Brave New Mobile World, Part III – Mobile Policy and Security

Jeff Dettloff, Providence’s President and Chief Problem Solver, also serves as the 2011-2012 President for the Capital Area IT Council (CAITC). Jeff recently moderated a CAITC panel discussion on mobility and the connected workforce at this fall’s Greater Lansing Business Showcase. For the next few weeks we will be sharing the knowledge we gained from attending this panel.

How does the new mobility affect your business? Are you in the fast lane? Please share your insights and experiences.

Our last installments in the “Brave New Mobile World” series discussed the necessity of being mobile ready, and how the new mobility affects your work force. In this article we will take a look at the important points to consider when making decisions regarding mobile devices within your workplace, and discuss the security issues that the new technologies present.

When making any business technology decision, the first questions that should be explored are what the technology will cost and how the company is going to measure return on the investment.

One trend we see too much of is a company making an investment in mobile devices without knowing precisely how they are going to be used. iPads and Android tablets have a tremendous “cool” factor, and it can be easy to rush in and commit resources to them without thinking it through. There are tons of ways that these devices can enhance productivity and creativity, but we politely suggest that you make sure you know how you intend to use them before you pull out your credit card.

The next question is often, “which device?” Every week there’s a new device being released, so it pays to take the time to really investigate your options and find the device that does precisely what you want. Is device size an issue? Does it need to be pocket size, or will your workers be okay with toting around a larger item? Tablet devices with large screen sizes provide a great percentage of the functionality you would expect from a full size computer (but you might not want to recycle that desktop just yet). But is the bigger screen necessary? Pocket size smart phones pack a lot of punch in a very small package. Be sure to consider all options.

And don’t discount the input that you can get from your employees. Many workers, especially in high tech industries, already follow the latest developments and may have much experience and familiarity with different models. In fact, some may have a preference that is so strong that it can be advisable to let your workers be a part of the decision making process. If you let your workers make a choice, even on an individual basis, of what their device will be, that can eliminate backlash from employees that end up with the “wrong” device.

Which brings us to another possibility; letting your employees buy their own device. This has been approached in a couple of ways.

For instance, there’s a national trend right now toward organizations not paying for the device, but providing a stipend or a coupon that helps employees with the purchase. (Talk to your accountant too, because this plan may make better sense on many levels.) Or perhaps your pocketbook doesn’t need to become involved at all. Many workers are willing to buy their own technology now, provided they can get on the corporate network and have access to corporate data.

But this brings another set of concerns. How do you support and secure your network and data with such a diverse array of devices? The bottom line is: Deal With It.

Like it or not, we are now seeing much greater diversity of mobile devices in the work place. Establishing strict rules and restricting your network to certain “approved” devices can be counterproductive, and can mean that employees start using personal devices for business purposes. That means the business now has zero influence or control, and chances are security on the personal device is not up to your standards. Bad news.

Instead, think about staffing your IT department with generalists, people that can support anything, instead of specialists that focus on one or a few areas. This may represent a paradigm shift for your IT department, but your IT guys should not be limiting your productivity by reducing the number of things you can do as a business. What they should be doing instead is taking a look at what you are doing, and figuring out “how can they provide piece of mind?”

As employees are empowered to be wherever is best for them, employers will have to deal with change. Let people be free and work the way that they want to work. This is the recipe for success in the Brave New Mobile World.

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