Simplicity is the guiding rule for this young IT manager as he rolls out iPads and BYOD
Steve Damadeo manages IT and operations for the North and South American branches of Festo, a German multinational that manufactures electrical and pneumatic gear. He says that people in his generation think differently about IT.
"Most my team are millennials, so a lot of us work off the principle: if it's not simple, you can't do it."
This philosophy has led Damadeo through a lot of recent projects, including a pilot program to use iPads on factory floors.
These iPads will replace special-purpose RF devices used for scanning items. Those devices were bulky and expensive -- almost $2,000 a pop -- with tiny screens. "They look like they've been through World War II," joked Damadeo.
Festo has also instituted a BYOD program that allows office workers to use iPads to access corporate devices, and is gradually transitioning off company-purchased smartphones as well. Transitioning to BYOD on smartphones should be fairly straightforward because the company had already standardized on company-purchased iPhones about three years before. Adding to the simplicity, right now the company's BYOD program supports only iOS and Windows devices -- Android is off the list because Damadeo is concerned about malware that has been found in some publicly available Android apps.
One challenge for both the factory floor iPads and the BYOD devices was connecting to Festo's back-end SAP system. Unfortunately, SAP's specialized mobile apps didn't serve the functions that Festo needed. But Damadeo didn't want to write a custom app for these workers. In his view, custom apps have three problems: they raise IT budgets, increase the risk that something will break, and require more training.
"The more you go into custom apps, the more trouble you run into. I'm a big advocate of trying to stick to standard functionality wherever possible."
Instead, Festo uses readily available iOS apps for functions like email and reading Microsoft Office documents, then uses a VDI infrastructure to let workers access the full SAP app (and other corporate apps) on a virtualized Windows desktop. On the client side, the company uses Wyse PocketCloud to give workers access to the virtual desktops.
So how does the company deploy PocketCloud?
"We built our own MDM solution for deployment," explains Damadeo. It's basically an internal web site that users access with their log-on credentials. "The other ones on the market were way overcomplicated and overpriced."
Basicaly, users log on to an internal web site with their Festo credentials and hit "deploy." The site recognizes which device they're using and rolls out the appropriate app. "We added a few things based on standard Exchange security, but it's our own software deployment."
In other words, "simplicity" often means using off the shelf solutions. But when those solutions are too complicated, it can still mean rolling your own.
Hear more from Damadeo at CITE Forum in New York on October 10, where he'll be speaking on a panel called "Managing BYOD and IT in the Era of Social, Mobile and Cloud". You can Check out the full agenda here.
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