Dual persona smartphones non grata at Starz

MDM policies should focus on personal, not technical issues, entertainment company finds

SAN FRANCISCO -- While premium cable and satellite television channel Starz has through trial and error evolved its mobile device strategy over the past five years, one technology that employees rejected was dual persona smartphones.

"Users didn't like the idea that they had to be in one world or the other," said Judy Batenburg, vice president of IT infrastructure and operations at Starz.

Batenburg, who spoke during a presentation at the CITE Conference and Expo here, said for her company it really comes down to culture. "We're a very employee-friendly company. It felt very foreign to them to have to choose which one they were in," she said.

It was also confusing for some employees to have two user interface because they feel comfortable using their business or personal phones for business and personal use without added security, Batenburg said.

Over the past several months, leading vendors have launched their strategy to offer corporate employees two user interfaces on their smart phones: one for business and one for personal use.

For example, at the beginning of the year, BlackBerry announced its Balance software, which creates dual personas in the BlackBerry 10 OS that runs the Z10 smartphone.

Then, BlackBerry announced a dual persona technology called Secure Work Space for iOS and Android, which runs as an update to BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10. At the same time, Samsung also launched its version of a dual personality phone.

VMware launched its dual persona mobile device software last month, which is now available on some Android OS-based mobile devices sold by Verizon.

Starz, which has more 21.6 million pay television subscribers in the U.S., struggled with a strategy to address its mobile strategy for employees.

Over the past five years, the company went from thousands of corporately owned "Blueberry" and BlackBerry phones to a hybrid strategy where today they issue corporate phones or pay a $40 monthly phone stipend based on an employee's position. Other employees are allowed to bring their own devices, but only after agreeing to strict company policies governing data ownership.

For example, executives who travel overseas as well as salespeople who travel domestically mostly get a corporate iPhone because they tend to work well for media presentation, Batenburg said. Technical staff who are on call typically get Android phones because they're well suited to support interactive communications.

Batenburg admitted Starz didn't get its BYOD strategy right the first time around. It focused on the technology instead of employees.

"This is not a technical problem," Batenburg said.

Instead, BYOD is a personal employee issue that's highly dependent on what the needs of any particular employee are. Companies must focus on how a strategy better enables an employee to do his or her job.

Batenburg said in any evolution toward a BYOD strategy there are typically five stages:

  • Denial that it's going to happen.
  • Ignore BYOD (even when mobile devices are accessing your servers.)
  • Allow BYOD, but don't encourage it.
  • Encourage and incentivize BYOD.
  • Insist on BYOD and mandate it

"We're actually discussing from the encourage to the insist stage. I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we have no corporate devices. It's just not happening in our world," Batenburg said. "If you're going to do this, you just have to find a way to manage the chaos it brings. And, it is a chaotic disruption to the IT world."

One piece of advice Batenburg offered fellow IT managers is to not choose a mobile device management (MDM) software product based on popularity. There simply is no best MDM product in the market, she said. There is only what's best for your company.

Companies first need to create a list of must haves from an MDM product, and then purchase the software that best suits those requirements.

For example, at Starz, the ability to secure corporate data, wipe data when a phone is lost or stolen, track mobile devices, enforce corporate policies and perform electronic discovery of corporate content was key.

"BYOD is happening. The fuse is lit. We're taking off," Batenburg said. "The best we can do is hope to steer it in the direction that makes sense for you and your company."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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