IT Still Grappling With Mobile Device Management

Welcome back to Take 5, our regular feature where we ask an industry insider five questions about their company and the <a href="">mobile business market</a> as a whole. This week we turn the spotlight back on <a href="">mobile device management</a>, a topic we've blogged about before on <em><a href="">Over The Air</a

Stephen Wellman, Contributor

September 18, 2007

6 Min Read

Welcome back to Take 5, our regular feature where we ask an industry insider five questions about their company and the mobile business market as a whole. This week we turn the spotlight back on mobile device management, a topic we've blogged about before on Over The Air. Our guests are Matt Bancroft, CMO, and Rob Dalgety, Marketing Director, both with Mformation.Over The Air (OTA): Hello Matt and Rob. Welcome to Over The Air's Take 5. Let's dig into this week's discussion. Matt, we've heard a lot about mobile device management (MDM) this year. Why, in your opinion, has MDM emerged as such as hot topic for business mobility?

Matt Bancroft (MB): A range of macro factors are converging, driving increased momentum for a mobilized enterprise. This, in turn, is driving an increased focus on mobile initiatives within the enterprise that have productivity, flexibility or cost impacts on the business. Such macro factors include:

* More capable and sophisticated mobile devices, * More powerful mobile networks, offering advanced mobile data as well as mobile voice services, and * More sophisticated and demanding enterprise users of data applications and services.

MDM and security are the two key enablers to mobilizing data applications effectively and securely. They provide IT managers with the management capabilities that enable them to keep control of the mobile devices being used by their employees, and the security capabilities necessary to protect the mobile devices, the sensitive corporate data stored on them, and the remote wireless access to the corporate network they provide.

OTA: Mobile security in particular seems to be driving interest in more robust device management solutions. I saw in your recent survey that CIOs are worried about mobile security. Are they, to your knowledge, currently doing enough about it? Are solutions like BlackBerry Enterprise Server enough?

MB: Security of mobile devices and the data stored on them is a critical enterprise requirement for a number of important mobility initiatives - remote visibility and control of mobile devices, seamless mobilization of enterprise data and applications, remote provisioning and management of new data applications and services on mobile devices, etc.

The security findings in the Coleman Parkes CIO research indicate that enterprises are beginning to address the need for mobile security with capabilities like improved authentication and password policy management, though there is clearly much more to do. This requirement needs to be viewed in context with the previous phase of the research, which highlighted:

* An increased number of enterprise users forecasted to be using smart devices (especially at the lower levels in the enterprise) and * An increased range of data applications being accessed or run via mobile devices and networks.

Clearly, these important goals cannot be achieved without the appropriate security tools and capabilities. This implies that the security of mobile devices is now something the enterprise needs to address with some urgency.

In a typical enterprise, there are many different mobile devices being used, many of which have probably not been provided by the company's IT department. Therefore enterprises need security capabilities that enable them to manage and secure ALL device types irrespective of the operating system, manufacturer, mobile network used, or data applications and services supported. BlackBerry Enterprise Server provides security capabilities that address many of the issues highlighted, but only for BlackBerry devices, typically only used by senior executives within the enterprise.

OTA: Matt, CIOs and IT managers have been managing mobile devices -- mainly laptops -- for over a decade now. Many IT managers I have spoken with say they have no interest in spending on new device management solutions. They want to be able to manage smartphones with their existing solutions. Why can't they use their existing device management platforms to manage smartphones and regular cell phones?

MB: In many respects, MDM is the mobile equivalent of the tools and processes already in place for "fixed assets" like PCs and laptops.

Mobile devices are starting to act like laptops and computers as their capabilities become more sophisticated -- accessing the corporate network, running enterprise applications locally, etc.

This leads to the requirement to manage and secure mobile devices in the same way that laptops and computers are managed and secured on the corporate LAN.

However there are some fundamental differences that require additional capabilities:

* Devices are often not physically present , nor are they always connected to the enterprise network - one cannot underestimate the challenge of trying to manage via the "air interface" * The device marketplace is very fragmented, with thousands of different devices, operating systems and implementations, all of which need to be managed slightly differently * The protocols and standards used to provide management capabilities for mobile devices vary and are different from those used in a fixed environment * Mobile devices used by enterprise employees are often purchased by the employee rather than provided by the corporate IT department.

OTA: Rob, it's your turn. While CIOs and IT managers want to be able to use their existing platforms for device management, they also seem eager to find help with their device management tasks. As a result, device management seems to be evolving from a platform-based model to a service-based model. What are the types of device management services, like outsourcing, do you see CIOs and IT managers demanding?

Rob Dalgety (RD): We expect a range of deployment models to reflect the range of enterprises and verticals -- for many enterprises, a solution that is hosted and provided as a value-added service offers some key benefits -- lower up-front costs with a pay-as-you-grow cost model, leveraging the mobile device management expertise of the mobile operator rather than requiring that it all be developed internally.

In addition, we see many enterprises looking for solution that provides a broad set of device management and security capabilities supporting the full range of mobile devices being used by their employees, rather than a specific technology or capability. Ideally, this solution includes the full suite of enterprise data applications and services being used in their corporate LAN, extended into the mobile environment; the security capabilities and policies being used in their corporate LAN, extended to all the mobile devices used by their employees; and a dynamic solution that can change and evolve as their particular needs change.

OTA: How do developments like dual-mode smartphones with Wi-Fi and unified communications complicate mobile device management?

RD: Such developments increase the need for sophisticated mobile device management. They further increase the complexity of mobile devices and mobile networks, and they also increase the challenges faced by corporate IT departments in effectively managing the mobile devices being used by their employees.

If managed correctly, these technology advances deliver significant benefits and flexibility to the enterprise. However, they also introduce requirements to support additional network technologies, integrate new protocols into the device management platform to enable the management of mobile devices by both wide area cellular and local area Wi-Fi networks, and manage additional settings and configurations on the mobile devices. They also introduce the requirement for a more sophisticated device management platform that can "see" mobile devices across multiple networks and make intelligent decisions about the optimum way to carry out device management functions at any particular moment in time.

About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights