One of the things that always comes up in conversations with clients, is the lifecycle of mobile technology in the enterprise. Traditionally, it’s been very easy to manage an enterprise workspace from a technical standpoint. In enterprise, you would normally find just the one version of an operating system. These operating systems only came out once every 3 to 5 years, and hardware only needed renewed as often as a company wanted to switch (which was about the same time as their current OS was no longer supported!). Managing these changes was (and still is!) a very labour intensive task. Engineers needed to “re-stage” desktops and laptops, backing up of data and the deploying it all back down again. In a large enterprise this normally takes months if not years of planning and actioning.
Now, when we look at the technology lifecycle in a mobile world, we need to look at both the enterprise and the consumer sides of things. There’s no doubt anymore in anyones mind that consumer and enterprise mobile are now and forever intrinsically linked together. From the enterprise side, mobile technology (such as it was) 5 years ago, consisted of either a BlackBerry or a Nokia that lasted until you broke it. There was very little consideration paid to OS version, or new functionality with a newer model, and there was almost zero gravitas given over to you if you had the latest and greatest handset.
Over the recent past, the expectation from companies and employees a like, is that enterprise contract will be operating much more like that we usually find in the consumer world. This is where after 12 to 24 months, we will get a brand new phone every time.
The interesting thing, is how the enterprise market has been influenced by the consumer side. IT and technology departments are playing catchup alot of the time. iOS gets a major update once a year, but maybe 4 or 5 minor updates too. Android has such a fragmented market share that not only are there new version every year, but with the very nature of the OS, new version out across all device manufacturers every month. These in themselves post a challenge to enterprise. Normally, before allowing any new version of software into you restate your IT department would spend weeks testing and vetting to make sure everything was working fine. Sadly, there simply isn’t this luxury anymore. With most management platforms out there unable to lock down the update ability (and really, if you’re bringing in your own device to work, why would you want that restriction), and demand from your users now expecting the latest and greatest, you dont have the option to say no. What you do have to rely on though is your mobile management platform vendor to be up to date with all the functions and risks that come with these new updates.
This is easier said than done. Most vendors out there work very closely with all the major OS developers and hardware manufactures. But, in doing this they too must update their own platforms as often as there is a major release of a mobile OS.
I was asked a very interesting question by one of my clients earlier this year, they asked “do you see managing this technology getting any easier?”. There is a simple answer to that from my point of view… And that, is a no.