Do you sometimes long for the good old days of device management? In most organizations, all you had to think about was governing a series of desktop PCs, usually running on Windows. iOS and Android hadn’t even been invented, and the idea that anyone could connect to corporate data from anywhere seemed ludicrous. How times have changed!
Today, the floodgates have opened. Your colleagues likely use a whole range of smartphones and tablets in their personal lives. And, without understanding the complexity and risk this poses, they expect you to make it possible to connect these devices to the company portal. End users, don’t you just love them?
At present, IT managers, faced with this wave of requests - “why can’t I connect my smartphone to the Intranet?” – need to pay real attention to how they deal with this Device Diversity. You can’t take the ostrich position here and bury your head in the sand – ignoring Device Diversity will leave you open to risk.
What is Device Diversity Again?
Gartner describes Device Diversity as “the growing variety of devices, computing styles, user contexts and interaction paradigms”. As the name suggests, there are now a huge amount of devices and a number of operating systems which your colleagues use to access company systems.
In a few short years’ billions of smartphones and tablets have saturated the market, all running different Operating Systems:
Source: IDC 2015
For each individual OS, there’s a big variety of system updates. And then there are all the different devices of varying age, size, power and security.
We’re all for Device Diversity (we’re big fans of Xamarin which lets developers build apps for different OS’ in one go). However, managing this diversity is complex, and requires significant governance. If you don’t maintain control over which devices your employees use to access corporate data, you open yourself up to risk. But there’s a Catch 22 here – if you do try and impose controls on which devices your colleagues can use, you face the risk of a staff mutiny.
What’s the Problem With Device Diversity?
So, why’s Device Diversity a problem? We wouldn’t want a world where there’s only a handful of devices – diversity makes the market super competitive and very exciting. However, this diversity does pose a problem to businesses in the following areas:
If your employees are using older, outdated operating systems, these might be at risk of hacking. The latest OS’ all have the latest security patches too, and should, in theory, be protected against most threats. Older systems are less secure, however, and are at greater risk of being breached. While your company portal should have a strong firewall, outdated and corrupted devices present a weakness for nefarious hackers to exploit.
If you have chosen an enterprise app where users can access the company Intranet from mobile, that app will need to be accessible from all devices. You’ll want updates deployed uniformly on each device type too - you don’t want Android users to be left behind the iOS owners. Keeping this up to date when workers use a wide range of devices and Operating System is really hard.
Tied into the previous point, if your app doesn’t work well on the user’s device, you can guarantee a long stream of complaints and moans. You’ll spend your days fixing these issues rather than doing what you’re really employed to do.
Again, if your Intranet doesn’t work well (or at all) on your employees’ devices, you’ll have wasted a lot of money on an app. Mobile should make people more productive, but if users can’t actually access their productivity tools from their device, you’re wasting time and budget.
So What Am I Supposed to Do?!
Don’t worry, Device Diversity doesn’t have to be a bad thing. All it takes is a well-planned strategy which corresponds with your company’s and employees’ needs. Follow this consistently and Device Diversity will become your friend (or will at least be manageable).
You basically have two options for dealing with Device Diversity:
1. Buy one device for all users in the company and end diversity!
This is the ‘anti-BYOD’ approach. If you have the budget, asking all your employees to use one specific device (or one of a limited number) is perhaps the ideal solution. If the devices are good quality and up to date, your employees will probably be pretty happy. What you don’t want, however, is to enforce unpopular devices that no one wants to use.
2. Provide colleagues with a list of accepted providers
Your second solution is to provide a list of ‘approved’ BYOD devices. Encourage 4-7 ‘ideal’ devices, but also ‘tolerate’ a number of other smartphones and tablets that can be used. Circulate an ‘out of bounds’ list too, which makes sure people don’t buy devices that won’t be compatible with the Intranet.