Mobile lifecycle management takes charge of BYOA

Companies are struggling to cope with the myriad apps that employees now bring to work. Mobile lifecycle management may make sense of the mobile madness.

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Mobile Lifecycle Management

Mobile lifecycle management

Just five years ago, BlackBerry ruled the enterprise. It was easy back then -- the vendor took care of security, leaving the IT department to worry only about the care and cost of the device.

Fast-forward to the present, and it's an entirely different story. The "bring your own device," or BYOD, phenomenon has introduced dozens of personally owned mobile devices into the workplace -- and Apple's iPhone has unseated the BlackBerry as the smartphone of choice, but without the built-in security service. Meanwhile, the Android operating system is gaining fans, and users might even consider Windows-based phones. Of course, the BlackBerry could make a comeback, too. In the uncharted expanse of the new mobile universe, you can't take anything for granted.

Best practices for mobile rollout

  • Formulate a mobile strategy for the business, including a roadmap for supporting personal smartphones and iPads, and the distribution of corporate apps.
  • Create a "mobile center of excellence," where all department managers work with the IT team to guide the technology roadmap.
  • When it comes to implementation, don't boil the ocean. Have a phased approach to BYOD to understand adoption and its impact on your support model.
  • Focus on the business benefits of enterprise mobility. Risks need to be managed, and companies must understand what they are trying to achieve through mobility deployment.
  • Create an enterprise app store that includes rules and alerts to ensure employees upgrade applications when new versions are available.
  • Understand the different ways to add value to mobile applications, such as ways to wrap new functionality around the existing configuration.
  • Consider tablets and smartphones as another platform that complements desktops and notebooks. For example, use mobile apps to better monitor key performance indicators. Mobility offers an opportunity to track and analyze business performance metrics in real time.
  • Navigate compliance and regulatory complexity by implementing a policy in which employees must opt in to a user agreement for mobility services. The agreement should give the company the right to wipe devices of all company data (in the event employees leave the company, for example). The agreement may even restrict cloud services on personal devices.

Source: IDC Report 2012 Best Practices in Enterprise Mobility Deployment: Four European Case Studies, and additional reporting by Business Information

But what's an adventure for business users is a real headache for the IT department. BYOD poses an enormous management problem that introduces security risks, could increase carrier costs, and, as more and more mobile devices are brought into the enterprise, creates a strain on network operations.

And that's not the end of it. BYOD has morphed into BYOA, or bring your own app, -- in which employees download third-party apps and tap into cloud services over the corporate network. By bypassing IT, users can introduce myriad problems into the enterprise, from security breaches to unmanaged data flowing in -- and out -- of the organization. All that may compromise compliance and regulatory directives.

If you can't beat 'em …

For IT though, there's little else to do but deal with the influx of new applications.

"I think the days of trying to control [BYOA] are over," said Jason O'Sullivan, vice president of corporate technology at Classified Ventures LLC, the Chicago-based parent of Cars.com and Apartments.com. "Now, it is more about corralling it and riding the wave through," he noted, pointing out that trying to block users from downloading apps on their devices is a losing battle. "We have to manage the trend, as opposed to saying, 'No, you are not doing this.' Those days are gone."

Answering IT's prayers is a new technology trend that pulls together the various management products into a mobile lifecycle management (MLM) platform. And the MLM market is about to take off. According to an IDC study released in mid-2013, the worldwide MLM software revenue totaled $nearly $800 million in 2012. Over the next few years that number is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 21.9%, resulting in total revenue of $2.1 billion by 2017.

The idea behind MLM -- also known as enterprise mobility management -- is this: Mobile applications and devices are an extension of the enterprise. So, just like other IT resources, they need to be subject to specialized processes and policies.

"The core foundation is how data is stored, transmitted and represented, and how security is built around the applications," said John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, a mobility management vendor based in Atlanta. 

The future is now

But this holistic approach to enterprise mobility didn't evolve overnight, and companies have tried lots of tricks to get their mobile houses in order. For Classified Ventures, building an enterprise app store -- in which company-approved applications are housed and allowed to be downloaded on-demand -- has been the best way to deal with BYOA.

Enterprise app stores are still a Band-Aid for IT pros in the trenches, because they don't solve all the problems associated with a mobile workforce. Another emerging trend comes close: future-proofing mobile applications by managing them at a granular level. That addresses deployment, security, analytics, data synchronization, storage, version control and the ability to remotely debug a problem on a device halfway across the world -- or wipe it clean if a device is lost.

"Companies have to think about this from a proactive standpoint," said Stacy Crook, an analyst at IDC specializing in mobile enterprise research. "They need to have a 'mobile first' mentality to figure out how to build these processes into their applications."

More important, they need to create a roadmap in order to understand what is needed -- and establish a flexible foundation on which to build.

Managing the mobile lifecycle

Enterprise mobility must be approached strategically and holistically to facilitate cost management, support and security, and policies. Nucleus Research suggested six software elements of mobile lifecycle management (MLM):

Wireless expense management. WEM allows companies to track inventory, service orders and invoices associated with direct mobility costs. It should be implemented on a company-liable account in order to consolidate and optimize rate plans, consolidate the number of devices being used, control international roaming, support bulk purchases and negotiate contracts.

