The cloud might be enough for some enterprises to support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) users. It’s an idea I’ve been following for quite some time. After reading some thoughts around Office 365, SharePoint and BYOD I wanted to explore the same topic on alternative paltforms. Then after a soured briefing from a cloud provider who wouldn’t let me test out their platform for myself, I decided to circle back around to see how Huddle, a cloud-based collaboration platform challenger to SharePoint supports enterprise mobility and BYOD users.

While SharePoint and Office 365 depend on third party mobile client apps. Huddle owns their mobile app, which contributes to the perspective Alastair Mitchell, Huddle’s CEO shared with me last month.

API and mobile access

“We have a completely open API,” Mitchell offers. “We have many people who build apps on Huddle’s API to do specific integration into specific platforms or their own set of apps if they’ve built their own specific suite of apps.”

Mitchell believes that Huddle owning the core mobile app benefits their customers who want to use the platform to support enterprise mobility and BYOD users. He cites two reasons:

  • Huddle as a platform includes some on-board analytics and capabilities
  • Huddle’s Recommendation engine, at the heart of the Huddle platform, which finds

He sees Huddle and mobility as more than just users accessing content on the go. Mitchell gives this example, “We have this recommendation engine that is at the heart of Huddle and figures out what content is useful and publishes it and syncs it to whatever device you are working You could open up a file on your iPhone, it would know you opened it up, and then makes it available to you on your iPad and laptop when you got into the office and recommend other related content.”

I’ve tested out Huddle’s recommendation engine for myself, and it’s innovative in how it pulls together related content for easy retrieval.

Collaboration and the mobile user

“Frankly, all we do is collaboration so we should be the best at in the world bar none and understand it better than anybody else,” Mitchell said.

Huddle owning the platform and mobile app mean users don’t have to experience the fragmentation that some SharePoint users have to endure. While there are some very capable and innovative third party mobile app developers for SharePoint, everybody these days seems to have, their story of a SharePoint implementation gone wrong

Mitchell sees that BYOD has crossed the chasm, and it’s here. He sees BYOD across industries and government agencies, which are represented in Huddle’s customer base. Huddle’s technology strategy is providing a secure set of cloud services with single sign on (SSO) capability that enables organizations to secure their content for access by mobile device or platform.

Huddle and BYOD sans MDM or EMM

I came back to Mitchell and Huddle to get a perspective on using the cloud for BYOD security without a Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution securing mobile devices.

He is seeing some customers going straight from a mobile device to Huddle without endpoint security or MDM. There are criticisms out there about MDM/EMM being burdensome for users so a secure cloud platform with SSO governing user access provide a high level of security.

Example: Huddle for enterprise mobility

Go-Ahead is one of the United Kingdom’s leading public transport providers. The company has around 23,500 employees primarily across the south east of England. Every year around a billion passenger trips are made on one of its trains or buses.

“Huddle is being used across many areas of our business, but one of its key uses is with our engineers,” said Jim Collins, Fleet Project Manager, Go-Ahead in a prepared Q&A. “Currently, there are around 200 using Huddle on iPads, and we’re rolling the service out depot by depot, so we eventually have all 800 engineers using it. The engineers can now access information from anywhere, at any time via their iPads, whether it’s ‘How to’ videos on maintaining and checking vehicle components, manufacturers handbooks, technical bulletins and web tutorials.”

Here’s a video overview of how Go-Ahead uses Huddle and iPads to support their engineering staff.

“While most engineering depots have been computerised the reality is that this is usually just a desktop computer in a supervisor’s office,” Collins said. “The limited number of desktop computers in a workshop or depot, as well as supervisors’ offices, meant it was often a challenge for engineers to access the required technical documents and created long periods of ‘down-time’ when staff were unable to continue their work, waiting to access computers. With our engineers now accessing Huddle via iPads, this has all changed, and engineers can be sent to sites and repair a vehicle in-situ clearly has many benefits. There are also instances when an engineer is able to talk a driver through a technical ‘fix’ – of on-board audio visual equipment, for example – without needing to even send someone onsite.”

“We estimate that Huddle will save us tens of thousands of pounds, but it’s more about having buses and trains in service and working as efficiently as we can. Being able to do repairs as quickly and efficiently as possible keeps everything up and running, ensures we deliver a good service to our customers and ultimately saves the company money,” he said.

“For us, Huddle is all about making sure our employees have the right tools in place to do their job and providing them with the equipment needed in this day and age,” Collins said. “It’s enabled us to make the move to a paperless environment that has changed the way we work, improved safety compliance and increased efficiency

Enterprise mobility and BYOD “out of the box”

When I questioned Mitchell about best practices for using Huddle to support mobile and BYOD users, he points out that Huddle works straight out of the box. There’s no need to apply a special mobile site template or new skin for a workspace. He points to the fact that Huddle owns the platform and app so rendering a workspace on a mobile device is a non-issue.

Final thoughts

Enterprise mobility and BYOD in particular is gradually becoming a second front for cloud providers though there’s no escaping having to do a thorough analysis of your technical and security requirements. Because Huddle owns both the mobile app and the cloud platform, I expect to see mobility help them make more inroads in the commercial and federal government sector.