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College mandates AirWatch for mobile management, security

When one college mandated AirWatch on end-user devices, there was backlash, but the IT team's approach led to a successful mobile management project.

Open, clear communication with users around the importance of mobile management tools was key to one college's success in an AirWatch implementation.

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), based in Milwaukee, is a private academic medical center with 1,260 students and over 6,000 faculty and staff members spread over the region in healthcare facilities and clinical sites.

In face of the challenges of an increasingly mobile student body and staff, the college looked to mobile device management (MDM) to secure and manage devices and resources.

The goal of the school's technological infrastructure is to ensure students, faculty and staff focus on work, rather than security, said David Hotchkiss, Medical College of Wisconsin's CIO.

"We would like you to be able to focus more on what you're good at -- being a leading physician, a leading educator, a leading researcher -- and less on the technology that serves as a foundation by which you do what makes you special," Hotchkiss said.

MCW began to implement MDM around two years ago and eventually chose AirWatch LLC of Atlanta (which has since been acquired by VMware). AirWatch combined "flexible functionality" that could be adapted to the institution's needs and offered a commitment to provide mobile tools for MCW.

For example, the college can establish multiple profiles for departments and assign unique roles based on those profiles and move devices in and out of the environment with relative ease, Hotchkiss said.

We worked really hard at selling the 'why,' the security, what we can and can't do.
-David HotchkissCIO, Medical College of Wisconsin

The installation process for AirWatch on devices is also straightforward and lessens the support requirements for MCW technicians, which is important given the numerous device types and operating systems in use in the environment, Hotchkiss said.

The college did consider other similar products, but Hotchkiss declined to name them. AirWatch's price was competitive with other providers and wasn't a major factor at the time of the decision, Hotchkiss said.

Other enterprise mobility management vendors that provide MDM products include MobileIron, Inc., Good Technology, Inc., Citrix's XenMobile and IBM's Fiberlink MaaS360 among many others.

MCW users on board with AirWatch

The school became serious about mobile security after implementing AirWatch campus-wide. MCW required all students, faculty and staff to download AirWatch onto their devices to access college information and conduct college business. Individuals can still use the few devices that don't support AirWatch (like older cell phones) on campus, but cannot access MCW information with them, Hotchkiss said.

As predicted, there was some pushback from users about having to use AirWatch on devices, since all student devices and about 80% of faculty and staff devices are personally owned. But that pushback was quelled by a concerted effort to educate the MCW community about the AirWatch platform.

"We worked really hard at selling the 'why,' the security, what we can and can't do," Hotchkiss said. "We were extremely transparent."

Around the AirWatch rollout, MCW’s IT department offered any faculty, staff or student the opportunity to see the AirWatch operations console, which many did. The department makes available a list of anyone who has access to the console and any changes to the MCW's mobile device policy must receive input from faculty, Hotchkiss said.

"We established a level of trust that prevented what other organizations may have experienced or will [experience] in the future," he said. "We mitigated a lot of that because of the approach we took."

To date, the approach has enabled the MCW community secure and efficient access to educational, administrative and healthcare tools. For example, students participate in real-time polls in classes through MCW's Audience Response system and access collaboration tools and textbooks through AirWatch-secured applications. Meanwhile, physicians and clinical staff use mobile devices to access patient information and hospital data.

"Something new is coming out every day and people are doing really great and wonderful things they can do on these devices," Hotchkiss said. "Our goal is to make sure that no matter what you do, [the devices] are secured and there is a record in our system that shows it's been encrypted."

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