First things first: Evaluating business mobility needs

Before you start mobile device allocation and management in your organization, identify your employees’ and your organization’s needs.

Mobility is about enabling untethered use of business networks, applications and data to enhance availability, response times, processing efficiency and more. Mobile device management can do more than stop bad things from happening -- it can also enable workers to be more productive.

Achieving that benefit begins with identifying your workforce’s mobility needs.

Wireless business traffic is expected to nearly double between 2013 and 2015, driven largely by mobile devices, according to Forrester Research’s 2013 mobility survey. For this reason, examining the traffic carried by your WLAN can be a good way to spot emerging mobile application use within your workforce.

Although enterprise WLAN traffic is still dominated by email (e.g., Outlook) and file access (e.g., SharePoint), mobile cloud, messaging and video applications are changing these traffic patterns. Use traffic monitors built into your WLAN or separate traffic analysis tools to observe and categorize application traffic.

For example, many organizations are seeing heavy use of consumer cloud file-sharing applications such as Box, Dropbox and SugarSync. You may prefer to designate a company-approved, business-grade, cloud file-sharing app. Other options include volume licensing and an application catalog to recommend or even automate installation on mobile devices.

However, when the files to be downloaded, modified and shared among mobile devices involve confidential business data, there may be an even better solution: Install an encrypted container on each mobile device. You can let IT push documents into that container, keep those documents current and wipe documents by removing the container when a device is retired or stolen.

Traffic and file-sharing are just two of many possible mobile application needs that might be detected, evaluated, and then addressed in a more scalable and secure fashion. In fact, mobile device management is increasingly being paired with mobile application management and mobile information management solutions, giving employers an entire toolkit.

As you develop an enterprise mobility policy to meet your organization’s needs, document your decisions and specify requirements that cover the following:

  • Mandatory applications that must be installed on a mobile device; common examples include MDM agents, virtual desktop clients and secure enterprise mail clients.
  • Optional recommended public and private applications that may be offered to your mobile users, using application catalogs, volume-purchased licenses and enterprise app stores.
  • Blacklisted applications that are not permitted on mobile devices that fall within the scope of your policy.
  • Steps taken to enforce application requirements, such as whitelists, blacklists and jailbreak checks, as well as the consequences of noncompliance, such as blocked access or remote wipe.

Establish a management strategy

As we have seen, employers face many decisions when considering how to assess enterprise mobility, protect enterprise assets and facilitate workforce mobilization. Start by establishing a platform that can automatically discover and identify mobile devices. This will help you keep pace with the large number of new mobile devices likely to appear in your workplace over the next several years.

Then develop your own enterprise mobility policy, using it to systematically think about business purposes, devices, applications and risks. Specify associated requirements and procedures to enable safe, productive mobility.

Given a set of requirements, it’s time to translate them into action using mobile device management. MDM products can:

  • Play a critical role in recognizing known devices and authorizing newly identified devices;
  • Query mobile devices to determine whether they satisfy corporate and regulatory criteria;
  • Present device owners with acceptable-use policies, seeking their consent to complete enrollment;
  • Push configuration profiles, documents and mandatory apps onto enrolled devices as needed to satisfy technical requirements;
  • Present users with recommendations to maximize their mobility benefits; and
  • Monitor device status and usage to stay informed and enable remediation as needed.

Your own device management strategy may deliver some or all of these capabilities. But remember that MDM is just one tool in your toolkit. Once you’ve conducted an enterprise mobility assessment and begun constructing a mobile device management strategy, you’ll be able to select the best tools for your organization.

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