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MDM: Mobile Device Medicine

Agents come to companies rescue with mobility device management during Americas layoff plague.

April 16, 2009

5 Min Read
MDM: Mobile Device Medicine

By Cara Sievers

Our nation’s sick and feeble economy has weakened America’s workforce and lengthened the unemployment line. One company after another is donning the farewell frown as it dispenses pink slips to an unprecedented number of employees. But sometimes you have to cut off the arm to save the soldier, so to speak, and layoffs may be necessary in order to keep the businesses alive.

However, these aren’t your grandfather’s layoffs. Joe worker doesn’t pack up his anniversary clock and lucky ballpoint pen and hit the road — there’s a whole gamut of accoutrements that must be accounted for, among them are his mobile devices. Channel partners providing mobile device management solutions can step in during this layoff fever and tend to a business’ device health.

“By their nature, mobile devices are much harder to track and manage than wired devices,” said Denise Chapman, director of marketing for TEM provider Veramark Technologies Inc., which integrates MDM with its VeraSMARTTEM offer. “As employees come and go, organizations must be able to rapidly and accurately update mobile device assignments and plans, update inventories, validate invoices against updated information and do it all in the most efficient manner possible.”

Chapman explained using wireless management solutions can provide a company with essential capabilities such as mobile device moves, adds, changes and disconnects, and workforce fluctuations only increase the need for this centralized management.

Chapman agreed utilizing an MDM solution to manage an employee’s exit is just as essential as when he or she was on-boarded. The termination of an employee requires that the physical device be collected, the service be terminated and the inventory be updated. However, Chapman explained changes must also be made to ensure no future charges allocated to the employee or device are paid, and this can be executed through an MDM solution’s automated invoice validation. Furthermore, the company, or its MDM solution, must record service plan changes in order to analyze plan requirements for future contract negotiations and to evaluate any possible impact on minimum usage requirements.

“It is not unusual for companies with poor mobile device management to lose track of devices and continue to pay for services long after the employees to which they are assigned have moved on,” added Chapman. “An integrated wireless management solution can implement all system updates through processing of a single service ticket providing key information on the employee, departure date and mobile device assignment. This minimizes administrative effort and ensures that all systems of record are correctly updated for proper cost and inventory management going forward.”

Julie Palen, senior vice president of mobile device management for TEM provider Tangoe, said greatly fluctuating workforces, even with SMBs, present an opportunity for agents to pitch MDM solutions.

“MDM controls all corporate data access,” said Palen. “When an employee is let go, their device can be immediately shut down and all corporate assets removed from the device — this can be done systematically without great effort. This is a great security feature and ensures the device is in compliance with corporate standards.”

Palen explained that because of the security issues and requirements surrounding mobile device management, SaaS applications usually don’t have the tight integration behind the corporate firewall required to perform such highly secure functions.

However, MDM software solutions aren’t the only antidote an agent can offer for the layoff blues. Taking a consultative approach and advising customers on MDM policy can also help to stop the hemorrhaging — whether of data or telecom spend — after an employee leaves.

David Schofield, director wireless mobility for TAG (Thompson Advisory Group), said mobile device management is the fastest growing area of business for the consulting practice. TAG offers services such as order fulfillment, device replacement, mobile e-mail administration, MACDs, password resets and a Help Desk service that Schofield said is necessary because of the variety of devices and operating systems in use across employees. In fact, the Help Desk can be notified in advance of an employee’s termination and deactivate the phone over the air — and with the right software in place, he said, lock the device and scrub it clean of data.

Schofield also endorsed advising companies to operate under a corporate-liable mobile device policy instead of an employee-liable or reimbursement model. A corporate-liable policy gives the company more control of the devices, their usage and the information stored on them.

As the pervasiveness of personal mobile devices in the workplaces continues to grow, companies are under even more pressure to outline MDM policies and employ complementary solutions. Recent research by Aberdeen Group found that over the course of 2008, the number of devices purchased by the company from a select vendor decreased while the number purchased by employees from any vendor increased by an almost equal amount (See chart, “Personal-Liable Devices Invade the Enterprise”).

“This longitudinal finding serves as a reminder that effective mobile support requires dealing with the realities of today’s mobile environment rather than stifling all attempts at changing the corporate mobility landscape,” said Aberdeen Group’s Andrew Borg and Hyoun Park in a report on the findings. “Establishing minimum standards for IT compliance, developing a limited list of supported devices, and implementing centralized device management and deployment tools go a long way towards mitigating potential chaos.”

Hence, Schofield suggests reducing the number of available devices within the organization and resist changing the policy to appease “device envy” among coworkers.

Of course, MDM, especially the segment surrounding employees’ departures, is just one tiny chromosome in the entire TEM DNA that could open the door to such policy advisement, consulting and procurement.

“A good MDM solution will save money on a monthly basis for an enterprise, but MDM alone is not the answer to total savings,” explained Schofield. “Total savings is a combination of an industry benchmark-based/professionally negotiated agreement with market-leading rates and a good solution to maintain the savings over time.”

And in such a burgeoning market, thanks in part due to layoffs, along with a relatively low barrier to entry, Schofield advises agents to seek an MDM provider with solid references and personnel on staff before entering into relationships with MDM providers.

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