Mobile device management. The bring your own device, or BYOD, trend has introduced many different devices into the enterprise, which means companies need a multiplatform approach to support current deployments as well as to future-proof their efforts as new operating environments are inevitably introduced. MDM automation can reduce the support labor associated with devices by more than 75%.

Mobile application management. Enterprise mobility extends beyond the device. Companies must also track application usage, antivirus protection and identity management. Companies that fail to protect all these aspects of mobile applications risk noncompliance for governance, risk management and compliance, or GRC, measures.

Document and information management. Companies must consider how documents and other corporate information are being managed in a mobile environment. Traditional consumer-grade technologies that have been adopted may lack the software APIs, security and compliance features associated with mobile enterprise needs.

Network management. To support remote employees and reduce data costs, companies can use virtual private networks and protected Wi-Fi access.

Virtualization. The popularity of BYOD has prompted IT to support "dual persona" devices, meaning one area of the device provides either sandboxed or virtualized access to the enterprise. The tools separate corporate apps, data and documents from personal mobile assets, thereby reducing compliance and security concerns.

When companies are considering mobile enterprise apps, industry watchers say, certain pillars of the mobile lifecycle need to be included, -- or at least considered -- as part of the foundation (see "Managing the Mobile Lifecycle").

"Companies have to look at expense management, wireless network management, device management, application management, documents and content management, as well as their virtualization strategy," said Hyoun Park, an analyst at Nucleus Research. "All of these are now part of the mobile strategy, and yet they represent several different functional areas within IT."

At Classified Ventures, O'Sullivan began outlining a mobile strategy that defines policies and procedures for enterprise-enabled applications, shaping the contours of an mobile lifecycle management project. His team is working on ways to monitor, manage and govern smartphones and tablets that run on different operating systems and require specially developed mobile apps, yet need to become an extension of the established systems environment.

Still, there are a lot of moving parts, so Park suggests that companies create a steering committee made up of business leaders from the various functional areas to guide the technology roadmap. "Over time, you may see companies establishing a specific mobility department, but I don't think that will move out of the traditional IT or network services environment."

Indeed, once mobile devices are given access to the corporate network, they become a part of the IT infrastructure, whether you like it or not, Park notes. That's why mapping out a plan is so important. "We see that 75% of companies are allowing BYOD, but only about quarter of them have a formal effort in place. Most are just winging it," he said.

That’s a wrap

Winging a mobile strategy isn’t smart policy. But "wrapping" up mobile apps is. Today, mobile applications are being designed in a whole new way. In the old, container model, functionality was configured up front, leaving no room to address security or data management issues, for example, as applications are upgraded. Under the new approach, mobile apps are wrapped, that is, additional functionality can be layered over the application's native capabilities as needed.

Regardless of the approach, "the important thing is how the mobile lifecycle is managed, secured and supported," said Senthil Krishnapillai, SAP's vice president of product management for mobile security.

SAP recently partnered with Mocana, a mobile security platform provider, to enable the addition of fine-grained usage and security policies to Apple iOS and Android applications without requiring the developer to write any code. Mocana's wrapping technique is displayed in a product called Mobile App Protection, or MAP. Once SAP's Afaria suite of mobile device, content and app management software is wrapped with MAP, corporate data in an app can be protected by a range of policies, including authentication, government-standard encryption and per-app virtual private networking, to provide comprehensive protection for different uses and contexts, the company said.

Similarly, Classified Ventures' O'Sullivan, who has used the App47 mobile application management platform since January, takes advantage of the tool's ability to enforce version control on applications developed in-house. For example, an app designed for the Cars.com team runs on the iPad, allowing salespeople in the field to show dealers a secure demo of new products. When a new version of the application is rolled out, the system is set up so a user can ignore the alert to upgrade only a certain number of times before the app becomes unusable. Through an App47 management dashboard, the IT department can shut down an old version of the app, ensuring that everyone is on the latest version and there's no need to maintain backward compatibility or worry about security holes.

"We provide the updates we want them to consume, and when everyone sees the latest version, they go get it," O'Sullivan said. "For corporate applications, that is a win for us."

Moving on

For more on mobile lifecycle management

Mobile lifecycle management software is changing the mobile world

How to choose the right approach to mobile lifecycle management

Another name for mobile lifecycle management: enterprise mobility management

O'Sullivan has learned that it's best to embrace change rather than resist it. When the Cars.com and Apartments.com sales teams asked for tablets to use in the field, the company bought more than 500 iPads. The sales teams standardized on the company-owned tablets, although IT also supports a BYOD policy -- simply because it is necessary to give employees the tools they need to do their jobs.

"We would essentially be hobbling ourselves if we didn't support our sales force who want to use the kind of equipment needed to show the dealer how their customers are using [our product]," O'Sullivan said. In addition, tools are now available to make the transition to enterprise mobile apps easy -- and successful, said O'Sullivan, who struggled early in the process to oversee mobile device management and to keep the applications relevant.

"I thought, 'There has to be an easier way to do this,' he said. "And then I Googled 'mobile application management tools.' "

Stephanie Neil is a freelance writer and a correspondent for Business Information. Email her at stephanieneil@comcast.net.

This was first published in August 2013

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