July 13, 2021 | Blog

Taking MDM to the Next Level with Context

context mobile device management

A large majority of today’s workforce is benefitting from mobile device usage — whether by automating tasks, gaining on-demand access to data, or fostering better communication and collaboration. In fact, mobile technology is becoming so prolific, it’s hard to imagine a workforce without a device in constant reach. 

So, TRUCE Software commissioned a study with Forrester Consulting in 2019 on the topic of mobile technology in the workplace. The study looked at how organizations’ management of mobility programs, including their policies, affected the adoption and success of mobility in the workplace, with a specific focus on industries with field-based workforces and/or high regulatory standards. The results? From increased safety concerns to growing employee dissatisfaction and turnover, 82% of organizations said they had experienced negative business consequences as a result of their mobility policies.

But, if the modern, mobile workforce is here, why then does mobility often fall short for both employers and their employees? 

Before jumping to the answer, let’s first consider the evolution of traditional mobile device management platforms. This History of Computing Podcast episode takes us back to 2001, highlighting the major device and app management tools and milestones over the past two decades, from iTunes to Jamf. The lesson to learn is that MDM solutions at their core have been designed to track and control endpoints, to help IT managers better control cost and risk. 

The problem with these traditional mobile device management platforms is that, while these endpoints and the people using them have vastly evolved since 2001, the platforms themselves have been unable to keep up.

Traditional MDM solutions were designed with traditional devices in mind. The broad adoption of smartphones, AI, and IoT devices across enterprises has pushed these MDM platforms to their limits. In July 2020, analysts at Gartner published research that found: “New kinds of endpoints, such as the Internet of Things, sensors, industrial wearables and role-specific devices are entering organizations in large volumes, and the current methods of classifying them are inadequate.” It also says that “Traditional asset management systems typically don’t capture enough information to be effective when managing the newer endpoints. This is particularly true for IoT endpoints and wearables.” 

So, if these traditional management systems are struggling with the increase in numbers and complexity of new endpoints, what about their ‘bread and butter’: mobile device management?

With a growing majority of the workforce today positioned to benefit from smartphone and tablet usage, mobile devices are becoming mission-critical: they keep employees and customers connected, accelerate the dispatch of resources, and enable the real-time management of work. They literally fuel the growth of businesses and industries. 

But when companies choose to manage mobile devices traditionally, as endpoints, they fail to take into consideration when and where a mobile device is being used or allow for automatic adjustment of controls based on the changing situations.

Shouldn’t mobile device management be as innovative as the tech it’s intended to harness?

The key to successfully managing mobile usage is readily available but rarely considered. Context — the essential factors that determine whether mobile usage is appropriate or risky in each situation — can and should play a role in setting workplace mobile policies. Context is used throughout the day, informing every decision made, large or small, from what to wear to where to invest, what to say to how to communicate. It’s no different when using a mobile device. After all, what’s acceptable to do in one situation — responding to email in the break room — may not be acceptable in a very different situation — doing the same while operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. 

Thinking about the world as a series of “zones”, that is, areas defined based on the level of risk allows for the creation of rules specific to those environments or situations. Whether that’s behind a desk at the office, in a meeting room or lab, driving on the road, working at a job site, or anywhere on- or off-premises. It’s not that novel of a concept, either. Technology thought-leaders like Galen Gruman, Executive Editor for Global Content at InfoWorld, talked about this over a decade ago as a far-away idea. Perhaps it’s only been a matter of time before the ability to manage mobility in the workplace would reach the point where context had such an impact.

Context gives employers the ability to enforce flexible policies that allow employees to do their jobs successfully without introducing risk into the environment. Unfortunately, many employers have accepted over the years that the best way to regulate mobile device use is by imposing tight restrictions on their employees and limiting mobile usage to traditional MDM-controllable environments. And, as discussed, this reliance on rigid use policies often causes mobility efforts to miss their mark.

To get the most that mobility has to offer the workplace, it’s time to think about how mobility is being enabled. It’s time to consider the greater context of the device and the worker in tandem — where they are, what they are doing, and what’s happening around them — when thinking about mobility management. What policymakers perceive as a complex feat is, in reality, quite simple when seen through the lens of contextual technology.

Check out the eBook, Unlocking the Next Generation of Workplace Mobility, to learn more about Contextual Mobility Management. See how CMM can close the gap in mobile device management platforms through the addition of context.

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