Android invades the enterprise

How three companies are coping -- even thriving -- amid the Android explosion.

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Rothenberger says he hasn't experienced many problems with the diversity of Android versions. Most of the Android devices get automatically updated on a regular basis, either by the manufacturer or the carrier, who thoroughly vet the software before pushing it out to users, he points out. Ricoh Americas seems content to leave it at that. The degree to which fragmentation causes problems for IT "depends on how much the company is trying to control versus how much they are letting the users control," he observes.

That said, there are occasional challenges with Android. When the company develops its own internal apps, for example, IT has to ensure they run securely across all Android versions, says Rothenberger. "But it's not something that adds significant cost or time to our project deployments," he says. If there's a problem, IT decides whether it's easier to fix it or simply tell users that it won't work on a particular version of Android. "I can only remember one or two situations where we had to tell them an app was not appropriate for a particular version of Android," says Rothenberger.

Meanwhile, the company is replacing complicated enterprise applications with simpler, perhaps cloud-based, software, Rothenberger says. The BYOD program and the move to simpler applications are both components in a broader consumerization of IT strategy at Ricoh Americas, he says.

CareerBuilder: Gaining Control With MDM

CareerBuilder has had a BYOD program, along with a corporate-liable program, for mobile devices for two years, according to Roger Fugett, senior vice president of IT. For the 20% of the devices that are company-issued, CareerBuilder has standardized on iPads for tablets, but users can choose any iOS or Android phone. So far, the company is solid Apple territory: 78% of mobile devices are iOS, 20% are Android-based and 2% are other.

The jobs website and staffing firm is just now deploying an MDM tool to assert some control over the personal devices, says Fugett. It's not that Android has caused many problems, but rather that CareerBuilder is preparing for broader device access in the future, he says. The company has encountered a few problems related to ActiveSync configuration and the variety of Android versions, but "we really haven't had anything that negative with Android, surprisingly," he says. In fact, he points out that IT had a bigger problem with the release of iOS 6.1, which had a bug that "basically brought down our Microsoft Exchange server."

Most employee-owned devices just access email. Some workers do use certain hosted applications to do their jobs, but in those cases security is built in to the service and therefore is not a worry. However, Fugett acknowledges, security will become more of a concern "as we turn on more services that allow employees to connect to internal, behind-the-firewall applications."

That's one of the reasons the company is implementing MDM -- so IT can be more of a gatekeeper. Although decisions have yet to be made, Fugett expects to control access by requiring specific operating system versions, prohibiting jailbroken devices and imposing other security policies. "Then we'll focus more on exposing internal apps or on-premises apps to mobile devices with more confidence," he says.

Best BYOD Approach

In the end, the best approach to Android and BYOD in general is to start with good policies applied across all devices, Rothenberger advises. "You can't always foresee what will happen," he says, but if you have robust policies that cover contingencies, "that helps take a big worry off the mind of the CIO."

Harbert is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in technology, business and public policy.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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