The Coming Smartphone Showdown

Wayne Rash

There's a smartphone battle brewing, but it's probably not the one you're expecting. While the carriers are doing everything they can to get your business as they always have, it doesn't matter much to them what platform you choose. For all they care, you can be on an iPhone or a BlackBerry as long as they have your business.

The battle that's brewing is among what I call the smartphone partisans. To these people, the choice of a smartphone is a personal decision with deep emotional roots. It transcends the needs of the organization; it transcends issues such as security, efficiency or usefulness. To these people, an Android phone, or an iPhone or a BlackBerry is their representation of all that's good, pure and right in technology. They've made up their mind, and there's no changing it.

Worse, these smartphone partisans are both vocal and vicious in their attacks on people who don't agree with them. In an organization, they will actively work to undermine decisions on technology that they don't agree with, and in some cases will ignore corporate standards, secure in their belief that they know more than the IT managers who must support their devices.

The battle is particularly nasty when it's practiced by the Android fans. If you don't love every Android smartphone beyond any other, then you're clearly in the pay of Apple, or RIM, or perhaps both. Worse, you're clearly a moron, and you shouldn't be allowed to even discuss the relative merits of any smartphone hardware, Android or otherwise. This is not to suggest that the iPhone fanciers are much better, but they're less nasty-perhaps feeling secure in their presumed knowledge that they have the cooler platform because it's made by Apple.

As an IT manager, this leaves you in a difficult place. It's your job to support enterprise mobile solutions, keep the enterprise secure, meet compliance regulations and, where possible, keep your employees happy. But you also have budget constraints, so you can't support every smartphone. Likewise, you can't support the underlying IT infrastructure necessary to make smartphones part of your enterprise while meeting your other requirements for more than a few smartphone platforms.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to at least lower the level of rhetoric when it comes to smartphone selections. First, talk the problem over with the CFO and the HR director and determine how much of your budget you can devote to supporting smartphones, and how many people you can hire for this function.

The next thing you have to do is decide which devices meet your security and compliance requirements. Some smartphones, for example, do not accept policies set by Exchange, meaning you can't require passwords for their devices, for example. Others may not work with your enterprise security management software. Or they may not have a remote wipe capability if they're lost or stolen. You need to decide which of these features are must-haves and make that the basis for accepting a smartphone into your enterprise.

This will not satisfy the true platform partisans, of course. They will attempt to use their devices in the enterprise regardless of your policies, and they will elevate their complaints to anyone within the sound of their voice or reach of their e-mail. This is another reason why you'll have coordinated with the HR people, because you'll need their help to enforce your policies.

But you'll also need to take other steps, the biggest one being financial support. If you don't have an unlimited budget and staff for smartphone support, but you have a person or department that feels that you should support whatever their favorite platform is, then ask them to fund that support from their budget. If they can get the CFO to spring for more money, fine. If they want to divert money from other items, that's fine, too. Either way, you're asking them to pay for the special service they want.

None of this will make the partisans go away. They'll still make sure everyone knows they think you're an idiot. But at least if you plan for that in advance, you'll have some recourse, and maybe a way to accommodate them if they're willing to pay for it.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 28, 2010 12:05 PM Philippe Winthrop Philippe Winthrop  says:
In fact, it's less about which is the "best" device, as opposed to what is the best device for you. Reply

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