Increasing numbers of business applications are helping mobile workers get things done in the field using tablets or smartphones, and more consumer applications support common business processes for mobile workers. More workers are using their own devices, and more people rely on multiple devices to access the same set of applications, depending on where they are and what they're doing.
Smartphones and tablets are all essentially web-enabled computing technology. To help manage these devices in the field, and to help solve challenges inherent in the bring your own device (BYOD) movement, many organisations operate mobile device management (MDM) platforms in house. Recently the choice of solutions has widened, with perhaps the most dramatic shift arising from the proliferation of viable cloud-based MDM services.
Given the range of feature sets provided by MDM vendors, IT directors already struggled to make an informed decision on which one to buy. Now many consider the question of cloud-based versus on-premise secondary, preferring to filter offerings primarily by functionality. As Yasmin Jetha, CIO at Bupa, puts it: "With increasing need for companies to support consumer devices for their employees, there is a need for mobile device management solutions, whether cloud-based or in house."
Other IT directors prefer a combination of cloud-based and on-premise MDM. "Robust and flexible MDM has been critical to manage the explosion of consumer devices and mobility, and a variety of deployment options from on-premise to cloud are required to ensure the service is 'always on'," says Phil Jordan, group CIO of Telefonica.
Whether a company considers the choice of cloud-based versus on-premise a primary or secondary question depends a lot on what they need from a platform and on their timeline for amortizing IT investments in general.
Like many organisations, the London Borough of Lambeth has benefited from applying mobile technology to the business processes of at least part of their workforce, and can measure the results. In Lambeth, social workers go out to homes to assess children with disabilities and work out what support they can provide the children and their families. "Because our pilot project made the back-office applications available on mobile devices, those families can get a decision two weeks earlier," says its assistant IT director, Rob Miller.
Having recognised the value of mobile technology, IT directors are now looking to provide as much support as they can on as many devices as possible. "Enabling BYOD is a key part of our strategy. We want to move to a situation where we aren't focused on trusting devices but where we're managing information and apps to any device," says Miller.
Miller views MDM as a stop-gap solution solving problems that they won't need to address once Lambeth moves to a paradigm of managing applications and information, rather than devices. "Our goal is to policy-wrap applications," he says.
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