IT operations managers are cringing all around the world – desperately trying to avoid those inevitable words from their executive management: “You need to support enterprise mobility.” Their concerns are understandable. After all, IT administrators are already overtaxed with supporting desktop, server, application, and infrastructure management requirements. Asking them to layer a whole new management discipline on top of that can be a daunting prospect. IT managers who find themselves in this predicament often recognize it as an opportunity to practice the fine art of procrastination. Particularly skilled procrastinators will employ one or more of the following excuses:
- We don’t have the money
- We don’t have the time
- We don’t have administrative staff knowledgeable in managing mobile technologies
While this avoidance strategy has proven successful in many organizations, it is, in fact, only a temporary solution. Smartphones and tablets, whether supplied by a business or brought in by employees, have become commonplace in businesses across all major industry verticals. According to EMA research, 89% of business professionals rely on a mobile device to regularly perform job tasks, requiring organization to enable broad but secure access to business applications, data, and other services. Typically of greater urgency, however, is when the CEO receives a gold-plated smartphone for his birthday and wants to use it to access business resources to impress his friends while awaiting his turn on the 16th hole at the local golf club. At that point, the jig is up, and the need to deliver full enterprise mobility management (EMM) is inevitable. But this doesn’t necessarily mean IT managers must surrender to stretching their already-exhausted administrative resources. After all, the purpose of procrastination is ultimately to minimize efforts (though poorly executed procrastination may actually backfire and increase work challenges). The secret to successfully satisfying EMM requirements while at the same time reducing administrative efforts is the introduction of IT management efficiencies.
Traditional endpoint lifecycle management processes (i.e., PC management) commonly involve the complete control and management of desktops and all installed software components, from initial deployment through final retirement. While this approach is possible in an environment that supports a single architecture (such as Windows PCs), attempting to apply it to the broadly heterogeneous deployments necessary to support workforce mobility is tantamount to drinking the proverbial ocean. Rather than attempting to control the entirety of the endpoints, organizations should instead focus on the optimal and secure delivery of business IT services (applications, data, email, etc.). This is not to say that the devices themselves should no longer be managed, but rather that the monitoring and administration tasks should be limited to just the configuration elements necessary to secure and run business services. This approach to EMM substantially reduces the amount of support effort required while empowering end users with the ability to perform unfettered personal tasks on their devices (e.g., Candy Crush, Minecraft, and watching amusing cat videos). The secure delivery of business IT services is further simplified by introducing the following three core mobile management capabilities:
Automation – Any repeatable process can be automated, and the more processes that are automated, the fewer mundane, day-to-day activities there are that need to be performed by operations. Commonly automated tasks for EMM include software provisioning, asset discovery, application/email configuration, and data loss prevention.
Role-Based Management – By categorizing users and their devices into logically segmented groups based on the users’ job function or role (e.g., accountants, marketers, developers, etc.), a common set of profiles can be established to define access privileges, configurations, and application availability. Often these groups are already identified in a listing service such as Active Directory. In this way, on-boarding new users requires little, if any, administrator interaction as all settings have already been predefined.
User Self-Service – One unprecedented aspect of enterprise mobility is that employees overwhelmingly prefer self-service. This should be encouraged. By consolidating enterprise resources onto a centralized service catalog or app store, users to select and install the software elements most critical to their job function. And the beauty of it is that they achieve this without having to interact with IT administrators.
So clearly, EMM practices do not need to be a challenge to adopt—even by the most ardent procrastinator. In fact, I would argue that the recognition gained by introducing a service that mostly manages itself far outweighs the relatively minor efforts required for its implementation. And, of course, no price can be placed on the value of rescuing the CEO from the embarrassment of cell phone inadequacy at an informal executive summit.