The mobile landscape is moving so quickly that strategy and tactics are merging.
One of the more surprising results of the mobile revolution is the way
that IT departments have lost their role as the providers of the technology. It's
now just as likely that people will be doing business with personally owned
devices, as they are to use devices issued by their employers.
As recently as five years ago, it was still expected that if an
employee needed a mobile phone, the employer would provide it. If there was any
integration with corporate systems, one would probably have had a BlackBerry
and the IT department would have run one or more instances of its supporting
platform, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The only exceptions to this model were
those shops that had embraced other platforms, such as devices running Symbian
or Windows Mobile. But in all these cases, the device was a phone with some e-mail
and calendar features. Although third-party applications existed, they were at
best cumbersome to install.
Today, that's no longer the case. It's increasingly common for people to
bring their own devices into the business, and then expect IT to make them work
with back-end systems. The credit-or blame-for this sea change in attitudes and
expectations rests with Apple, thanks to the resounding success of the iPhone,
and more recently, the iPad.
Chip Pearson, managing partner of JAMF Software, believes that iOS
devices "are one of the most disruptive technologies that's come on, quicker
than anything. We're seeing, really for the first time, the business driving
the conversation, versus IT driving the conversation."
Although Apple's phones were more of a novelty than a business tool
when first introduced in 2007, the application ecosystem that has grown up in
just under three years, since the debut of the iPhone 3G, has made the iOS platform
a force with which to be reckoned. It's no longer a big deal when someone walks
into the office with an iPad or iPhone and expects that it can be connected to
corporate e-mail or a Salesforce.com deployment. IT is presumed to be able to
support an employee's iOS device as well it does company-issued systems. This
pattern has become so commonplace that the term "employee-liable" has emerged
for such cases; the business doesn't bear the cost of the device, but gets the
benefit of its capabilities.
It's become clear that the old relationship of end-user to IT is being
turned on its ear by the new generation of mobile devices. As Chris Clark,
chief operating officer of Fiberlink, put it, "The contract, the relationship
between employee and company, has to be rewritten in this mobile, new-normal
[world], where 9-to-5 is no different than 5-to-9, and you're going to
bifurcate your data while you unify your personal and professional tool."
Ojas Rege, vice president of products and marketing at MobileIron, went
a step further, pointing out how quickly the tide has turned. "In 2009, it was...
IT saying -No.' [In] 2010, users forced the issue; they forced iOS into the
enterprise, and IT had to be very reactive, and put in place the basic security
and management," he explained. "In 2011, we're seeing a shift, which is IT
becoming more proactive, and a lot of folks in these organizations are seeing
the potential of these devices."
Ahmed Datoo, chief marketing officer for Zenprise, noted: "The [IT]
world yesterday was built around standardization: -You will get a Dell laptop,
running Windows XP, this Service Pack version. Here are the things we will
allow you to install.' People who are still clinging to that world are going to
be unsuccessful." What people are seeing, he added, is completely new. "Someone
is saying, -I [have] this device; I want you to support it.'"
JAMF Software's Pearson pointed out that the initiative has shifted,
perhaps forever: "The business will say -We're going to do X with iPads' or
-[do] X with iPhones' and there's this destination that's set by the business.
The route to get there is often unclear to the IT department, because it's so
Ownership Equals Control
No matter who is driving the conversation, the employee-liable model
has its attractions for many companies-perhaps the most notable being the lack
of capital expenditure by the business. For IT, managing these employee-owned
devices is a bit of a puzzle; it's no longer possible to assume that all the
applications and data on a mobile phone or tablet belong to the company, as is
the case with conventional computers in the workplace.
That complicates the landscape, especially for shops that lack a
management infrastructure for mobile devices. Although it's true that iPads and
iPhones that are connected to a Microsoft Exchange e-mail server can be
remotely disabled by taking advantage of the ActiveSync console's ability to
wipe the device's encryption key (in iPhone 3GS and later devices), that's a perilous
step to take when an employee owns the device in question.
Mobile-device management, or MDM, vendors agree that one advantage to
Apple's tight control over the iOS platform is that third parties are all
starting from the same place. There are no "most favored" vendors in Apple's
world-except, of course, Apple itself.
Brian Reed, vice president of products and chief marketing officer at
BoxTone, pointed out that, "we're all basically equal in terms of physical MDM
features," but vendors have a chance to differentiate themselves in "how those
are implemented, and how those interact with existing systems in the enterprise."
With Apple being the sole supplier of iOS hardware, the only
fragmentation comes from the differing capabilities of one generation of iPhone
compared with another, or the differences between an iPad and an iPhone. This
contrasts with the situation faced by vendors wishing to support Android devices,
where Google leaves many of the decisions regarding device management to the
As Mark Jordan, senior product manager for Sybase Afaria, put it,
"We're wholly beholden to [Apple] on the capabilities they provide. After that,
it's just a question of style." There is an intricate dance between the MDM
vendors and the device manufacturers, he said. "You want to make sure when
you're investing in capabilities for a particular ecosystem, that you're
aligned with that particular vision of the vendor, because if you're not, they
can turn you off very easily."
Mixing Tactics and Strategy
The mobile revolution is happening so quickly that IT really has no
choice but to simultaneously perform first aid and major surgery when it comes
to incorporating iPhones and iPads into their management environments.
One advantage that Apple and its customers have, said Dimitri
Volkmann, vice president of product management for Good Technology, is that iOS
is ahead of the competition in terms of management features. "There are
different levels of management you can do, depending on the devices, and some
are more advanced than others; clearly, iOS is more advanced than others right
now." In contrast, he said, "Android is lagging behind, because they [only]
started to add some whole-device management capabilities with [Android 2.2]."
BoxTone's Reed explained that many of his company's customers are
trying to play the short game and the long game at the same time. "What we're
finding in a lot of midsize companies is that they're trying to do the quick
tactical thing, but still define a strategy around it," he explained.
Fiberlink's Clark agreed: "They plug the hole, and they're going to
work back, into a broader, more visionary kind of way to do best practices, and
[work] in a more efficient manner."
Sybase's Jordan advised, "Make sure the infrastructure is more strategic
than tactical. You really want to set a foundation for your ecosystem that's
going to be enterprise-grade, scalable, and that's going to be... an
infrastructure to provide that level of security and management that you're
going to need across the board."
A pitfall to avoid is doing management on the cheap, said AirWatch
chairman Alan Dabbiere. "You see so many companies trying to manage these with
ActiveSync, and it's just such a limited tool," he said. "It's certainly better
than nothing, but it wouldn't manage an employee-liable [device], where the
legal status of being able to truly wipe someone's personal device is very
Reactive management is another trap, he added. "We have so many
companies that have developed applications on iOS and all of a sudden realize
they need a way to distribute those apps. All of a sudden it becomes a fire
The slope isn't just slippery, concurred MobileIron's Rege. He said,
"The moment that IT thinks they're starting to get caught up on the policy
front, suddenly the usage of the device increases [or changes]. Keeping up with
the use cases and keeping up with the user is maybe the... biggest challenge that
IT organizations are facing."