Over recent years, smartphones and tablets, along with their apps, have become increasingly vital business tools.
When used effectively, smartphones and tablets can provide a huge boost to business productivity. However, while many businesses have IT strategies, they often don’t have a cohesive strategy for dealing with, or effectively using, mobile devices.
If you are considering a mobile device strategy for your business, here are a few points you might want to think through.
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Bring your own apps
The emergence of the smartphone coincided with a trend called bring your own device, which saw employees increasingly using their own smartphones and tablets for work purposes.
The growth of BYOD has led to a second trend, known as bring your own apps, where employees, rather than IT departments, are increasingly choosing their own apps and cloud services, and then are using them for business purposes.
A recent report by industry analyst Telsyte shows that a growing number of businesses are jumping aboard BYOA with 27% of Australian businesses now allowing the practice.
While BYOA is a perfectly fine strategy for some industries, there are also some big potential risks.
For example, there’s a possibility that, at some point in the future, one or more of your staff will leave your business in less than amicable circumstances. So what happens when a disgruntled employee quits, holding valuable trade secrets or confidential customer details on their device?
Mobility device management
There is a technology that can help to solve this problem, and it’s known as mobility device management, or MDM.
In most cases, there are two parts to an MDM system: A secure workspace and a server.
The SWS is an app installed on the employee’s phone or tablet that holds all their work apps, contacts, messages and data separate from his or her personal apps and messages.
A proper MDM system will also encrypt data in their SWS and provide encrypted communications between the SWS and the work server.
The work server also allows your IT staff to wipe a disgruntled former employee’s SWS if they ever leave the company, and to block access from a lost or stolen device.
Not surprisingly, Telsyte’s figures show the popularity of MDM systems has doubled over the past 12 months.
The leader in the Australian MDM market is BlackBerry’s BES10 (BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10), which offers secure workspaces for Apple iOS and Android devices, as well as for BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
Business-wide productivity boost
Meanwhile, Microsoft is increasingly keen to position Windows Phone as the smartphone platform for business.
The secret sauce in its offering is its Microsoft Dynamics enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management products.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is a comprehensive business management platform covering accounts, retail (including online retail), operations, payroll and warehousing. It’s also a development platform that allows you to comprehensively manage your business using the same data model.
The best thing about it, however, is that it allows you to develop and deploy task-specific apps (for Windows Phone or iOS) to your employee smartphones, all powered by the same back end.
For example, you can deploy an app to all your employees for work-related expenses they want to claim. When an employee wants to claim an expense, she or he simply keys in the details in the app and snaps a photo of the receipt.
In turn, that expense claim then automatically shows up in the approvals app of her or his manager.
On top of this, Microsoft has added some excellent social media-style collaborative work tools to its cloud-based Office 365 productivity suite. These, in turn, can be accessed by the mobile version of Office 365.
COPE or CYOD
The other options worth considering are the corporate-owned personally-enabled model or choose-your-own-device model.
This is where your business provides employees with smartphones, but allows employees to choose which model they want or download some of their own apps.
The advantage of these models are that you can provide everyone in your workplace with a common set of apps, and since you own the phone, your employees are required to hand back their device when they leave your business.
Which answer is right for you?
Deciding which mobile strategy is right for you will vary from business to business and industry to industry. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile taking the time to sit down with your IT staff, talk through the options and determine which strategy is right for your business, instead of leaving it to chance.
Because the smartest strategy of all is the one that’s right for your business.