Smartphone Sprawl to Challenge IT

Wayne Rash
A couple of days ago I mentioned the rumors that Apple will be announcing a CDMA iPhone this year, presumably for the U.S .market. While it'll probably be fairly similar to existing iPhones sold by AT&T, that's by no means a certainty. For example, if Sprint is the chosen vendor, will it also have iDEN push to talk? At this point, we don't know for sure that the device will exist, and if it does, that it will be sold in the U.S. (there are other CDMA markets, after all).

But for the IT team, it's really just one more complication. They've already got a selection of Blackberry devices to manage, and they've got all those iPhones, and they may be dealing with some Palm devices for their members with tiny hands. And then there are all of those Android devices. You can see where I'm going with this.

Use Android as an example. Google is already selling its Nexus One, which supports version 2.1 of its Android OS. Verizon is pushing that version to its Droid line this week. Other Verizon Android phones are running version 1.6. Meanwhile, each carrier has its own special way of implementing Android, and each phone maker has its own way of doing things. Remember, this is open source software, so it's kind of a free-for-all out there.

But you have the same problem with Windows-based devices which can be running Windows Mobile versions 5 through 6.5, all different. And Microsoft is alleged to have a version 7 coming out with its own phone.

At least existing models of Blackbery devices and iPhones are fairly consistent. While there are variations between models of each, they're at least fairly similar. But that doesn't mean they'll stay that way.

You can already tell what this means to your support staff. They've already got to start figuring out how to support all of these operating systems, at least a little bit. Yes, you can publically announce that you're limiting full tech support to a specific list of platforms for which your staff has training, but you know how well that will work. Slowly but steadily, your employees will erode those rules until you find yourself supporting everything.

Or you can take the more Draconian step of specifying a specific smartphone, but that only works if you're in an environment where the use of a specific device is really necessary, such as in a military or national security organization. Otherwise, users are going to get what they think is cool, or pretty, or just has the app they really need to make their model railroad run better or give them tips for using their camera.

In other words, you're almost certainly stuck with a lot of smartphone support, and you're probably stuck with one poor person who has the job to support everything. That leads you to two undesirable outcomes. The first is that the support person will burn out and run screaming from the building while scattering SIM cards across the parking lot. The other is that the support person will become so good at the job that they'll get hired away in a matter of days by some company that can pay more.

The secret? Call the major providers in your area. In return for setting up employee purchase deals on smartphones, set up a preferred customer and tech support relationship. The carriers will do this. They want any edge in their highly competitive business, and this is something they'll be willing to do. Then your support person will only have to handle company-specific issues such as connecting to Exchange or changing passwords. Best of all, it won't make your budget hemorrhage and your employees will decide that you've just provided a new benefit. And that's good for morale.



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Jun 7, 2010 11:06 PM Pat Brown Pat Brown  says:
I've been working on this very issue with many IT departments across the country. The issues seem to be the integration of many different platforms using Microsoft Sync, Iphone integration, and Blackberry enterprise server changes. Most IT departments want to keep one standard, but it has been increasingly tough. Seems that phones have become just as personal as the people they hire and finding an IT policy that fits is evolving year after year. I'd like to know what people have implemented that works. Patrick Brown pbrown@e2cc.com Reply

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