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How to sharpen a corporate mobile device strategy

Mobile devices aren't easy to manage. When organizations hand over a corporate device, IT should check a few things off of their to-do list, including security and cost factors.

At first glance, corporate-owned mobile devices appear to be easier to manage than employee-owned devices, as the...

boundaries are clearer, but IT still has a lot to keep track of.

Organizations must decide on a mobile device budget and corporate policies, among other responsibilities. After that's all said and done, organizations must make sure that employees use corporate-owned devices properly and efficiently.

Here are some ways for IT to take control of a corporate mobile device strategy and ensure that the benefits of using mobile devices outweigh the risks.

Consider mobile device cost

One of the first steps when introducing a corporate mobile device strategy is determining the cost. This is a more complicated process than simply adding up the cost of each device and employee data plan.

Organizations with BYOD have some flexibility when choosing what they will pay for, but corporate-owned and personally-enabled (COPE) plans are more strict. COPE programs should cover the cost of both the data plan and the device. Data plans typically run between $50 to $75 per user, per month, but these costs decrease once the organization pays off the cost of the device.

There are other cost factors to consider, as well. Organizations should account for enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms, the cost of which can vary depending on the vendor and whether they are on-premises or cloud-based. Cloud-based EMM is typically less expensive, but it has less room for customization.

Organizations must also consider additional tools such as identity and authentication products, which can bring the cost of mobile devices to more than $2,000 per employee annually.

Create a mobile app policy

Once an organization deploys corporate-owned mobile devices, it's important to establish a policy on acceptable mobile apps. Whether that policy is strict -- employees can only use these five work-approved apps -- or lenient -- employees can use whichever apps they want – it's important for IT to at least get on the same page. Many mobile apps, such as WhatsApp, can introduce security risks and leak corporate data.

To be safe, organizations should generally replace corporate-owned mobile devices every 12-18 months.

Organizations with stricter policies should consider creating a whitelist, which is a list of authorized apps that employees can use. These organizations should also constantly review and update a blacklist to maintain a higher level of security, as extensive blacklists can quickly get out of control.

The ideal scenario is for organizations to use a mix of blacklists and whitelists in their corporate mobile device strategy. In departments with productivity concerns, organizations should use a blacklist. For departments that deal with sensitive data -- such as legal or financial information -- organizations should use whitelists to enhance security.

Get the data

IT can collect data from corporate-owned devices to gain deeper insight into the organization itself. For example, IT can benefit on the security side from alerts for predictive maintenance about sensors or network logs.

With mobile device analytics, organizations can help employees use devices more effectively. Analytics can point to wasted data usage or decreased battery performance, for example, and IT can delve into why these issues occurred and how to prevent them in the future.

Analytics can also help IT determine where mobile apps succeed and fail. IT can obtain user acquisition data and retention rates of a mobile app to work with the product and development teams and improve the user experience. With analytics, IT can see how end users interact with their mobile devices and use that information to improve their overall productivity.

Don't wait for device death

Mobile devices are far from immortal, so it's important to determine the lifespans of devices and replace them appropriately. IT should do this proactively rather than implementing a don't replace it until it's broken strategy.

Organizations that don't heed this advice can experience a significant drop in productivity and profitability. Smartphones at the end of their lifespans experience a 15-20% drop in efficiency when accessing apps, for example. Mobile devices can reach the end of their lifespans relatively quickly; a two-year-old smartphone will have 30-50% battery performance degradation. In addition, some older smartphones are not equipped with the necessary security features to protect end users' privacy.

To be safe, organizations should generally replace corporate-owned mobile devices every 12-18 months. It's preferable for most organizations to purchase a new model rather than sink significant costs into repairing a smartphone.

This was last published in October 2018

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What is your organization's policy for corporate-owned mobile devices?
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Changing new mobile devices every 12 - 18 months might be challenging since most of the assest still calculated by Finance for a 4 years lifespan (just like common laptop / PC lifecycle). Other option to enable this it to implement seat management for Mobility devices.
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That's a good point! It's important for IT to coordinate with the finance department to make sure their mobile device strategy works across all facets of the organization.
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Businesses around the world are embracing smart devices to mobilize their business processes and improve workforce productivity. But managing, securing and tracking applications, and content shared on these devices continues to be a challenge for businesses. No wonder mobility management solutions are being adopted widely to help companies secure their mobile devices while also addressing security concerns.
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