By Jonathan Dale
From the August 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
The role of a facility manager (fm) is multi-faceted. Proactive maintenance of building and grounds requires constant contact with a multitude of service businesses. Rapid response to emergencies (whether a clogged commode or a broken window) is the bedrock of occupant satisfaction, which requires instant communication with contractors and staff. Factor in multiple buildings and multiple locations, and these tasks increase exponentially. Then there’s the paperwork, which could range from simple e-mails to colleagues and superiors to sensitive data like payroll receipts and leases. Mobility isn’t a luxury in facilities management (FM); it’s a competitive imperative.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the practice of enabling employee owned devices with the same connectivity as corporate issued ones, is an answer for an FM team currently unconnected or frustrated with its current system. And when budgets are tight, fms might want to avoid rolling out expensive devices to their staff members when these people already have their own smartphones. With an enterprise mobility management solution, fms can enable and protect connectivity to e-mail, mobile content management for statements of work, mobile app management for scheduling, and know the location of every staff member (only during work hours, of course).
Policies that govern mobility will vary greatly based on the size of the organization, hours of operation, and functions of FM staff. For some, mobile content management is a must to provide staff ready access to statements of work from contractors. Other organizations might just need e-mail access and location based services to track employees (again, during work hours). Some organizations that provision devices to staff might need the ability to remote wipe a lost device, or they might need a self-service portal, so employees can find a lost device.
There are literally thousands of protective and deployment features offered with mobile device management (MDM). Items such as lock passcodes to application management can be customized to meet specific needs. An MDM provider that understands a holistic approach to MDM will tell fms to determine their mobility needs before purchasing a solution.
Communication on policies and procedures on mobility must be clearly articulated and understood by those being enabled. Not only is this a must for data protection, but it is also essential to employees’ understanding of what’s happening with their devices when connected to corporate resources. BYOD is a give and take. Yes, the company now has access to control certain facets of the phone, but the employee is now receiving access to corporate resources. With the right policies in place and clear articulation of those policies, everyone will feel more at ease.
The right MDM solution will scale easily to meet the growth or attrition of devices. Efficient scalability is found in cloud based solutions since there are no infrastructure or staff changes necessary to add or remove devices. Also, there are hundreds of updates each year to smartphone operating systems. Cloud based MDM can keep pace to ensure all features are enabled and protected each time Android (the most frequent) and Apple issue an iterative or completely new operating system.
Of course, there are non-cloud options for managing mobile devices. More traditional server or hardware models offer the means to manage today’s challenges. Fms should look at all their options to ensure they invest in technology that best meets their needs now and in the future. Just like a BYOD policy, it’s different for every organization.
Mobility is a matter of when, not if. Though how it’s managed and secured depends on the specifics of the organization, there are some basics pertinent to all enterprise mobility management approaches.
Create policies around mobility, and communicate them to employees. Put on paper the answers to questions like what devices are acceptable; BYOD or no BYOD; and when and how devices will be monitored. This should be the first step. Some have found that downloading a free MDM trial can help clarify thinking about desired features and capabilities.
Enable security controls. At the very least, fms should mandate passcodes on devices and be able to wipe lost or stolen devices remotely. Going further, enabling and disabling apps, secure content distribution, and safe web browsing will reap rewards in security as well as productivity.
Manage from one window. With myriad devices on the market, fms need a way to standardize enrollment and security. The way to do this cost-effectively is over-the-air, without touching every device physically. The only way to cross all platforms is with MDM, a mediator between manufacturers.
Dale is the director of marketing at Fiberlink, a Blue Bell, PA-based company that delivers enterprise mobility management solutions for organizations. Previously, he spent 10 years in product management and engineering.