May 30, 2012, 1:29 PM — The rapid-fire spread of mobile devices being used by enterprise employees can be a huge boon for businesses in productivity and customer service gains, but those advantages don't come without a price.
The inherent flexibility and freedom to get business done anywhere, anytime, also makes it much harder to maintain the security and control of corporate data when employees are accessing and storing business information on their smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices. And the rush of new devices never seems to end, making it hard to stay out in front of innovations.
"Enterprises must plan now for the mobile devices of the future that they don't even know of yet," says Kevin Benedict, principal analyst at Netcentric Strategies LLC in Boise, Idaho. "So you build an infrastructure that says it doesn't care what devices are on the end of it and you have a framework that you just plug into."
Getting there isn't easy, however. One approach that can make implementing a mobile workforce easier -- or at least consistent -- is through mobile device management (MDM) strategies that can help enterprises address all related mobile issues in a top-to-bottom approach.
Among the challenges that an MDM strategy can help with: Which mobile devices to support, whether to allow employees to choose and bring their own devices into work, and how to handle security for mobile devices, including whether to have remote data wiping capabilities for lost or stolen devices.
Policies about devices
One of the first decisions to make with an MDM strategy is to figure out which devices your employees will use and whether the individual or the company will pay for them.
At New York-based Edelman, the global PR firm, most of the 3,800 employees use RIM BlackBerries, unless they have a compelling work-related reason to use something else, says John Iatonna, the vice president of information security. Those cases are decided individually by business managers -- workers can be allowed to use iPhones or iPads if needed for the work they do, but RIM devices are Edelman's enterprise standard mobile devices.