We are nearing the end of an eventful decade in enterprise IT, and years of utopian promises of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) workplaces have yet to be fully realized. Many early adopters of BYOD are having second thoughts following recent high-profile data breaches, while the unending struggle to secure and manage a cacophony of different ringtones is beginning to wear on even the strongest of C-level earplugs.

Some organizations are discovering that a more nuanced deployment of enterprise mobile access is superior to an all-or-nothing approach. According to a recent Samsung study of enterprise mobile maturity, which measured factors including “satisfaction with mobile devices as work tools, deployment of business applications, and benefits seen in terms of mobile security and workforce collaboration,” they found that “enterprises that provide devices to at least 20 percent of employees – but not to every employee – scored the highest.”

This phenomenon may be explained by the sliding scale of business needs across an organization, necessitating different levels of functionality and convenience. For large portions of the workforce, access to just the essential enterprise services (e.g., email, calendar, and messaging) is all anyone requires on a day-to-day basis. These are needs that can be easily met on a BYOD basis by an organization’s existing enterprise cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. This includes applications such as Office 365 and the Google Suite, which don’t require any additional layers of hardware management or oversight. For the organization’s power users, these needs are quite different. For those who rely on comprehensive access to organizational resources and tools at all times, even while travelling or remotely deployed in the field, a standard-issue, organization-furnished device is often a better fit.

The challenge then becomes how to keep those valuable enterprise instruments all playing from the same sheet of music. Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) tools are nothing new, but their unification under the umbrella of end-to-end Enterprise Mobility Management (and increasingly, Unified Endpoint Management) are leading some organizations to embark on large-scale re-deployments of organization-furnished mobile devices to facilitate the implementation of these more powerful management tools. The MIL Corporation (MIL) has recent experience managing several such deployments and has developed a number of best practices to help keep everyone (so to speak) in tune.

Putting the band back together

Enterprise Mobility Management tools vary in capability and complexity, but the market is increasingly seeing major vendors (e.g., Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM) vertically integrating technologies from smaller developers in order to bolster their own capabilities and remain competitive. This means that there are currently major incentives to select one such major vendor as your Enterprise Mobility Management solution, particularly if your organization is already at least partially integrated into their suite of IT services.

Even if you aren’t prepared to fully integrate the full range of endpoint devices (including PCs, printers, and everything else on your network) into a single management tool, this unified device management approach is becoming increasingly important in IT enterprises. Choosing a solution that is already future-proofed to include this capability may save you the trouble of another costly migration later. Additionally, the cost savings from choosing a smaller vendor’s solution as your mobile device conductor may be rendered moot if they are recruited into a larger vendor’s orchestra of services, leaving you with yet another migration deadline as their product prematurely reaches end-of-life.

It’s also important to consider the benefits of harmonizing services between hardware and software. For example, Microsoft Intune may be available for mobile device management of iPhone and other iOS devices, but at some level it is still beholden to the whims of Apple and will likely never attain complete OS-level control over those devices like a native MDM solution could offer. Alternatively, a solution like the Google Suite Mobile Management tool, while relatively new to the market, has the benefit of direct OS integration with Google’s Android OS, enabling benefits like an application portal that is customized to your organization’s whitelist, but still directly connected to Google’s Play Store environment for updates and services. This type of solution may also offer a wider variety of hardware options to meet your organization’s specific cost, deployment, and functional needs. If you’re already planning to replace your organization’s legacy devices, why not choose hardware that plays along with your chosen management solution?

The migration process may be made orders of magnitude easier if your organization is able to settle on a single new model of device for distribution. This way, everyone can receive the same guidance and documentation and can compare notes or ask questions of their colleagues who share the same type of device, instead of leaning on your help desk for education and support.

Finally, find out if your chosen vendor offers the option of pre-staging an OS image that is customized to your organization’s mobile management controls directly onto the devices prior to their distribution. This service may cost a premium, but in the end worth it. The logistics of distributing devices that require manual, in-house setup by your own resources can often be more error-prone, time consuming, and expensive in the end. It’s almost always better to let the professionals set the stage before the big show.

