It’s one thing to rollout new mobile devices or a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative in a United States-based company. International companies face some unique challenges in rolling out mobile devices and BYOD in particular across their worldwide offices. I recently had the chance to get some questions answered via email about the subject of international rollouts by Harjot Sidhu, VP of Consulting at Vox Mobile.

Global mobility rollouts

Significant differences exist between a global mobility rollout versus one that takes place only in the continental United States according to Sidhu. He advises global mobility rollout take the following into account:

  • Coverage challenges in remote regions. For example, the northern regions of Canada.
  • Mobility costs will vary dramatically because very few countries have unlimited data plans, and the increased use of data on smartphones versus older BlackBerry devices are significant.
  • Roaming costs will likely be greater as employees travel more frequently outside of their respective countries.
  • Hardware and accessory costs may be much higher for smartphones outside of North America.

Sidhu also adds privacy expectations will be greater in many countries, especially in the European Union. Deploying BYOD outside of the United States can be very difficult. Even privacy expectations with corporate-issued devices will vary.

Support requirements will increase as employees move to smartphones and providing support in multiple languages can be very challenging.

Security concerns may vary from country to country. Keeping confidential information in some countries may be a concern.

Some other rollout challenges that Sidhu cites include top mobile platforms could vary dramatically country to country. He gives the example of while it’s very practical to deploy 100% iOS in the United States, the same deployment could be costly and undesirable in other countries.

Top Android manufacturers may vary from country to country as well according to Sidhu.

Global mobility rollout security challenges

Sidhu’s points around global mobility rollout security challenges include some of the usual standards including ensuring information on old devices is secure.

“Don’t just focus on the new devices being deployed but ensure there is a process in place for the older devices,” Sidhu advises. “Secure the information and resell/recycle old equipment appropriately. Don’t forget that old BlackBerry devices may have saved email attachments to media cards.”

Sidhu also advises building a comprehensive and realistic policy document and communicating it across the global organization. He sees proactive security very challenging since smartphones no longer have the extensive policy controls that BlackBerry devices have.

Policies must now be written down and communicated to end-users is another tip from Sidhu. He advises, “Many systems are available to present policy documents to end-users and audit the acceptance of the policies. Build FAQ documents around the policies to address questions in a more straightforward fashion.”

Another tip from Sidhu is to build an official program or framework around suspected rogue activity. For example, if you know employees are using DropBox in an unauthorized fashion, an attractive alternative should be put in place rather than simply attempting to prohibit the behavior.

He warns to watch out for third-party Android app stores! He ranks Android as a safe platform but only if the global enterprise limits users to Google Play and the Amazon App Store. Sidhu points out that while this restriction is reasonable in the United States, it may not be palatable in the Asia-Pacific and some other regions.

Culture and the mobility roll out

Sidhu offers the following advice for managing the potential cultural issues that a global mobility or BYOD roll out might bring with it:

  • Take it one region at a time
  • Identify the components that can be global (such as infrastructure), but others that must be regional (such as policy).
  • Try to leverage local resources even as a sounding board

An IT organization must not sit in an “ivory tower” assuming they know how the world works Sidhu cautions. For example, while it’s reasonable today to eliminate all BlackBerry with United States employees, it may not be practical in some other world regions.

MDM/EMM in a global mobility rollout

A global mobility rollout may change the way that an organization deploys mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions.

He cites multi-tenancy as a requirement if the IT departments are decentralized across the global regions. His company had one client with different IT organizations for the Americas, EMEA (Europe Middle East Asia), and Asia Pacific went with a multi-tenant EMM solution.

Some countries may also have privacy requirements that require the EMM solution be configured so the administrator does not to see which personal applications are installed on an end-user device or even the device phone number according to Sidhu.

Corporate data ownership and global mobility

There is very little legal precedent about corporate data ownership that we are aware of Sidhu mentions. BYOD and even the matter of whether reimbursements for BYOD devices are a taxable benefit may also vary between countries.

Opinions in these areas will vary from corporation to corporation and country to country depending on the opinion of internal corporate legal counsel according to Sidhu.

“Our primary task is to identify the legal problem, it’s up to the corporate lawyers to come up with answers,” Sidhu relates. “Surprisingly, these opinions do vary quite a bit between different corporations depending on their corporate culture.”

Lessons learned from global mobility rollouts

Sidhu offers the following lessons learned for large enterprises that can be gleaned from enterprise mobility rollouts:

  • Ensure appropriate governance is in place with cross-stakeholder and cross-regional participation. Avoid the “ivory tower” approach at all costs. Ensure regional viewpoints are taken into account.
  • Build a global mobile strategy but call-out key components that must be regional. Some aspects of mobility strategy such as infrastructure can be uniform globally, but others such as policy must be regionally specific.

Remember best practices, think regional, deploy global

A global mobility rollout has its foundation in standard mobility deployment and security best practices and adapts them to the specialized requirements that different regions, countries, and telecommunications infrastructure to ensure some manner enterprise mobility standardization for business users.