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Attack of the BYOD-killing MDM software

Tom Kaneshige | Feb. 5, 2014
BYOD has been an enterprise hit because it allows employees the convenience of combining their work and personal lives on a single mobile device while offering companies a sense of security thanks to mobile device management software. However, a breed of monstrous new MDM software threatens to send users away screaming.

BYOD, personal devices, business devices, mobile device management, MDM

Stop me if you've seen this sci-fi movie before: Humans develop software to make life more convenient, but the software does its job too well and ultimately turns on its creators.

Well, we're not there yet. But an echo of this theme is emerging in the fast-evolving BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device) market.

Only two years ago, BYOD flooded the enterprise, in part thanks to new-fangled mobile device management (MDM) software that struck a balance between letting employees enjoy the convenience of work and personal apps on a single device while providing a security blanket for companies.

But now signs point to companies taking advantage of advanced MDM capabilities, thus threatening to ruin the user experience. "We think some IT organizations that are used to having strong controls in place on mobile devices are going to implement MDM policies that are just too onerous," says Gartner analyst Van Baker.

Will Mobile Device Management Kill Mobile Device Use?
The mobile consumer device in the enterprise owes its rise to the great user experience that Apple and, later, Android brought to market — if usability suffers, user revolt will surely follow. By 2016, one out of five BYOD programs will fail due to enterprise deployment of MDM measures that are too restrictive, Baker predicts.

Gartner also surveyed workers late last year and found that one in five won't have anything to do with BYOD because of privacy concerns. Taken together, poor usability and privacy violations can derail the BYOD movement.

Baker isn't making his dire prediction on mere guess work. He says he is already seeing MDM's degradation of the user experience on mobile devices.

For instance, some IT departments are turning on MDM controls that force users to jump through multiple passwords. In one scenario, a user with an open Facebook app in the personal space of a BYOD tablet who wants to check work email has to log out of Facebook, log out of the personal space, log in to the work space, and log in to the corporate email. If she wants to return to Facebook, she must do it all again in reverse order.

Baker says another company issued tablets with GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular disabled. The tablets came in cradles that require a secure ID card. The tablets essentially became useless paper weights.

Other all-too-common tactics that wreck the user experience: forcing employees to use corporate mobile apps only while on company premises and making them use a clunky mail client instead of the native mail client.

"That kind of usability is just not going to be tolerated," Baker says. "It's going to drive employees away from BYOD programs."


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