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Mobile device management: A necessary cost or a cost saver?

By Pankaj "PJ" Gupta, CEO and founder, Amtel Inc., special to Network World
April 09, 2012 02:35 PM ET

Network 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.

IT has been handed the responsibility of adapting security and access policies to accommodate our mobile phones and tablets. The expense of mobile device management (MDM) has become another accepted cost of doing business. But what if MDM was a cost saver?

Security was the impetus for the first MDM solutions. Companies recognized the need to protect corporate assets on the devices, and witnessed the headlines and damages to company reputation that could result from a malicious phone app stealing employee contact information or worse. With liability at stake, securing mobile devices became the top priority.

CLEAR CHOICE TEST: How to protect smartphones and tablets

ANALYSIS: Can employee-owned devices save companies money?

Basic MDM solutions still focus on preventing unauthorized access to corporate data and avoiding the risk of a public relations fiasco around data breaches or thefts. However, an MDM solution can do a lot more.

A holistic device management platform can merge two previously distinct areas: mobile device management (MDM) and telecom expense management (TEM). The combination of MDM+TEM creates a mobile device lifecycle management solution that can actually pay for itself. In fact, in most cases, these expanded MDM platforms directly contribute to the bottom line with as much as a 30% annual reduction in mobile device-related expenses.

This is not as simple as just deploying separate MDM and TEM applications. The diversity of devices, operating systems, apps and carrier services complicates the aggregation and sharing of device status and activity. A single, integrated, holistic device lifecycle management solution is required to cover it all: security, applications, device oversight and expense control.

Complete mobile lifecycle management

The leading device management solutions address the challenges of device diversity, and introduce real-time management features within a framework that spans the entire device lifecycle. Besides broad support for the various types of devices, IT should look for a solution that can cover both company-owned and "bring-your-own devices" (BYODs). [Also see: "Corporate-owned vs. employee-owned mobile devices"]

Visibility of mobile device usage is the first step in effective mobile device management. A company can and should be tracking the various device uses that drive up expenses. Beyond basic voice, data, and text services, an expanded lifecycle management platform can point to the source of charges for 411 calls, international roaming, and other activities that rapidly multiply expenses.

A full-featured platform should also let IT set limits for usage and tailor the limits to job function or the user's position in the organization. Thresholds and alerts can enforce company usage policies, and reports can help departments budget more accurately.

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