Mobile device management: Getting started

Expect a moving target, practitioners say, and focus on a few key areas.

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"Our strategy is to be device agnostic," Bussmann said, "The IT organization has to be in the driver's seat. If the CIO doesn't embrace the mobile trend, then the business organization bypasses the IT organization and that's not a good thing. Then it's being done without control and security and that can have an impact potentially on the company."

Centreville, Va.-based Carfax uses a blended approach, with some workers using company-issued iPhones and iPads and others using their own Android devices, says CIO Phil Matthews. "We allow other employees to use a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) approach where it works better for them or where they want to keep their device on their personal mobile plan."

The company's 400 field workers use devices that are company-provided or paid for through reimbursements. "We actually wanted people to have a consistent experience, so we chose iPads and iPhones as our main devices, but some people wanted Android devices" and are allowed to use them, he says. Workers previously carried laptops and printers along with BlackBerry devices, but productivity rose with the iPads and iPhones, he explains. "Our sales reps can complete more activities with the iPads and iPhones and we can provide them with mobile applications that allow them to collaborate much more easily than in the past."

Cora Carmody
Jacobs Engineering Group buys the devices for employees but requires workers to pay for their own monthly data plans, says Cora Carmody, Jacobs' senior vice president of information technology.

Cora Carmody, the senior vice president of information technology at Pasadena, Calif.-based Jacobs Engineering Group, says her company looked at mobile devices from a different angle -- that of expense management. As the recession took its toll, Jacobs continued to look for ways to cut costs until finally the cellphone bills of some 45,000 workers became an enticing target, she says.

The company had acquired several other businesses and was bringing in new users who all had different mobile vendors and devices, so the IT group decided to look at it and find better ways of making it work.

Their answer was what Jacobs calls "wireless divestiture" -- in other words, buying the devices for workers but then requiring workers to pay their own monthly bills. Workers are given calling cards for travel and can also expense extraordinary calls if needed, Carmody explains.

Jacobs has saved about $15 million annually since reorganizing its mobile device strategy, Carmody says.

At first there was some grumbling about the new strategy, Carmody admits. But the company met with mobile vendors to work out good deals for employees when they signed up for new service contracts, so because the financials were in their favor, employees started gradually accepting the new arrangement over time.

"You can expect some complaints and backlash at the start," she says, "but we are also pleasantly surprised that some people recognized the new choices that they had" in terms of different types of service contracts -- "and appreciated that."

Jacobs worked up front with mobile vendors to obtain discounted rates to allow employees to move to whichever carrier and plan fit their usage and travel patterns best, according to Carmody. "Previously employees were carrying two devices; one for Jacobs support and one as their own personal device." By consolidating to one device, employees' mobile situation has been simplified considerably.

Keeping company data safe

Security at Edelman includes requirements for passwords that are secure as possible, Iatonna says. That means that all smartphones and tablets must use passwords that are complex and include a minimum number of characters, along with mandatory data encryption. After a certain number of unsuccessful passwords are entered, the device automatically resets and erases all data. This situation hasn't happened yet, he says.

Another piece of advice, from Jacobs' Carmody: Be prepared to confirm for users that any devices they are considering can meet both the security and work needs of the business. "That gives people the freedom to do what they want to do while protecting company security," she says. "It's one of those building blocks for the idea of bringing your own technology to work."

In general, the company allows Jacobs email to be viewed on personal devices, while all other key corporate applications can be accessed only via the Jacobs corporate portal. "This provides a high measure of security for managing corporate data and eliminates the need to help end-users manage data volumes on their personal devices," Carmody explains. "We, of course, also employ stringent cybersecurity practices that guard against access should a device be lost or stolen. Finally, we have a robust process for reporting lost or stolen assets that ensure immediate response to protect data in those situations."

At Carfax, access to corporate data is controlled through application privileges and passwords; users have access to corporate data and applications based on their job need and role in the company, Matthews said.

Remote-wiping policies

At Jacobs Engineering, employees are required to sign consent forms that allow the company to perform remote wiping of all data if the devices are lost or stolen, even personal data personal email, photos and games. The agreement says the company will delete it all if a device is lost or stolen.

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