Why this BlackBerry shop switched to Android and BYOD

Credit:Sergio Uceda via Flickr

Three months ago when BMI Healthcare decided to start using a new mobile operator for corporate issued phones, it faced a decision: Buy all new phones or unlock existing devices for use on the new network.

The decision turned out to be much bigger than that.

BMI, a company that runs nearly 70 hospitals in the U.K., had been a BlackBerry shop since around 2006. Around the time BMI was switching to the new operator, BlackBerry announced plans to put itself up for sale. Given the uncertainty around the company’s future, BMI was concerned about making the investment into new BlackBerry phones, said Dan Morgan, service delivery director for BMI.

At the same time, BMI wasn’t happy with the way it was managing BYOD users. Workers who didn’t have company-issued phones had been using Exchange ActiveSync to access email on their personal devices. “We couldn’t really block it and we didn’t have the budget to give everyone a BlackBerry, so we accepted the risk in order to facilitate mobile access to email,” he said.

Then Vodafone, which was going to be the company’s new operator, introduced BMI to Enterproid's Divide, a service it is offering to customers as Vodafone Profile Manager. 

Divide let BMI replace ActiveSync while giving BYOD users a secure way to access email. Workers primarily use email and calendar within the Divide container. BMI has also pushed out an Office reader app so that users can open Office attachments.

If a security issue arises, BMI can wipe just the corporate data, leaving behind a worker’s personal information. That was important to Morgan who was particularly worried about issues around mingling company and personal data -- he didn’t want to have to do a remote wipe and destroy users’ personal files. 

Plus, it works the same regardless of the user device. “The attraction for us really was that it works pretty much identically across Android and iOS,” Morgan said. “From a UI training and support perspective, to have a single solution that worked whether it was corporate owned or personal owned, gave us a uniformity we liked."

Choosing Divide also opened the door for BMI to issue new kinds of phones to corporate users as well. Rather than stick with its existing old-model BlackBerry phones or investing in new ones, BMI ended up issuing Android phones to corporate users. 

Getting started was very easy, he said. When Morgan decided to sign up for the service, he called Divide on a Friday afternoon and was able to start using it on a Monday morning. By that afternoon he’d activated himself and created the policies that govern users.

It’s just as easy to add new users on the system, he said. Once he adds a new user to the management console, the user downloads the Divide app from the phone’s app store. It’s a “30-second” activation process from there, he said.

Divide also offers him good control capabilities. For instance, he has set up password requirements that dictate the strength of user passwords. He has also set the time after which screens lock and prompt for the password to be reentered.

In addition, Morgan really likes that users have access to their own management console. Individuals can use the console to locate their device using GPS or remotely sound a beacon on the device. They can also remotely wipe the whole handset or just corporate data. “So if they lose their phone on a Saturday night, there’s no need for them to wait until Monday morning to talk to IT,” he said.

That hasn’t happened yet, at least for the corporate issued phones. “They’re excited about their new phones so they’re looking after them,” he said.

Three months later, Morgan manages around 600 mobile users. Two-thirds are corporate owned devices -- HTC One and Samsung S3 phones -- the rest are BYOD.

The transition for some people with company issued phones wasn’t totally easy.  “A lot of users did struggle initially going from a physical keyboard to a touch screen,” Morgan said. But plenty had also been using touch screen phones personally and so didn’t have a problem.

Morgan has only a short wish list of features or changes he’d like to see. Top of the list is an improved text messaging interface, which is included in the Divide container and currently “a little bit clunky,” he said.

Divide is on a roughly six to eight week update cycle and has been very responsive to suggestions, Morgan said, and so he expects that issue will be resolved soon enough.

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