Let’s get it started

Migrating a major portion of your workforce to an entirely new mobile platform can be daunting, especially when those users rely on mobile access the most and may be stuck in their ways. Operating system loyalties can be as ferocious as band groupies, and convincing stubborn iOS die-hards to embrace Android (or vice-versa) is no small feat. This makes the handling of your migration period absolutely vital to the adoption or rejection of your chosen platform.

Identifying enthusiastic early adopters and giving them special attention will almost always reward your investment. Getting such users involved in the first phases of your testing will provide you with valuable feedback and bug reporting, improve your documentation, and help spread their enthusiasm contagiously to their colleagues. In the end, this makes everyone less anxious and more excited for the transition ahead of time.

Your pilot groups should include users from a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels, accommodating as many known migration scenarios as possible to ensure no major gaps are missed before beginning the larger migration. Giving special white-glove service and training to high-profile individuals in your workforce (especially if you know them to be reluctant to switch from their current platform) can help head off future frustrations. Additionally, this may also limit the spread of negative rumors about your solution. With a little help and encouragement, your strongest critics can quickly become your most outspoken allies.

Involving the help desk and technical writing staff in the early stages of testing as well may seem obvious. However, organizations often overlook just how thoroughly these resources can find flaws and optimize processes beyond even the capabilities of dedicated test and engineering teams. This group is often tasked with mastering every possible facet of the migration to provide users with rapid, comprehensive assistance. In one recent migration for the National Archives and Records Administration, average total setup time for new phones went from over two hours down to under 30 minutes after just a few weeks of help desk process testing. Once this process has been refined, involving remote/field users in later stages of testing will also help determine if your procedures are strong enough to be followed with minimal hands-on support.

Be sure that training materials include a wide variety of learning approaches, including: hands-on training; visual cross-reference comparisons of old and new operating systems; comprehensive breakdowns of major features; and one-page quick reference guides for even the least patient users. While mobile device functionality is usually extensively documented by its vendors (sometimes including device simulators for step-by-step instruction) and these can serve as useful supplementary guidance, only you can know what functionality matters most to your workforce. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to tailor training to meet their needs without overwhelming them with extraneous information.

While extensive, methodical rehearsals of something as “straightforward” as smartphone functionality may seem excessive, MIL’s experience suggests organizations who skimp on testing for these kinds of migrations inevitably regret skipping those beats and will wind up replaying them sooner or later.

Don’t stop the music

Completing your new device and mobile enterprise management rollout can take weeks or months, depending on the scale and spread of the deployment. You may need to schedule group workshops to finish migrating those users who (for whatever reason) couldn’t schedule individual migration appointments. But these workshops aren’t the only encore you should perform when your migration reaches its finale.

Even if you’re not hearing very much criticism from your workforce during the migration, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Users are often too busy with their regular tasking to take the time to learn a new instrument when they first receive it. They may keep putting off their lessons until later. This can lead to increasing disharmony among your users who feel they were forced onto this new device and lack the time and energy to make it work for them. It is essential to provide ongoing training opportunities in a variety of formats through the end of your migration and beyond.

Apart from training, you’ll also need to accommodate shifting mobile usage needs. The power users may recognize the potential offered by these new devices and start demanding even more functionality that was once only available on their desktop computers. Because of this, the organization will need to be receptive to those needs and determine whether it can securely satisfy this group using your mobile management solution. New device functionality is also frequently emerging from patches and OS upgrades, and integration practices will need to be determined that best suit the environment.

MIL recommends organizing a permanent, regularly-scheduled, cross-functional review board to monitor mobile OS and application updates, test them, and decide how to manage their deployment or disablement. Enterprise mobile management solutions may give you all the tools you need to conduct your organization’s mobile symphony, but it will always be up to you to keep up the tempo.

About the Author

Tom King, MIL Business Analyst

Tom King serves as a project management and technical writing specialist for MIL. He has managed the implementation of numerous cloud services and solutions for federal customers, including Amazon Web Services, Google MDM, and Microsoft Azure, Intune, Office 365, and SharePoint. He is a certified APMP-Foundation professional.