In mobile management, one size doesn’t fit all, but three sizes fit most

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This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by CITEworld to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note that it will probably favor the submitter's approach.

As with any new market focus, there are a lot of conversations regarding mobile device management (MDM), often stating that you must have a solution – or else. Then there are the naysayers claiming that it will not make any difference, and it’s unnecessary. The truth is that neither bold claim is accurate. Similar industry chatter has occurred about broad client management and other established markets as well and, like others, the key for MDM is finding what’s best for your company’s individual needs.

For MDM, reasonable customer profiles do exist to help organizations determine the MDM structure they need to consider adopting. In any case, it’s critical to implement the MDM solution that disrupts the enterprise the least. It’s naïve to think that security doesn’t come at a price of productivity, but the best solutions optimize both and consider the level of security necessary.

Company A: Doesn’t care about MDM – not on management’s radar

These organizations are not in a technology-savvy industry, and they do not value technology for managing devices. They may have a configuration or user support suite, but they don’t know how to use it much, and probably aren’t leveraging all of its features and capabilities. They’re not looking for a comprehensive, meaningful way to manage employee devices and data.  Typically, these organizations are not in a highly regulated industry, and they are certainly not privy to sensitive customer data, or involved in credit card transactions.

Employees at these companies have smartphones, but there is not a strong value proposition for using technology as an organizational tool – it may be an industry such as manufacturing. A mandate does exist that employees can bring their own devices, but it is theirs and not for company use. Some employees may have company-issued devices but the company does not provision apps, and there is very limited help from an IT desk. Functions are limited to email and content.

Not being a highly regulated industry, these companies are not fearful of getting slapped with an audit. The organization certainly does not worry about company productivity apps and expects employees to figure it out on their own. Eventually, they may consider implementing a free MDM solution, but not for a long time

Company B: Casual security

These organizations are considering and perhaps even evaluating MDM solutions such as client management solutions. Executives are interested in this, but it is not one of their top-three enterprise concerns. Audits are not a big threat, but employees do own smartphones and management wants them to use their devices to be more productive. After all, the cost benefits of doing company work on personal devices cannot be ignored. Eventually, these organizations will worry about the security features they can enable with MDM solutions.

These pragmatists are motivated by common sense – using technology to get a return. They believe that if they do proactive client management, it will help them make money by having a better/more productive workforce. They’re willing to invest in technology to make employees better, not out of an industry mandate.

Often, intellectual property may be a concern for these enterprises. The approach these companies take is “What could this MDM solution give me for what I can spend?” . While they probably won’t end up implementing a free MDM solution, they’re also not racing to the most expensive one either.

Company C: If we don’t invest in MDM, it’s going to end us

These companies are acting out of pure panic of mandates and risk. They are concerned with compliance, checklists, how data is secured and minimizing the impact of potential audits. For these companies, it’s not enough to have an encrypted device, it’s equally important that they can prove compliance, which requires quick, accurate reporting. These companies are less concerned about price, and more about scale of risk. The negative impact on productivity doesn’t weigh in to their MDM decision-making, and they have most likely bought the most comprehensive and expensive MDM solutions available.

Typically, these Company C-types work in highly regulated industries such as financial services or healthcare.  They may handle a lot of customer-based transactions, or work with government organizations. The problem for these industries that are most affected by MDM is that when strict mandates and regulations were enacted, they didn’t account for the demand for mobility. In healthcare, for example, organizations must adhere to HIPAA guidelines, even though mobile innovations have provided critical enhancements for the industry that may not meet requirements. This puts these industries at a major crossroads between security and productivity.

How will this change in 2013?

Group A will probably maintain the current mantra as they continue to use technology without considering investing in it. Company B and Company C will reflect a negative mirror image on each other. Initially, Company B will be concerned with productivity, then they’ll hone in on specific features and functions as the industry evolves. They will become more interested in reporting, not for audits, but in terms of spending and optimization.

Conversely, Company C will get past the wave of urgency and doubt. They’ll go through pragmatic evaluation, causing a great deal of MDM churn. As they continue to make MDM purchases to meet narrow, specific concerns, they’ll also realize that the very secure and expensive solutions they bought have negative side effects – such as killing productivity. In the next 12 to 24 months, they’ll begin to consider how to secure the mobile enterprise in a manner that’s friendly to the work force.

For vendors selling MDM to organizations, it’s critical to think about the needs and the wish lists of each of the organizations, taking into consideration what’s most important to their specific needs. One size certainly does not fit all, but taking a look at an organization’s culture and top enterprise concerns can be the difference between paying a lot of MDM and getting a little, or paying nothing and getting just that.

Justin Strong is Novell's Senior Global Product Marketing Manager for the ZENworks portfolio of Systems/Endpoint Management products.

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