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TechnologyFeb 23, 2010

Mobile Devices and Your Employees

Andrew Warden

In the last couple of blogs on mobile commerce, I’ve focused on creating a mobile experience for your customers and target customers. Today, I’ll shift a bit and focus on the mobile users inside your company. With the growing usage of smart phones (particularly the iPhone), companies are more and more facing the challenge of having (and needing) their employees access and use company data on their personal mobile devices. Is your company ready for that? What factors do you need to consider.

First, a couple of data points: About a third of companies officially endorse the personal mobile devices for business usage, and about a third officially bans personal device usage for company data purposes. The remaining third either turns a blind eye – or more accurately – buries their heads in the sand when it comes to personal mobile device corporate usage for employees.

With the current and future penetration of the smart phones in the marketplace, and with workers adopting more and more of an “always-on” culture, banning personal devices’ access to company data would appear to be a serious mistake. Allowing personal devices can offset the cost of providing company mobile devices, removes unnecessary friction, and increases productivity when workers are mobile or outside of work hours but desire to plug-in for a “work moment”.

Ignoring the phenomenon and allowing unauthorized usage is fine – as long as it doesn’t catch up with your organization. A client of mine was recently “phone-jacked” (his words, not mine), when his iPhone was stolen off a restaurant table. How much did the thief have access to? Probably only corporate email based on this user, but potentially access to corporate intranet applications and functionality, customer contact information, and his customer meeting schedule as well. What about the iPhone I left in the airport mistakenly when travelling through security? What about the innocuous, but career limiting, email from your boss that your five year old deleted by accident? When we think about the general access needs for mobile workers, you can generally include one or more of the following: email, internet, intranets, customer data/information, calendars, and corporate applications. How much are you willing to risk by turning a blind eye?

Leading organizations that are officially sanctioning personal mobile devices for company usage are implementing a secure application area for corporate usage. Doing so provides the following:

  • Ability to devise a single security solution for all corporate functions on the device, including password protection and device encryption for data at rest on the device.

  • On-demand data cleansing tools for stolen or lost devices

  • Remote version upgrades of software to keep your workforce operating on the same systems and with consistent data

  • Support for service monitoring

This creates, in essence, two zones on the personal device – one for corporate usage with a standardized and secure solution and one for personal usage (which remains unaffected by the specific corporate encryption and authentication demands).

Where is your company? Is it turning a blind eye and hoping for the best? Is it suffering from a lack of productivity by locking out increasingly mobile employees from using their preferred devices when out of the office? Interested in finding out more? Contact us

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