iPad Minis are a bad idea until you deal with these BYOD issues

Apple’s latest must-have device is bound to show up at the office, proudly brandished by tech-forward employees. Are organizations ready for the next bout of BYOD? Experts say most companies need a kick in the mobile management department

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If previous Apple launches are any indication, the iPad Mini tablet expected to be released on Tuesday is sure to grab the attention of technology users. You can bet that for more than a few people, this will be their workplace gadget of choice.

It certainly seems to be the right device at the right time. According to a global workforce study conducted by U.S.-based Wi-Fi network operator iPass, 64 per cent of mobile workers use tablets, and that number is projected to rise to 80 per cent by the end of 2012. What’s more, 92 per cent say mobile devices should be configured for both work and personal pursuits.

The results from iPass’s survey reinforce a growing conundrum for some corporate IT organizations: how should they go about managing the increasing number of mobile devices that people bring to work? Is “management” even feasible in this BYOD era?

Krista Napier, mobility analyst at IDC Canada, notes that device usage and connectivity are two of the biggest concerns that companies need to tackle. On the usage front, IT needs to set standards for the kinds of apps users are installing on mobile devices. Software that may be perfectly fine for personal entertainment could run afoul of corporate mandates.

Napier tells the story of one company that discovered a clash between user preferences and client relations. In this case an employee installed a gambling app on his tablet—not an issue at home. But when he met with customers in other countries, using his tablet in product demonstrations, the gambling app proved too risky.

“One client took offense to it, because in that culture, it was deemed inappropriate,” Napier explains.

For the most part, organizations are ill-prepared for BYOD. An IDC Canada survey found that, although 69 per cent of technology decision makers are aware of BYOD, just 30 per cent have policies that speak to it. Yes, 24 per cent did say they plan to implement a policy in the next 12 months, but 44 per cent have no plans, despite the rising popularity of BYOD.

Napier says it’s important to begin with a policy that specifies proper mobile device usage, but some firms take matters further and provide training as well. Training reinforces the policy and helps employees internalize it—far better than developing the policy, posting it on the corporate intranet and hoping users take the time to read it before firing up their tablets for client presentations.

Access is another concern. Napier points out that companies need to provide solid access infrastructure to support mobile devices. In one instance, she says, an organization allowed employees to use smartphones and tablets on the corporate Wi-Fi, but soon learned that its wireless coverage was spotty, leaving employees stranded without connectivity in certain spots across the corporation’s campus.

Offering solid wireless access is one part of the solution. Another has to do with app access. Organizations should invest in systems that simplify the process of securely managing apps, such as Good Technology’s Enterprise Mobility Management and MobileIron’s software.

“You don’t want to have to give users an iTunes card…and say, ‘Go get these apps,’ Napier says. “You want a streamlined way to turn apps on and off, and push them out to employees.”

With policies specifying appropriate app and device usage—plus technology supporting strong wireless connectivity and app management—organizations will be better situated to welcome new devices such as the iPad Mini into the workplace.

Learn about how Allstream tried out a “BYOD lite” program internally by downloading our executive briefing. 

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