IT directors share pointers on managing the myriad challenges of supporting remote users and staff who want to use their favourite devices at work.
With over 90 percent of users using laptops, Deloitte New Zealand knew it was crucial to adjust to this new IT paradigm.
"In terms of a mobile direction rather than a policy, we have to adapt to how our people work," says Deloitte's IT manager Eugene Piercy. "Our most recent change about six months ago was to further embrace mobile devices other than laptops," he adds.
According to Piercy, Deloitte has a secure wireless network in each of its offices which is available for users to connect their smartphones and tablet devices. "This is totally separate from the corporate network," he explains.
The company has also extended its offering past web-based email so users can access desktop applications via Citrix Receiver as well as have access to secure and encrypted email on their devices using the Good Technology client.
With the implementation of these changes, Deloitte was faced with challenges beyond the expected security issues.
For Piercy, it was vital to implement a solution that was "not so difficult to use that people don't want to use it", while keeping it cost effective and secure, as well as able to cope with change.
In the process, he says he has learnt a few lessons: "Start planning now for how you will provide access for people with mobile devices or you could find that people are going to do it on their own," is his key advice to other CIOs. "Make sure that your solution is easy for people to use otherwise they will try and work around it."
A work in progress
Arc Innovations, a strategic business unit of Meridian Energy, chose Joob Mobile to deliver its smart energy services to the SME sector.
Using the Joob Mobile platform, the company is able to enable customers to view their electricity consumption and costs in near real time, from anywhere, on any device. Customers access a visual interface that the company says makes it easier to decide how to reduce power usage.
According to Tim Lynskey, Arc Innovations GM of marketing and business development, "mobility policy is a work in progress, however Arc's offering to customers is to supply metering data as required (historical, scheduled, near real time) using standards-based protocols or via any requested device".
Lynskey says the biggest challenge faced by the company in setting up this offering was "to support the diverse range of devices appearing in the market, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, Windows phones, various flavours of browser with varying levels of standards support".
The platform, accessed by users through a username and password combination, was built by the Joob mobile development team and is a HTML5 website and a native iPhone application. "As soon as there is sufficient customer demand we will get Jade to port the application to Android as well," says Lynskey.
Depending on the type of projects, there can be additional layers of authentication added, for extra security. The company says the key challenge is to have the correct level of authentication while, at the same time, minimising the requirements for a legitimate user.
Lynskey says having the right partners helps when setting up a mobility solution such as the one adopted by Arc Innovations. "To aid speed to market, it was important to partner with someone who had the technology framework in place to remove that particular headache from us."
Bring your favourite device to work
Dr Liam Keating, APAC director and China IT country manager at Intel, says the company began integrating staff-owned hand-held devices into the enterprise environment less than two years ago. Intel, he says, realised the trend of consumerisation of technology -- of employees wanting to user their personal devices to access work data -- and "embraced" it.
Today, he estimates half of the hand-held devices employees use at work fall under this 'bring your own' category.
There are key lessons from the experience. "On the cautious side, I would say be aware that not all hand-held devices or smart phones have equal security built in," says Keating. "You need to very carefully test each device, you need to understand each security profile and in some cases you will need to engineer an additional solution to avoid security loopholes."
The rewards or 'positives', on the other hand, include employee productivity and customer satisfaction. "Their respect for the IT organisation greatly increases," says Keating. "Their productivity increases because wherever they go, they have access to their email, their calendars. They know where they are supposed to be next particularly when employees are travelling. These are huge benefits."
See related story: Embracing 'bring your own' technology