The mobile network untangled – how to simplify mobility

The pros and cons of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) and the alphabet soup of trendy mobile device strategies have been argued ad infinitum over the last few years- and the acronym war doesn't seem to show any signs of concluding.

Each approach comes with its unique set of challenges, but as Nisha Sharma, managing director of Accenture Mobility argues, giving employees the option to choose their own corporate-approved devices with appropriate security and standardisation appears to be a good compromise, and one that is fast gaining headway over the compliance headache of BYOD.

'From an end user perspective, the primary benefit of CYOD is having some flexibility with their corporate-liable device,' she says. 'IT can also focus on supporting a limited number of platforms and devices rather than trying to support as many as possible. Apart from email, users would expect company websites, portals and apps to work on their device, so a CYOD program allows companies to focus efforts on providing that access on a limited number of platforms rather than trying to make them work on everything.'

Gartner analyst Rob Smith also believes we're going to end up with a mostly CYOD enterprise landscape in the UK, thanks to the legal and financial challenges it allows companies to bypass.

But ultimately, he says, there is one golden rule:

'Never trust a mobile device unless you control 100% of the data and apps on it.'

Doing this is virtually impossible for modern smartphones, of course, and the idea of asking an employee not to install a certain app on their device is about as unrealistic, whether you are running a BYOD or CYOD policy.

'With that in mind, since you can never trust these devices, the first piece of architecture you should tackle is the creation of a separate network segment on your wireless network that your mobile devices connect into,' advises Smith. 'All that traffic should be routed over your internal security such as your firewall and anti-virus, before it even touches your internal network.'

Keeping it simple

There are other ways to simplify and control your mobile environment. Consolidating all communications networks under one supplier can help reduce total costs.

The only spanner in the works, says Smith, is when you involve Android devices. This is because every device is controlled by the telco, not the handset manufacturer, unless you buy it directly from the manufacturer. So a device won't get the latest firmware unless the operator releases that firmware.

> See also: Why tablets are the 'sweet spot' of BYOD

'Take Galaxy S5 for example,' says Smith. 'If there's a security bug in it then Samsung will fix it and put out the security fix immediately for anybody who's bought the device from them. But then it goes to Vodafone, or EE, or 02, who have to add their own customisations for Android and then reinsert it into their networks. This can take forever, and it's designed for consumers, not corporations.'

'So the best strategy for IT and business in terms of security,' he argues, 'is to buy directly from the handset manufacturer, but this loses the discount that telcos give, so it's always a balance.'

Apple have cornered three quarters of the corporate device market thanks to this problem, and the fact that all their devices run the same software no matter where they are bought from.

With Android, there is severe fragmentation of both the devices and software versions. According to this year's report on the fragmented Android landscape from wireless network data mapping specialist Open Signal, there are somewhere in the region of 18,700 Android devices in use the UK, running any number of software versions. So the key with Android, says Smith, is cutting through the jungle of different devices and allowing only a small subset by limiting both the number of devices to choose from, specifying carriers they are on.

Big picture thinking

Whatever the end-point device landscape they're dealing with, corporations must take into account all the other elements involved in creating a complete strategy for mobile working. Unification and consolidation, if approached strategically, can deliver greater efficiencies and ensure widespread business improvement.

'Network complexity can be extremely harmful to business success so the sooner businesses begin the journey towards simplification, the more likely they will deliver positive business outcomes,' says Graham Fry, managing director of avsnet.

'Wired, wireless, remote access – these disparate access methods need to be unified under a single policy and a unified management solution.'

Fry's advice is to look for a provider that can design, implement and support a network that puts mobility at the heart of everything regardless of device. This means a platform with a context-based central policy, system-wide visibility and comprehensive lifecycle management across all connected devices, mobile or not.

Designing a network that pre-empts advancing technology, connectivity methods and usage trends is crucial, considering how expensive and difficult it can be for organisations to adapt a legacy network once implemented.

As Francis Cripps, head of mobility at Fujitsu argues, Identity Access Management (IAM) should form part of the solution, particularly now that wireless connectivity is becoming a need-to-have in enterprise and is dissolving traditional boundaries of internal and external networks.

'Increasingly we all walk around with smart devices and expect to use them wherever we are,' says Cripps. 'At a supplier, partner or customer site it'ss no different. Allowing guest wireless access is not really much different to BYOD. It is important to identify the device which is connecting to the network and potentially the user of the device.'

