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Take a methodical approach to mobile deployment

Purchasing and enrolling a device fleet can get messy if organizations let it get out of hand. Here's how to keep one of the first steps of the MDM process simple and streamlined.

It's often complicated to purchase and enroll mobile devices, especially for smaller organizations with fewer resources,...

but a step-by-step process can simplify mobile deployment.

Mobile deployment shouldn't be a free-for-all. It requires thoughtful assessment and planning to ensure that organizations choose the right devices, suppliers, enrollment methods and support. As mobile device management and zero-touch enrollment options expand, organizations should approach the process carefully.

Assess devices

Define what employees want to do with their devices and determine the best way to extend your existing legacy infrastructure to mobile users. For example, organizations with employees that primarily need to fill out forms might want to choose tablets with large screens. If salespeople need to occasionally input information into a customer relationship management system, a standard smartphone might be best. It is impossible to select the best device if organizations aren't aware of the use cases.

Organizations should also choose between BYOD and COPE. Many smaller organizations still deploy BYOD programs. Often, organizations return to corporate-owned devices after finding little savings in BYOD programs, however.

Organizations that want to optimize mobile productivity should specify a small number of preferred devices -- about three to five -- that IT can easily deploy, manage and outfit with company-approved features.

Choose a supplier

Organizations should choose the best supplier for their device needs based on company size and device diversity. Organizations can buy unlocked devices in bulk, often at a discount. This approach might be best for large organizations with IT departments that can do the research.

Carriers that provide the devices at the time of purchase or delivery, however, can seamlessly perform device enrollment.

Alternatively, smaller organizations with fewer resources can have mobile network carriers lock devices for the contract period. This is a cost-effective approach, and the devices can move to other carriers as needed, but it also means that the organization needs more IT resources to manage the devices.

In a BYOD scenario, organizations have essentially no control over whether users' devices are locked or unlocked, which could be problematic in the long term. This may still be the best approach to mobile deployment for organizations with many temporary employees or those that don't often use their devices for work.

Set up and enroll devices, provide support

Organizations should determine how to set up devices on carrier networks. This typically is a manual process, and IT should provide information to carriers such as a device's international mobile equipment identity number and billing identification. Carriers that provide the devices at the time of purchase or delivery, however, can seamlessly perform device enrollment.

Device enrollment onto corporate networks and systems requires mobile device management, enterprise mobility management or unified endpoint management, which can create policies, attach identities and provide security for any device that uses company resources. This is not an issue for larger organizations, but it could be for smaller organizations. A variety of cloud-based management platforms, such as those from MobileIron, Citrix, BlackBerry and VMware AirWatch, require minimal resources.

Some device manufacturers, such as Samsung and Google, offer zero-touch enrollment, which is useful for organizations that buy in bulk directly from device manufacturers and want to limit IT resources.

Organizations should determine how to provide support to mobile users. Mobile carriers often solve network issues themselves, but IT should monitor these issues, as well. IT should take action, such as replacing a problematic carrier or assessing why users are unsatisfied, if too many issues arise with a network carrier.

IT should always be responsible for back-end app support. Any of these issues could result in a loss of mobile productivity, which can affect costs, overhead and employee satisfaction.

This was last published in November 2018

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