How To Manage Apple Devices

Can Apple mobile devices successfully integrate into the various corporate cultures of your customers' businesses? Solution providers need to ensure user satisfaction as well productivity in order to make the deployment of Apple devices into the enterprise a success. Here, Hart, CEO of Tekserve, offers seven tips for a successful implementation. — Jennifer D. Bosavage

The concept of iOS in the enterprise is fairly new, so much so that little exists in the way of a roadmap or case study on how to perform a successful implementation. The work that some forward-thinking organizations have already done shows that the goal of integrating and managing Apple devices can be achieved. Those thriving projects follow best practices that can help IT admins manage and secure their iOS deployments.

1. Develop a mobile management strategy as early as possible
The importance of mobile management can’t be overstated, especially for an IT department concerned about data security. It requires careful thinking about the specific goals you want the devices to serve, including asking questions about the tools and policies that will be implemented. Will IT push out Exchange profiles? What apps does the organization want on each device? What will the model within the MDM environment look like? Those answers should be balanced with the need to ensure user satisfaction and productivity – which is one of the primary reasons to bring Apple devices into the enterprise.

The key here is control – IT departments want it, but mobile users aren't going to put up with too many restrictions. That’s where mobile management comes in. Using it, managers can exert greater control over the security and use of the devices on their networks, while still providing employees with the tools they want to increase productivity and satisfaction.

2. Re-think the approach to security
CIOs, justifiably concerned that an unauthorized party will get a hold of crucial corporate data, will take every necessary step to lock iOS devices down and ensure that no copies of documents, spreadsheets or other data leave the corporate network. Often they’ll use tools, such as sandbox environments, to complement their MDM tools and add an extra layer of protection.

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That is a very traditional IT way of thinking, and if there’s anything Apple has made clear, it’s that these are not traditional IT tools.

So while the desire to lock down devices to the point of limiting user access to the full functionality is understandable, it’s also not the best way to ensure worker productivity and satisfaction. A more constructive route is to consider why the organization (or its employees) invested in iOS in the first place, and think about how the approach to security can support these goals.

When setting security policies around these devices, think about the value of data, what types of information need to be secured, and whether sacrificing certain protocols in the interest of user access to device functionality might be desirable.

3. Don’t go it alone
Though the concept of Apple in the enterprise may strike some as fairly new, it has been successfully done before. Knowing this, it’s important to seek outside help when looking to do a first, big implementation or even a pilot project.

The common belief is that, especially when it comes to pilots, an organization does not need outside help because it is just dipping a toe in the water with a few devices. But the truth is just the opposite. Since the pilot will likely be used to determine the feasibility of a widespread rollout, it’s critical that all potential scenarios are accounted for to ensure success.

Next: Four More Tips for Deploying iOS Devices

4. Don’t lock people out
It’s important to determine the balance between security and freedom. Mobility is all about freedom, and while it’s possible to cut off all access to apps that aren’t deployed by the company, the result is employees who get the iPhones or iPads they’ve asked for, but none of the features they actually want to use.

Requirements are requirements, and certain rules are non-negotiable. When a policy is flexible, consider the unintended effect on productivity. Rather than shutting users out of certain features and device functionality, use them to create guidelines that will enable greater and more versatile use of the device. People love their iPhones and iPads, so that should be used to the company’s advantage.

5. Know the user
As consumerization of IT and “Bring-Your-Own-Device” programs allow for the introduction of a variety of mobile devices into IT environments, users will continue to expect IT to support them.

That is where knowing the iOS users’ expectations become critical. The IT department needs to understand what employees want out of support, which, in most cases, is simply better access to the tools and the data the company already provides. IT should think about how they can add value for the user that will make the device essential to their satisfaction and productivity, whether it’s building in-house apps, or finding ways to offer access to mission-critical tools, like, that are already on their PCs.

No matter how pro-Android or pro-BlackBerry the organization may be, this must be put aside so some time can be spent with an iOS device to get a sense of how the user interacts with it. Only by doing this can the company truly get a sense for what users want from IT support of iOS devices, and how it can be delivered.

6. Know the desired use
“iOS in business” covers a lot of ground. Companies of all sizes are finding new and innovative uses for Apple devices within their organizations, and not all approaches are the same.

IT must address the “user” approach, in which the devices will be issued to or brought in by employees and used for productivity, or what can be referred to as “kiosk” use, which is a scenario in which the product is deployed for only one specific function. In many cases, the use profile will change by the day or even by the hour, as users leveraging the device in kiosk mode by day will want to free it up for personal use after working hours. Regardless, the fact remains that while both approaches require management, they do so to a different extent. The determined approach should be flexible enough to accommodate diverse usage patterns, and to evolve as the role of the device changes over time.

7. Revisit the strategy frequently
iOS deployment in the enterprise is constantly changing, and moves at such an extraordinary pace that every single upgrade of an Apple product requires a new way of thinking about how to manage that tool and, as a result, renders previous ways of thinking outdated and, at worst, unworkable with the new paradigm.

So what does this mean for the enterprise?

It means that any strategy around mobile management of iOS devices has to be constructed in such a way as to be lightweight, nimble and adaptable to any change. Rather than building a bulletproof plan that tries to account for any and all future scenarios, evaluate what’s going on right now and put together a process that’s easy to repeat, in the event that it needs to change on the fly.

Employees are bringing iOS-enabled products into the workplace whether the IT department likes it or not. Rather than scrambling to keep up, and using outmoded IT practices and procedures to account for these changes, developing a nimble strategy for managing iOS products will position the organization to adapt to whatever changes Apple has in store, while giving employees what they want: access to the best and most user-friendly products on the market.