Integrating MDM into IT service management is key to operational efficiency in a mobile world

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

With the popularity of the bring-your-own-device movement, IT teams are turning to mobile device management (MDM) software to manage mobile policy, inventory and security. However, many MDM tools are stand-alone and do not easily integrate into the IT service management (ITSM) strategy, a disconnect that commonly results in inefficiencies and misunderstandings. For this reason, many enterprises are turning to integrated solutions.

To better illustrate the importance of integrating MDM and ITSM, let's take the example of an employee leaving a company. Until recently, the IT department simply closed the user account and collected the related IT equipment. This was a relatively straightforward task. However, with BYOD, it has become increasingly difficult because many employees have phones programmed to automatically connect to the office Wi-Fi, as well as to access internal, sensitive data.

ANALYSIS: How BYOD has changed the IT landscape

Enter integrated ITSM-MDM. A combined solution covers all of the bases by employing a smooth IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process to handle all tasks associated with an employee departure, including returning equipment and managing installed software. The process also automatically includes access to an accurate configuration management database (CMDB) that contains all relevant information, including the employee-owned device.

By integrating MDM capabilities into your existing ITSM platform, you gain control over all of your assets -- from desktops to servers to mobile devices -- all from a single focal point, resulting in increased consistency and transparency throughout the organization.

Advanced ITSM products already have tight integration of asset and user management, including the relationships between entities. Therefore, the addition of MDM serves as the final link to incorporate mobile devices (both corporate and employee-owned) into asset management.

Going back to the example of an employee who leaves a company, by having all assets in the same place, IT can now trace the employee's devices and remove corporate settings such as Wi-Fi or a mailbox from any device associated with the user. Moreover, IT can accomplish this remotely, without involving the ex-employee.

Another common situation IT encounters is loss or theft of mobile devices. With the proper tools in place, a company need not worry about sensitive data falling into the wrong hands because IT can delete all the data as long as the device is connected to a mobile policy within MDM.

A fully integrated solution offers numerous benefits from the ITSM and MDM perspectives, as well as on a macro-business level.

The ITSM perspective: Combining MDM and ITSM enables a company to easily align its mobile security policies with the overall security approach and enforce an enterprisewide mobile device security protocol. More importantly, an integrated solution allows for complete control of devices, including the enforcement of passcodes, ability to remotely lock or wipe the device clean if it is lost or stolen, and the ability to set Wi-Fi and email configurations remotely.

An integrated solution also allows for improved visibility and control over all mobile and non-mobile assets in one central location. This means being able to see all mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets (again, both corporate and employee-owned) side-by-side with PCs, laptops, printers, etc. This allows IT administrators to make sure that all mobile devices operating on the network are properly inventoried, secured, and fully compliant with company policies.

The MDM perspective: An important advantage of MDM subsystems is they enable direct access to complete, up-to-date user records. The implication of this is that, unlike stand-alone MDM platforms, integrated MDM solutions do not require self-user management.

Additionally, integrated systems allow IT managers to easily delegate basic operational control over mobile devices to the first-tier technical support teams in a familiar user interface. Stand-alone solutions, on the other hand, require the use of external user interface dashboards and controls. Finally, tight integration with the ITSM system allows for pre-programmed monitoring capabilities instead of building them from scratch. This ultimately results in easier mobile device tracing within the organization as well as simpler report generation.

By implementing an integrated MDM-ITSM solution, corporations avoid the need to purchase and maintain separate hardware and licenses. Furthermore, setup of any stand-alone MDM solution, in-house or SaaS, is a big project that involves infrastructure preparations, such as network communication aspects, database installation, backup setup, user management integration, etc. Making MDM part of ITSM as an integrated solution saves the hassle of dealing with MDM as an independent project and brings all of the MDM capabilities -- without all the difficulties and risks -- to virtually any IT project.

A solution that includes both MDM and ITSM, with built-in permission levels and other features, simplifies the process between teams by maintaining transparency. It ultimately enables management to better integrate all professionals working with IT, creating a more cohesive working environment.

Finally, from the financial point of view, the use of a unified system means the business will be able to consolidate all IT-related costs into one single expense. A single turnkey solution that addresses all of the department's needs also reduces the cost and time investment associated with managing and cross-referencing separate management dashboards, as well as dealing with multiple vendors. Additionally, when MDM capabilities are incorporated into a system that is already familiar to the user, there is no need to learn another new system.

The topic of MDM continues to be hotly debated. While some maintain that MDM is alive and well, others question how MDM will keep up with evolving technology. A third argument is that, while traditional MDM is passé, integrated MDM solutions are thriving and more important than ever. However, the more crucial question the industry should be asking is how to get the most out of MDM and what steps need to be taken to build a more effective approach to MDM.

IT stands to benefit greatly from integrating MDM into their IT service management platforms. A holistic, integrated solution not only helps to eliminate redundancies; it also allows for better management of resources to run a more effective and efficient IT department.

SysAid Technologies is a global IT Service Management (ITSM) company. SysAid's software solutions are used by more than 100,000 organizations in 140 countries, spanning all industries and company sizes.

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