Remote Control: Managing a Mobile Workforce

In the beginning, there was mobile, and mobile was a pain. But it was a manageable pain for the most part and easily treated with VPNs, corporate controlled devices, and policies loaded with warnings of the evils of public hotspots. There was some worry, but not that much considering that most employees used mobile only when traveling and the majority of their work was still safely ensconced behind the company firewall.

Then along came BYOD, remote workforces that rarely came into the office, and the consumer app epidemics, both mobile and cloud. Add in a rash of social media, texting, instant messaging, consumer VoIP solutions, and voila! IT’s manageable pain quickly became a communicative and excruciating disease with no cure in sight.

Fortunately, there are treatments to regain the company’s health and security. One alone is not a cure, but combined they are quite successful.

Shine a Light on Shadow IT If you are to regain control of where company files are stored, you’re going to need users to willingly help you. Certainly educating them on the evils of cloud and mobile consumer apps, jailbreaking devices, storing passwords on devices, and other reckless, unapproved behavior is a good start. But it’s only a start.

Ultimately you need to understand why users are doing these things. You’ll quickly find that more often than not it isn’t some diabolical plan to destroy IT at work here, it’s simply users’ need to work in the fastest, most efficient way possible that’s wrecking your best laid plans. Find out what the drivers are behind the behaviors and offer acceptable alternatives. The key word here is “acceptable,” and it applies to both IT and the end users.

Create an Enterprise App Store The best way to steer users clear of consumer apps and all the perils they contain is to provide an enterprise app store containing comparable or better app choices. If you don’t have the time, budget, or manpower to develop apps on your own, you can always get enterprise grade apps from vendors.

Be careful about adding company approved consumer apps to your app store because that isn’t as easy as just adding them to the lineup. Strict licensing and penalties may apply both in regards to individual apps and to the app stores on which they originally resided.

Another tip: let users test drive apps to see if they fit the user’s actual work needs. This has two main advantages. The first is that users will support an app store better if they have a voice in which apps are added. The second is that you will add apps users will actually use. If you fail to do that, users will return to consumer app stores to get what they need.

Simplify Mobile Security Consider containerizing business apps on employee devices to make remote wipes simpler and less intrusive. Employees get ticked, and sometimes even sue the company, if you wipe their data from the device too. Also, remote install security solutions on employee devices and automate updating to ensure devices remain secure. Use two-factor authentication, and don’t make the device one of the two, to further reduce security threats from lost or unsecured devices. Further, automate data backup to ease recovery efforts.

Deploy MDM and MAM Use mobile device management (MDM) software to manage devices and mobile application management (MAM) for an app-centric approach that is secure, less intrusive and a better overall experience for the user. MDM and MAM have come a long way and are still evolving. They are the best means at the moment to manage the complexities of mobile, particularly in regards to BYOD issues.

Consider Creating an Enterprise Device Store If BYOD is simply overwhelming your IT department in terms of support and security issues, consider opening your own enterprise device store to limit the number of devices IT needs to worry about. Offer a handful of devices that appear most popular among the workforce and update the selection regularly. Allow employees to select their preferred, company-owned device rather than bring their own to work.

Contain Carrier Costs Even if your company is 100% BYOD, there are cost-savings to be had from containing carrier costs. Encourage the use of dual mode devices and insist employees use company Wi-Fi networks rather than carrier cellular when on the premises to help them stay below carrier data caps. Enterprise app use will also help curtail carrier costs as will switching to unified communications (UC).

On the carrier side, renegotiate contracts as needed to ensure you have the best cost arrangement. Factor in a way to curtail or eliminate early termination fees, especially if you plan to migrate from CRUs to BYOD IRUs. Termination fees can grow huge if not addressed upfront.  Last but not least, pool usuage, track zero usage devices, and audit frequently to guard against paying for devices for ex-employees and for any personal use.

Combined, these tactics will give control back to your company and still allow company employees a smooth and enjoyable experience. See? Mobile management doesn’t have to be a pain for anyone after all.

Tags: BYOD,Technology