Even as enterprise mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) experience changes. I recently had a chance to speak with David Lavenda, technology strategist, Fast Company columnist, and vice president of product strategy for harmon.ie, a collaboration tools vendor.

He gave me some interesting observations that illustrate that enterprise mobility and BYOD are still trying to break out of their consumer roots.

Mobility initiative issues with MDM

“We [harmon.ie] partner with the major [mobile device management] MDM vendors,” Lavenda explained. “We have products that are certified.”

“I don’t have any bias on one or the other,” Lavenda confessed. “But what I can tell you from speaking with just about every customer I’ve spoken with about their mobile initiative and moving to mobile devices and security is an issue. Many, if not most of all of them have had pretty much the same experience in that they started with a particular [MDM} vendor and gone through at least one iteration of trying a different vendor because what they had wasn’t working well.”

Lavenda sees multiple cases where an MDM transition hasn’t gone smooth. His observations match reports I get from friends, colleagues, and sources in the industry.

Consumer vs. enterprise app differences

“We all know the challenge of dealing with people who are big Dropbox users for example and organizations are trying to provide enterprise grade alternatives,” Lavenda said.

Commonly, people read an article about a new mobile app and download it on a whim their personal devices. There’s little to no concern according to Lavenda until you start considering enterprise devices and apps because of data leakage and other security considerations that don’t exist in the consumer world.

Lavenda pointed out that the consumerization of IT brings many good things, but the security issues and related concerns in the enterprise world can make a difficult transition for some from the consumer world.

“I think the key is providing enterprise alternatives that fulfill people’s needs,” Lavenda advised. “It’s constantly chasing the next thing. I think the enterprise is always going to be a step behind at least for the near term.”

Provisioning devices for better enterprise device experience

Lavenda advised that enterprises should be provisioning devices for users and not letting them setup devices on their own. He is a strong advocate for automating corporate device setup.

“On a mobile device, where the windows are small, and you can’t toggle between apps you need a very tight coherent, cohesive workflow that doesn’t make you toggle between apps,” Lavenda offered.

“A lot of that comes down to provisioning the setup properly,” Lavenda said. “You see the right windows, the right sites, views if you are using metadata in SharePoint for example.”

Lavenda’s recommendation for provisioning takes away the issues of users having to setup corporate apps and their access to backend systems like email, calendar, and SharePoint sites. He sees device provisioning taking place through MDMs and enterprise app stores primarily.

Mobile first challenges mean behavioral changes

A major assumption about going mobile first according to Lavenda is if we give people mobile devices or let people bring their own devices. They can do similar things on the device as they would on a PC or Mac.

“What we can see from customers is that doesn’t really translate,” according to Lavenda. “If you have a tablet, as great as it is, you have all the apps. People aren’t really doing the same level of document editing.”

Lavenda doesn’t see such scenarios that are much more compelling using a mobile device than a desktop. Working in tandem, it’s not the same use case.

“Let me give you an example,” Lavenda offered. “We have a number of construction customers. One of the things they need to do is that they have people out in the field taking pictures of building sites. They need to be able to annotate PDF plans when they are out there to markup stuff. Plans versus reality. That works really well on a tablet. You can open the plan, and draw with your finger some annotations. That’s a very compelling use case but not something you do in the office.”

“Another case is being able to upload photos,” Lavenda added. “We’ve seen this in many businesses where folks are starting to figure out they can use the camera capabilities of the phone or tablet not only to take photos and upload them directly to the document repository but even to use things like the GPS [global positioning system] coordinates for metadata to automatically associate the photos with specific projects.”

The photo use case that Lavenda outlined offloads the necessity for an engineer or field worker to do a lot of the photo classifications saving time and increasing productivity.

Lavenda laid out the original assumptions around going mobile for many enterprises:

  • Collaboration
  • Uploading documents
  • Sharing documents
  • Working with people on projects

We are starting to discover how the unique capabilities of the mobile device are allowing people to do things differently according to Lavenda. He sees part of this involves behavioral changes.

“I think the baseline today for everything is email,” according to Lavenda. “People still use email as a collaboration tool, document sharing tool, and it’s taking a bit of time for people to understand they can leverage the capabilities of the phone or tablet to streamline that.”

“The behavioral changes by nature are when people got BYOD – email, calendar, contacts and then everything else on top of it was deemed either too complicated or wasn’t secure and they other things we’ve been struggling with,” Lavenda offered These things are bubbling up. People are looking for easier ways to do things.”

Users can look no further than the growing list of mobile collaboration, task management, project management, and other apps that are launching every month.

Final thoughts

Lavenda’s observations on the state of enterprise mobility and BYOD are a reminder that while so many of us are focused on technological changes and security threats around mobility, that we still need to remember the roots of these technologies to ensure a secure and productive future for enterprise mobile users.

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