Monday, 27 April 2009

Managed Mobile Solutions

Mobile Device Management
Mobile Devices are getting increasingly sophisticated and because of this they should be treated no differently 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 to this that most mobile devices (under normal working conditions) will do this remotely and wirelessly and are therefore even more susceptible to loss or theft than laptops, you should have a mobile device management policy and supporting infrastructure in place.
As a minimum, organisations should be looking at policies 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
These 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.
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 its 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 and 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, what applications are active on that device and what applications are to be disabled. This process can also be automated with mobile device management software.
Backup policy
Mobile devices are capable of holding large amounts of corporate data which is added to, or updated then it is essential that this is synchronised to a server on the corporate network.
Data security
Given the ever increasing amount of data a mobile device can hold, there is a much greater risk of sensitive data falling in to the wrong hands. For this reason appropriate password protection and remote wipe capabilities are essential. Careful consideration needs to be given to the level of security imposed however as it is important not to create a frustrating user experience.
Settings management
Once the mobile device is ‘in life’, should the device require additional applications loaded or the device loses its settings, a method needs to be in place to quickly restore them.
Training and support material
When mobile devices are being provided to field workers careful consideration should be given to training the users to use the applications properly and, if necessary provide supporting documentation as reference material.
Device swap out
Mobile devices are always deployed for compelling business reasons, once deployed the business 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 readily available hot swap devices at appropriate geographic locations.
Device addition/removal procedure.
Should a new starter 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 an element of protection.
In life support
Mobile devices must be considered as extensions to your corporate enterprise and your new mobile users will need a user- friendly support desk to talk to should they have any issues with their devices or mobile software applications.

Carefully assess your in-house capabilities
It’s important to closely study the capabilities of both in-house teams and third party suppliers when considering an enterprise mobility solution. The underlying objective should be to minimise risk within the development, rollout and subsequent support process so the solution can be completed on time, on budget and with the support of all the field users.
Consider a work share project approach
Due to the complex multi-element nature of enterprise mobility solutions, unless your business has a sophisticated mature and scalable IT department with R&D capability, pure D.I.Y should not be considered. However engaging a mobility specialist with a mobility configuration tool for agile deployments and undertaking certain elements of the project in-house or “work share” is becoming more practical and prevalent.
Do not under estimate the support impact
Supporting large numbers of geographically dispersed users of mobile technology can be challenging. If you are planning to support your mobile users, ensure you have a service desk that can cope with the increased numbers and make use of remote mobile device management software solutions to minimise the down time of your mobile users. Using specialist third party support organisations to deal with fieldworker support is an increasingly popular alternative and can reduce training and other staffing costs.
Consider the efficiencies of third party hosting
Over the last 18 months software as a service (SaaS) has become more wide-spread with major software organisations such as Microsoft offering a rental model for the majority of their software applications that are hosted and managed on third party servers. Therefore IT infrastructure (server) hosting is becoming a key consideration. Building your own server infrastructure to be resilient, with high availability, requires significant capital expenditure, takes time and demands a skilled, responsive support team to deal with any issues. A third party hosted service can be up and running quickly and can also be scaled easily if your business grows. For smaller organisations renting the software and server environment will definitely be more cost effective than outright purchase and self hosting.
It is very important from the onset of any mobile solution deployment to consider every aspect of the project; this must include the management of mobile devices and the support of the users who use them who are often only considered as an afterthought. This can results in projects going over budget and potentially failing. Mobile management is a key requirement in any field mobility project and providing the overhead is considered up front in your business case as part of the total cost of ownership, there will be no surprises.

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