Monday, 6 August 2007

Mobile device support and management

Mobile Devices are getting increasingly sophisticated and as such should be treated no different to a laptop computer when it comes to mobile device management. Just like their laptop big brothers mobile devices and smart phones can access the internet/intranet, carry large amounts of corporate data, send and receive email and run sophisticated applications. Add this to the fact that most mobile devices under normal working conditions will do this remotely and wirelessly and are subject to loss or theft, even more so than laptops. The result is you should have a device management policy and supporting infrastructure.

As a minimum organisations should be looking at policy and procedures to encompass the following;

User handover documentation
Software and hardware configuration management
Backup policy
Settings management
Training and support material
Password policy management
Swap out procedure
Device addition/removal procedure
In life support

The above requirements can either be handled manually or by device management software. Device management software enables IT administrators to capture the asset characteristics, configure settings and security policies of mobile devices, and update or deploy new applications with minimal interruption to the user, dramatically reducing the cost of deploying and managing devices.

Let’s take look at each of the above elements;

User Handover documentation

It is important that the users of any company issued mobile device take care of these in a diligent manner. Therefore when handing over a device to an employee, it ‘s important to ensure that they agree to a set of usage terms and conditions. This could include when and how the device is to be used and any limitations as to it use (e.g. internet policy) and any liability the employee faces if these terms are broken. Certain companies have insisted that if the unit is maliciously destroyed then the employee is liable for the cost of replacement. Careful consideration must also be given to any health and safety aspects of using mobile devices especially in moving vehicles.

Software/Hardware configuration management

The mobile device will invariably be configured for groups of users, the software and settings need to be set up on each device, therefore a documented record needs to be kept as to how to set up the device and what applications are active on the device and what applications are to be disabled. This process can also be automated with mobile deployment software as described in an earlier paragraph.

Backup policy
Mobile devices are capable of holding large amounts of corporate data therefore if information is to reside on these devices then a backup policy should be considered.

Settings Management
Once the mobile device is ‘in life’ should the device require additional applications loaded or the device looses its settings a methodology needs to be in place to quickly restore them.

Training and support material
If mobile devices are being provided to field workers then careful consideration should be given on training the users to use the applications properly and, if necessary provide supporting documentation as reference material.

Password Policy Management
Mobile devices due to their size and proliferation are potentially more prone to theft than laptops as a result of this a password policy is extremely important. Third party applications are available which will wipe the mobile device ‘clean’ should the power on password be entered incorrectly after a certain number of times, these should be considered for confidential information applications. Consideration should also be given to the impact certain password policies may have on the usability and overall user experience of the mobile device (there is nothing more frustrating than having to enter a user id and password every few minutes because the device has gone into sleep mode).

Swap out procedure
Mobile devices are always deployed for compelling business reasons, once deployed the user becomes dependent on the device functioning properly. Therefore should the device fail, clear and effective procedures need to be in place to enable the user to continue working through either emergency paper backup or hot swap devices geographically located.

Device addition /removal procedure.
Should a new user need to be added to the enterprise as a mobile device user, then a simple process is required to ensure that this is undertaken efficiently. Equally if an employee leaves or their device is stolen a procedure is required to remove their unit from the enterprise and to remove any company specific data remotely, if this is not possible, then using power on passwords will provide and element of protection.

In life support
Mobile devices must be considered as extensions to your corporate enterprise and as a result of this your new mobile clients will need a user- friendly support desk to talk to should they have any issues with their devices or mobile software applications.

In my experience mobile device management is typically only considered as an after thought, this normally results in projects invariably going over budget. Device management is a key requirement in any field mobility project and provided the overhead is facilitated in your field mobility business case as part if the total cost of ownership there will be no project surprises.

1 comment:

patrickj said...

Great post! We did a short post linking to it, here: