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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Evaluating mobile device management products and services
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Find the best mobile device management system for your business needs

Evaluating products and services to find the best mobile device management product not only fulfills business needs but also spends a budget wisely. Expert Lisa Phifer offers four principles to consider when selecting an MDM strategy.

Once an organization understands what mobile device management is, how it benefits a business in terms of manageability and security, and what to look for in potential vendors, it's time to start the evaluation process and make the final decision on which product or service will best benefit its business needs.

The following four points are guiding principles behind deploying MDM technology and also offer additional factors that your enterprise should consider when selecting a strategy to meet its mobility management needs.

Principle 1: Focus on enablement

Many mobile users and IT administrators think of a mobile device management system as a tool to prevent hazardous outcomes, such as data breaches on lost devices, unauthorized access to corporate services and access by noncompliant devices. While these are important things that a good MDM product can help you avoid, don't focus on them exclusively. Instead, look at MDM as a tool for enabling mobile access, making business data readily available to mobile workers and streamlining processes to get work done more productively. Consider how any MDM product will help your organization achieve the business benefits of mobility.

Be sure to ask any potential provider how its tool will make your organization operate more efficiently. For example, beware of introducing MDM processes that inhibit mobility or add IT workload by using an MDM technology to quarantine noncompliant devices without offering an automated path for self-remediation. Make sure your chosen MDM product not only identifies mobility barriers but also helps you overcome them.

Principle 2: Pick your battles wisely

In years past, IT departments used MDM to give them complete control over corporate-owned mobile devices. This approach is not viable for bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios where workers expect to retain control over personal data and applications. However, given an MDM technology that supports less comprehensive management on BYODs, it makes sense to be more selective about what to manage on all mobile devices.

Selective governance of corporate assets (not entire devices) can reduce IT's efforts, facilitate user acceptance and avoid conflict with data privacy laws. Examine any MDM product's flexibility, looking for policy options and deployment alternatives that allow you to apply narrowly focused controls and as-needed monitoring. For example, can the MDM technology help you secure and back up business data without requiring you to store or impact personal data? Does the MDM product help workers find lost devices without requiring you to record their every movement 24/7?

Principle 3: Be pragmatic

Given today's feature-rich MDM technologies, it is tempting to apply every available tool and policy. However, doing so could leave you with a product that does many things but not what you really need. To avoid this, focus on assessing MDM capabilities that are essential to your workforce, drilling into features, policies and limitations to understand how you might apply them and how effective they will really be.

For example, many MDM technologies support full device wipe, but few organizations should routinely apply this tool of last resort. Instead, seek out and evaluate alternative tools that let you wipe only business data and applications, taking a close look at rigor and failure conditions.

Principle 4: Engage stakeholders

Perhaps the easiest mistake to make during an MDM selection process is to assume that the IT department knows what mobile workers and business units need. Involving these stakeholders in when defining and evaluating requirements can greatly improve deployment success.

Stakeholders can alert you to capabilities and features that would enhance mobility or prove to be impractical. Engaging workers early in the process will improve their compliance with policies that could otherwise be viewed as restrictive.

About the author:
Lisa Phifer owns and is president of Core Competence Inc., a consulting firm specializing in leading-edge network technology. She has been involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of networking and security products for over 25 years. She has advised companies large and small regarding needs, product assessment and the use of emerging technologies and best practices.

Next Steps

Learn more about the evolution of MDM and review MDM best practices in a connected enterprise.

This was last published in October 2014

Dig Deeper on BYOD and mobile device security best practices

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What criteria helped your organization find the best mobile device management system for its business needs?
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Our organization looked for the following qualities when it came to our mobile needs:  
  • Java supported platforms through oracle. 
  • Easy to use keyboard. 
  • Long battery life is essential. 
  • Microsoft based programs are needed for VIOP operations. 
  • Easy Wi-Fi connections. 
  • Cloud data service

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