April 13, 2009, 2:24 PM — While some corporations have worried about the ability to secure and manage iPhones used by their workers, Forrester Research Inc. says three major companies are successfully deploying thousands of the Apple Inc. devices.
The key benefit? The iPhones make workers happier and more productive, the research firm said in a report released today.
But that's not all, added Ted Schadler, author of the 12-page report on the three companies -- Kraft Foods Inc., Oracle Corp. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. "The companies say that the benefits of iPhone over other mobile devices include a happier, more productive workforce and lower support costs," Schadler wrote.
"In this era of technology populism, where consumer IT is often better than enterprise IT, it sometimes just makes sense to give employees the freedom to choose the tools they want," he added. "If an iPhone makes an employee happy, then supporting it will deliver collateral benefits of a happier workforce and a new line of communication between IT and employees."
However, not everything was rosy with iPhone deployments, Schadler noted. Combining iPhone and ActiveSync for calendering functions is still the "single biggest end user problem," he said.
His research with the three companies also showed that management and guaranteed message delivery tools are "weak" in comparison with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Finally, there are other problems, including lack of full support for VPNs for some users, lack of cut and paste as well as Flash support. But these might be helped when the next versions of the device, iPhone 3.0, ships this summer.
At Kraft, Forrester reported that nearly 2,000 workers were using iPhones at the end of January and more than 4,000 were expected to be using them by year's end. Kraft identified its key benefit with allowing iPhone use as helping Kraft drive culture change by urging internal groups to "take advantage of new technologies." The biggest challenges were problems with calendar synchronization and the work involved in moving employees from personal monthly phone accounts to corporate AT&T Inc. accounts.
At Oracle, Forrester said about 4,000 iPhones were in use by its workers in January with plans to add more applications to those devices by the end of the year. The key benefit was Oracle IT's ability to build collaboration and business applications that workers can take with them anywhere. But the challenges are that management tools aren't mature enough.
At Amylin, Forrester said about 150 iPhones were used by workers in February, but that number should grow to 650 by the end of the year. The major benefit was improved usability versus other devices, including a savings of $360 a year on voice and data plans per device per year. The biggest challenge was that battery life was a concern since workers use the iPhones for more than e-mail, and almost as if the devices were laptops or netbooks.
Drawing a conclusion from his inquiries, Schadler said IT managers learned it was best to stay away from the device-and-mobile-plan business, meaning IT shops will be better off outsourcing responsibility for the devices, network and pricing plans to end users. IT should still retain control over device policies and device management, however, he said.
To make this process work, however, IT needs to make sure that support resources are in place at AT&T to get employees up and running with the iPhones.
He urged IT to use policy profiles to implement sound security with the iPhone. Some of the techniques that work include getting workers to purchase their own iPhones and then sign an agreement that they will abide by their employer's security policies for using PINs to access a device or agreement to allow a remote wipe of data from the device if they leave the company.
Schadler said companies should create a community-led support model and encourage self-service, such as setting up a wiki for users to consult.
Finally, he said companies considering iPhones should set up a three-month pilot program and roll out use in stages to avoid getting crushed with demand. "You may be surprised at the rush of converts and even first-time mobile users," Schadler said.