Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BYOD, MDM, I'll pass...

BYOD... is it 'cracked up to be?'

As a long term Blackberry manager, it was with some concern that I considered transitioning off of the Blackberry platform. The beauty of Blackberry was the security of the messaging platform, the ability to publish applications OTA (wirelessly) and the ability to remotely brick the phone should it be lost.

However, we needed to separately manage our cell phone network to keep the contacts up to date.
And our provider was going through significant challenges transitioning to a new manufacturer and revamping its wireless network. At some point we took a look at a different provider - and the results have been quite revealing.

MDM applications are positioned as an after-market solution to the lack of security and management features on Android and Apple. We considered the option of integrating personal devices, but instead we decided to go with a cheaper contract - and own the equipment. Some basic MDM functionality is provided through Microsoft ActiveSync (the ability to wipe the phone, contact sync with Exchange).

Here were our requirements

  • Synchronize contacts on the phones
  • Calendar integration has to work 100%
  • Provide more smart phones, or allow users to bring theirs in
  • Keep bad things from happening
  • No significant regulatory requirements (not financial services, or defense, no intellectual property)
  • No increase in cost
  • Push to talk feature, possibly avoid replacing ~30 walkie talkies (the FCC changed the channel allocation in January)
  • Reduce management complexity

At the end of the day our decisions were this

  • Stick with providing the phones, but upgrade all users to smartphones
  • Renegotiate the contract to get a significant non-profit discount
  • Utilize the minimal MDM features provided in ActiveSync
  • Outsource Exchange to a hosting provider
  • Allow staff to access Exchange accounts from our phones or their personal devices


  • Our cost has stayed the same but we were able to replace all cell phones with basic smart phones
  • All devices support ActiveSync
  • Calendar integration on Samsung phones has been challenging, but Touchdown is the solution for users with complicated scheduling needs
  • Contact sync to the Outlook contacts folder works well, but there is no automated way to synchronize everyone's work phone list (in those Exchange accounts)
  • Access to email from the internet has been a big plus for everyone, most people do not use OWA but a significant percentage use Activesync devices
  • After market app for PTT - which has not lived up to expectations, but the bottom line is that PTT stinks since the end of the Nextel iDEN network
  • We bit the bullet and replaced our Walkie Talkies, this turned out to be necessary from a safety perspective
  • Vastly easier to manage than BES, but somewhat less consistent results

Bottom line

The transition was way more work than I expected even with the carrier on site here. But 'nothing bad has happened'. There are flakey things with the phones - and there always were before too.
I think with no overreaching regulatory concerns, an MDM is serious overkill. Also in our opinion, going with a BYOD program (such as an employee rebate) is a drag on productivity.


A couple of interesting posts on the CITEworld conference website that seem to add fuel to the fire:

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