Most of the leading products in this space now interact with the mainstream Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) or Mobile Device Management (MDM) products – in some cases they are part of the same vendor product suite.

> See also: A DIY guide to BYOD: 7 steps to follow

'By deploying both network IAM and EMM as an integrated solution it is possible to control device and user access with granular efficiency thus future-proofing the organisation for multiple use cases,' Cripps explains.

The future's an open door

Cripps believes that in the near future enterprise networks will be a communication hub- the front door of an enterprise.

'I’ve already touched on the security and management but what about the value add?' he asks.  'For example, in retail wireless networks are used to enhance the customer experience but also as a marketing tool: 'Free Wi-Fi HERE, just enter your details,’ and a CRM is born with landing pages for advertising.'

'Add location services via Wi-Fi or emerging options such as RFID or Bluetooth LE and a tracking and targeted advertising tool is available. It will be possible to know that the buyer from company X is about to walk into your HQ reception and change the reception displays accordingly whilst notifying the Sales Director that they are arriving, and catering that they take their coffee white with two sugars.'

For communication consolidation, 4G/5G offload onto WLAN could make fixed/mobile convergence a reality rather than a clunky pipe-dream; whilst VoIP devices or apps will become the default as the wired desk phone becomes as prevalent in an office as a fire extinguisher.

Mobilising collaboration capabilities for employees must also be an integral strand of any enterprise mobility strategy,. The trend of moving to more global and mobile workforce makes the ability to collaborate at any time and from any location critical to achieving business objectives.

'The proliferation of devices and communications channels is driving dramatic growth in collaboration solutions, including rising video traffic and document sharing,' says Nisha Sharma, managing director of Accenture Mobility. 'Mobility enhances the value of such social collaboration tools.'

Sharma argues that strategies must reflect this to achieve the greatest business value, and this means creating broader digital strategies that remove the siloes between tools like social and mobile in order to get the greater benefits from them.

'A business case must be built based on the impact of these technologies to a network, and how's it's reshaping how networks operate,' argues Sharma. With the rise of mobile collaboration, voice and data now move across the same, converged network. Collaboration solutions are increasingly delivered from the cloud, and this – alongside the rise in volume and type of device accessing the network and increases in data and analytics – can often require major network redesigns. ?

> See also: As wearables enter the workplace, IT revisits BYOD lessons

'Just adding additional bandwidth often isn’t enough because many new applications require higher quality of service (QoS) with guaranteed availability,' says Sharma. 'At the same time, IT organisations are under pressure to reduce costs. Solving these network challenges will clearly require careful investments, so a business case needs to stress both the strain on infrastructure and its business consequences.'

Back to business

Fundamentally, while it might be easy for an IT organisation to approach a mobile strategy based on integrating the latest shiny device or killer app into the workforce, falling into this trap without focusing on business outcomes could result in an expensive mistake.

Everything from internal app development and BYOD policies to external engagement via mobile channels and the use of traditional business applications via mobile devices should really be addressed through the creation of a formal, enterprise-wide mobility strategy.

'Any mobile strategy must focus on how this new approach will add value to the core business,' says Cripps. 'For example by increasing staff efficiency and worklife balance, or improving customer satisfaction and on the store floor. Once desired business outcomes are established then prioritise for business need, budget etc. Only then should technology become a step.'

Try not to get drawn into expensive niche solutions that might have a finite lifespan or only support a small scope of apps and devices, he advises. 'It is vital to keep any technical mobile IT enabling services as agile and flexible as possible.'

> See also: What a BYOD disaster looks like – and how to prevent it

Fully understanding usage costs, including mobile network usage, is another key element, as is not forgetting the softer requirements such as Human Resources input- 'not everyone suddenly wants corporate instant messaging live on their phone at midnight!'

And a future-proof mobility strategy should be created and adopted with input from teams including HR, legal, IT and the business itself – a C-level strategy, not a CIO-level strategy.

'It is vital to understand what is needed to support business objectives, and to build a network of peer partners from the start,' says Sharma. 'Many of these partners will be responsible for providing the non-technical capabilities of a collaboration strategy, leading the support and participation amongst their teams.'

Only when all that’s in place and a clear roadmap is planned, can the adoption of mobility technology really begin to transform an organisation, and the relationships with its customers and employees.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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