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8/6/2012
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Transition From BlackBerry To Multiple OSes Requires Planning

Switching from Blackberry to multiple OSes including iOS and Android isn't just a matter of buying different phones. Enterprises need to plan for how they're going to manage expenses, security, and applications for multiple mobile platforms.

As if it weren't enough of a challenge dealing with the BYOD phenomenon on top of corporate-issued smartphones in the enterprise, now mobile device management (MDM) plans need to be re-examined as iOS and Android are being widely embraced--while Blackberry use is on the decline.

Although Blackberry maker Research in Motion insists the company still has a future, some companies aren't hedging their bets and are setting up contingency plans in event of a RIM collapse. Boston-based Suffolk Construction Co., for example, has been a RIM customer for over a decade but is now planning to switch most of its 700 employees using Blackberry devices to iPhones by year's end.

As companies ponder their future MDM plans, there are a number of issues they need to consider, including renegotiating mobile plans, deactivating unused Blackberrys, and securing iOS and Android platforms and policies around app downloads, industry observers said. When companies first began implementing BYOD policies, they were mainly focused on opening up access to corporate email, but now, with employees bringing iPads to work and expecting to be able to download documents on them, the parameters are changing, said Dave Snow, chief marketing officer at Xigo, an enterprise expense management company focused on network communications.

"Blackberrys were corporate issued and policies were set... before apps existed," said Snow. "Now what's happening is, as new devices are coming in, it's forcing organizations to look back and reflect on these policies and how they're going to act going forward."

With iPhones, iPads, and Android devices starting to be used more frequently, companies need to lay a framework for employees who plan to use personal devices as work tools interchangeably. "We're starting to see a full transition to fully corporate-issued iPhones and iPads and Android devices, and it's a catalyst to get companies to ratify expense and security polices," Snow said, because "the lines are being blurred. They need a consistent set of policies on expense management and security and how they're going to let users use these devices."

Tyler Lessard, chief marketing officer at mobile security and risk management provider Fixmo, said its customers across vertical markets are planning to support additional device platforms. "If they have 1,000 Blackberrys deployed, they're not ripping them out; they're expecting the next 500 devices to be something else. So it tends to be complementary...they're not decommissioning Blackberrys by any means."

Echoing Snow, Lessard said the real change now is that the standard MDM policies that were built around allowing basic things such as access to email is no longer enough, because smartphones are becoming mission-critical business tools, and securing other platforms is trickier than it is on Blackberrys. Snow concurred, noting, "They're transactional devices, they access the network [and they] contain key customer and business information, so they're full-fledged citizens on the corporate network. So in that context [customers] say, 'We can't afford for things to go wrong any more'" when it comes to a lost or stolen device or app that might not work properly, because that could effectively put an employee out of work for that day.

There are four areas companies should look at as they transition to supporting additional platforms, said Lessard: expense, security policies, and applications.

-- Expense. Companies need to figure out whether they will pay for both data and voice plans on these devices--and, if they are footing the bill, are they going to attempt to separate out personal from work expenses. Will text plans be allowed and will employees be allowed to purchase third-party apps such as ring tones?

"With Blackberrys, companies simply picked up the tab for that, but now it's starting to change," said Lessard. "Because they're starting to be phased out and employees are choosing to carry one smartphone as opposed to two, as that happens they're being pushed into this position." Even though some employees have used corporate Blackberrys for personal use, Lessard said it's been perceived as the norm by enterprises.

-- Security policies. Whereas security on Blackberrys was "a no-brainer" because end-to-end encryption was included out-of-the-box, Lessard said, automatically ensuring corporate data was encrypted, "Android and iOS don't have that by default. So organizations need to figure out... if they need additional third-party software solutions to provide encryption and compliance."

-- Applications. Many of Fixmo's largest customers have invested quite a bit in the past several years on developing apps for Blackberry devices for sales force and business reporting tools, said Lessard. "So the question is, as employees move over to Androids and iPhones, how prepared are organizations to deal with specific apps? Are those apps ready for other platforms if they were built in-house? So you need to plan for that, because some are mission critical, and if a sales rep suddenly moves to Android and their CRM app isn't available, that could be a big issue for their productivity."

For enterprises thinking about making changes in platform support, "you can break down the problem to device management, application management, data and security management, and mobile worker support," Snow said. The first step is to recognize that this is a permanent change; all of the enterprise IT infrastructure is using or supporting mobile, he said. "So don't say this is a project I need to deal with this year. This is changing the ball game completely. The last mile for IT is the disconnected network."

Also think about how platform support changes will affect the IT infrastructure, as well as employees, and how they will be supported by defining and limiting choices, he advised. Finally, the easiest way to measure progress is to know where your expenses are. "It's what powers the equation. So when thinking about costs associated with procurement plan management, the number of devices, and the types supported, they can be related back to dollars, i.e. the cost to enterprise." If enterprises can't track these costs, they will definitely overspend, Snow said, noting that most organizations overspend by a range of 10% to 20%.

Organizations need to act fast, he added. "Smart phones in the enterprise is the fastest change in enterprise IT I have ever seen," he said, "even more than the Internet itself, because it is impacting day-to-day work. It's really taken 20 years for the Internet [in the] enterprise to be as important as it is today. Smartphones have gotten to the same place at absolute light speed."

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