Monday, August 27, 2012

Mission Critical - Mobile Device Management and Control

Have you ever thought about how a company should manage battery life on a smartphone when they support a BYOD IT environment?  Think about it, a person brings their own smartphone to work that only has 10% battery charge, they drive 40 miles out to a job site and their battery dies. They have a dead device when they should be updating work orders, inventory levels, schedules, job status and new product sales.

I am personally impatiently waiting for the release of iPhone 5, because my iPhone does not hold its charge any longer.  By about 1 PM, my battery is getting low.  I am lucky I don't need to use it to take product orders and scan bar codes throughout the rest of the afternoon.  If this impacted my productivity, and I had an employer, I wonder if they would ask me to go out and buy a new personal device?
Click to Download

In many industries and businesses it is not enough to simply hope your workforce manages their personal mobile devices efficiently and reliably, as the business is too dependent upon it.

MDM (mobile device management) systems are intended to help a company manage mobile devices.  There are many MDM solutions available on the market, but many cannot remotely control and access a mobile device, and that is critical.  A few like Soti ( enable remote access and control of mobile devices and this enables the IT helpdesk to efficiently trouble shoot and manage mobile devices to ensure efficient use through out the day.  Soti can even monitor your battery use, and automatically optimize your devices use of the battery.

In a scenario where the business depends upon the efficient and reliable use of a mobile device, it is critical that the company have management control of the mobile device.  This, however, can present some complexity.  In some countries this is not legal.  In businesses where there are unions, the unions may not approve, and your employees may simply not permit it.  These complexities may influence entire industries and geographical areas to insist on company owned mobile devices.  This does not remove all complexities, but helps.

In businesses where company owned mobile devices are supported, MDM vendors like Soti, can collect data on the various manufacturers' device specifications, and then document their performance against the specs. This is very important.  If a manufacture says a battery should last for 1,000 charges before it is replaced, data can be collected on each device to monitor when it was charged and predictions can be made as to when more batteries will need to be purchased.  In addition, the collected data can be used to hold manufacturers accountable to their specs, and the data can be compared with the performance of other mobile device manufacturers.

Some MDM vendors have mobile clients that can turn even the most powerful consumer grade smartphone into a purpose built mobile device by controlling and limiting access to only the work apps.  For example, a new Android phone can be limited to only a credit card swiper, bar code scanner and work order management system with SMS.  All the other apps that are available will not be seen or accessed.  This gives businesses the ability to buy off-the-shelf smartphones and use them strictly for business.

The down side of this scenario is that the mobile workforce would likely be all carrying two different mobile devices, one for work and one for their personal use.  This is not ideal, but may be the reality until something more clever comes along.

Kevin Benedict, Mobile Industry Analyst and Mobile Strategy Consultant
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am a mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.