the ability to manage wired and wireless networks. Cisco also released applications for the MSE focusing on awareness, wireless intrusion prevention, client management and intelligent roaming. The company says that many third-party applications, from companies such as Nokia, Oracle, AreoScout, Agito and others will be available.
The key to any mobile device management initiative is a good set of policies. This post at Absolute Software refers to an IT Pro piece on creating such policies. Policies should begin with an audit to find out what the organization's holdings are. The final policy statement should be easily understood by all.
Issues to be addressed include what employees should do if they lose their device and incentives for quick reporting of lost devices. The policy should say where devices can and can't connect, what applications can be used, and what type of data can be accessed. The company should support virtual private networks (VPNs) and strong encryption and passwords. There should be procedures for wiping data off lost devices and for discarding those that are no longer used. Finally, procedures should be included for processing devices that belong to employees who are leaving the company.
Glitzy devices are great -- from Apple or others -- but organizations must be prepared to do the hard and unglamorous work of adequately managing them.