Managing a multi-OS environment – change is the only constant

By Ojas Rege, VP Strategy, MobileIron


When it comes to the future of mobile in business you can rely on the fact that change is inevitable. Our financial services customers are transforming into Mobile First organisations that are embracing mobile as their primary computing platform. However, this transition is hard and there are two things I can tell you with certainty.

The first is that the days of a single mobile operating system (OS) in the global banking enterprise are over. As I highlighted in my last article, with the example of the traditional corporate BlackBerry device estate, it is no longer a viable option to have a single OS spanning the entire workforce. All of our customers are planning for three mobile operating systems. Right now, Apple and Android rule in consumer devices and we have a battle for third between BlackBerry and Windows Phone 8. However last week’s news suggests that consumers are not adopting the new BlackBerry devices at the pace that was anticipated

This brings me to my second point: whatever operating systems you may have in place in your business today will change. When MobileIron was founded in 2007, the tried and true mobile operating systems were BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile, and now, only six years later, two have reached end-of-life and the future of the third is very much in question. Why? Because consumers chose iOS and Android instead, and their employers had no choice but to change as well.

In the financial services sector, we see our customers starting to focus on building apps that support banking functions such as wealth management and portfolio analysis, as well as ones that mobilise internal operational functions. With the single OS approach dying out, that challenge is to do all this across multiple operating systems whilst promoting user experience and not blowing your budget on security and management.

As new mobile devices continue to roll out in financial organisations, and employees are able to exercise more control over which devices they use, you need to change how you handle mobile management. Organisations need to accept that change is inevitable so they can get on with finding the best way to manage their diverse mobile environments.
In planning and preparing for constant change, the key to a successful multi-OS strategy is not to focus on the device and the operating system. You need to focus on the security of your corporate data and the experience of the user that will in turn drive adoption of your mobile initiatives. For a multi-OS environment to be truly successful, each operating system you choose to support should be treated equally. Here are the three main considerations in preparing for a truly multi-OS environment:

* Visibility Across All Platforms
You need a way to configure and secure smartphones and tablets efficiently, even as the device landscape is shifting. You can, with the right platform, manage iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8 from a central control panel. This control panel must be able to manage and secure any new operating systems as well as the mix of operating systems change. Being able manage the entire lifecycle – provision, configure, secure, wipe, retire – from one system across all device types not only saves time and complexity in management, but also improves the user experience through consistency in how their devices are managed by IT.

* Consistent, Secure Policies Regardless of Device
Security is paramount for financial services businesses, especially with mobile devices which are easily lost, misplaced, or stolen. So having the right security policies in place is key to effective mobile device management. What type of passcode will you require on each device? Will it be encrypted? How will you monitor apps that are installed on the device? And what’s the minimum version of the OS that is required?

As you move to a multi-OS deployment, your policies must be consistent across all operating systems. For example, passcodes should have the same number of digits and the encryption level should be the same. Finding a platform that makes it easy for mobile administrators to assign the same consistent policies across operating systems is critical, and also ensures that the end user’s experience is as similar as possible across all operating systems. Remember, they’re increasingly likely to have more than one!

*Pave the way for Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD).
In most organisations, employees respond very positively when they have a say in the devices they use for work. Giving workers the option to choose their laptop, tablet, or smartphone empowers them to work when, where, and how they choose.

Setting up a multi-OS mobile device management system can prepare the company for a future in which users bring their own devices, regardless of type, to work. When employees handle their own mobile contracts and payments they are happier. There is also an opportunity for the organisation to save money. Cross-platform functionality allows organisations to standardise management of devices, making a smooth transition to BYOD possible.

So, bringing management of all devices into one console to provide visibility, control, and consistency across multiple operating systems and devices, is the next step. For many, it’s best to start with a universal need like email before you move on to more advanced management activities.

Begin by standardising email, enabling passcodes, and mandating encryption across all devices. With these basic capabilities addressed, and your multi-OS mobile estate under a single, secure management roof, you can then start to advance your Mobile IT initiatives and expand the power of your workforce.

One way to do that is in the use of mobile apps. Being able to distribute mobile apps at scale whilst at the same time, ensuring that operational data in these apps, documents, email and content sharing platforms is secure, is the next step on the Mobile First journey for financial organisations. In my next article, I’ll be taking a closer look at how you can securely create, deploy and distribute applications in your business, as well as asking whether data and documents on the move can really ever become risk-free.

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