Pentland Brands unleashes employee-owned iPads

Pentland Brands is a global apparel company whose brands include Lacoste, Boxfresh and Speedo. Until 18 months ago, it had a fairly standard mobile device policy – employees that needed them were issued with either a BlackBerry or a Nokia phone.

But for Guy Manchester, group infrastructure manager at Pentland, this arrangement was not going to cut it for long.

“I realised that there was a bit of ground swell in terms of mobile,” he says. “The iPhone had been released and people were starting to look at smartphones.”

At first, Manchester imagined that the company would issue smartphones to employees itself. This prompted him to assess the various mobile device management options on the market.

As an SAP customer, he looked at the software giant’s Afaria product, but he found it too large and complex for Pentland’s requirements. “It’s a massive solution, which only pays dividends when you get into deploying mobile SAP implementations,” he says. “For us, it was overkill.”

He also looked at Good, but felt that the vendor’s approach of creating a partitioned, secure environment in which company data can be accessed would sacrifice the usability of Apple devices. “It’s important that people have the same experience on the device that they’d have at home.” he explains.

In the end, he plumped for US vendor Air Watch. The fact that Air Watch’s system is hosted in the cloud allowed Manchester to launch a pilot without heavy investment in internal infrastructure, he explains, plus it was endorsed as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.

By the time he had selected an MDM supplier, however, bring your own device was firmly on the agenda. “People were saying to me: I’ve got an iPhone or an iPad at home, why can’t I access my corporate email?”

Following a successful pilot, Pentland launched a BYOD scheme in July – but only for iPads. The company’s executives wanted to limit the scheme to iPads, Manchester explains, to prevent brand divisions buying iPhones under their own steam. “That’s when you can get hidden cost creeping in the door.”

The pilot started with executives, and grew to include senior managers and sales staff. This summer, Pentland rolled out the latest version of Air Watch and made the BYOD programme available to all staff.

“We’re up to around 130 people using the system, and that’s before we’ve done any internal marketing,” he explains. “They mainly use their iPads for the standard stuff – email, contacts, calendar – but we’re starting to see people use them for task management, project management and PDF annotation applications too.”

Manchester says the company looked into building a business case for its BYOD programme by cutting the cost of company- issued laptops. “In actual fact, we couldn’t build a business case – there’s no cost benefit for us,” he says. “So instead it was a value judgment: what value is the business getting out of these things?

“For us, there’s immense value in letting execs take iPads around to present information or take notes, instead of lugging around a laptop,” he says. “Plus, we are quite a dynamic and young company, and this has helped us create a buzz.”

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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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