RIM Customer Loyalty Tested
BlackBerry’s Enterprise Future
Aug. 26, 2010 (Vol. 31, No. 16)
Smart phone wars and demands by 20-somethings to use their personal devices at work are causing enterprises to reexamine their mobility policies.
The Research In Motion (RIM) family of BlackBerry smart phones, of course, has long been the mainstay for enterprise handheld connectivity because of its business-class security and messaging synchronization features. But the arrival of popular devices such as the Apple iPhone and, more recently, Android-based phones are driving some businesses to reevaluate whether the BlackBerry will remain the only smart handheld allowed onto their corporate networks.
Some procurement departments are yielding to pressure from the user base – particularly, from younger, more label-conscious employees – to open up connectivity to other devices. Others are looking simply to get out of the mobile phone business and rid themselves of the associated costs.
For example, one company with 8,000 mobile users is dumping corporate-liable cell phones and laptops entirely. It plans to provide access to resources via users’ personal devices over the Web rather than allowing any corporate data to reside on the user’s device, according to David Schofield, director of wireless mobility at TAG, a telecom expense management company in Dallas. (See sidebar, “Opening Access While Protecting Data.”)
The company, which is a TAG client, has basically said, “Bring whatever you want. Buy it from whomever you want. We just won’t support it if it breaks,” Schofield explains.
In an economy where companies are increasingly being asked to do more with less, such drastic measures offload the need to negotiate device and service rates and eliminate help desk, warranties, and, potentially, BlackBerry licenses and BlackBerry Enterprise Server costs.
“This is not a common model,” acknowledges Schofield. “But it will get legs, particularly given Cisco’s [Unified Communications] pitch that its [UC applications] will work with any device.”
Plans Up in the Air
Other enterprises have embraced a spectrum of mobile phone strategies. Surprisingly, few seem to be entertaining the idea of using mobile device management (MDM) software or services. MDM seems to be a relatively new concept that has not yet reached the radars of most telecom departments.
A Midwestern consumer products company that has about 5,000 corporate-liable mobile users is piloting an employee-liable program that would allow employees to bring in their own devices. The thinking at the organization, which prefers not to be named, is that the company would retain up to 100 corporate-liable BlackBerries to protect communications among its senior executives. But from there, the company would allow the iPhone or Android devices onto the network.
The company doesn’t plan to install MDM for policy setting, enforcement or manageability, says a procurement officer at the company.
“Most of our users won’t sign off giving us corporate visibility into their personal phones,” she explains. “So we won’t have any visibility [into users’ devices] unless the user says it’s OK to see their personal information,” she says.
Won’t the lack of visibility open up some security concerns? “Oh, yes,” acknowledges the procurement manager. “But we’re willing to risk it at certain levels of the company.”
Philippe Winthrop, managing director at The Enterprise Mobility Foundation, a newly launched independent mobility think tank, thinks there might be flaws in thinking that pockets of BlackBerry security can remain.
“What if the CEO e-mails a peon?” he asks. “The communication will be secure at one end but, by definition, because e-mail is two-way, a general employee will be walking around with info that’s only half secure.”
Other organizations are standing their ground with BlackBerry.
ABC Supply Co. in Beloit, Wis., for example, runs about 1,400 corporate-liable BlackBerries. “We do not pay for personal-liable phones and we do not allow corporate-liable Droids, iPhones or other devices,” explains Sue Snap, telecom manager.
“We have three people that support all 5,000+ phones in our organization, so we try to limit users to certain models.”
ABC is not alone. “The operative phrase at our organization is that ‘BlackBerries just work,’” says Bruce Garlitz, director of IT infrastructure at Forest City Enterprises, a national real estate owner and developer headquartered in Cleveland.
Garlitz says that while his company pushes the edge in many technology sectors, e-mail and calendars are not applications employees can tolerate going on the fritz when synchronization mysteriously stops and starts working.
“Unless and until the i-anything and droid-anything just plain work out of the box, we will continue as a major BlackBerry shop,” he says.
Anthony Marano, a produce wholesaler in Chicago, has both diehard BlackBerry users and a growing population of iPhone users. Each user population has taken a different approach to roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks – a necessity at the company, whose business relies on immediate-turnaround phone sales orders.
“We still have some BlackBerry users, and they’ll probably convert [to the new BlackBerry Torch 9800],” says Chris Nowak, the company’s CTO. The BlackBerry Torch 9800 began shipping two weeks ago.
One gotcha on that score, though: The BlackBerry users are on the T-Mobile network, making use of T-Mobile’s Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) services for toggling between cellular and Wi-Fi mobile networks. The Torch is currently only available from AT&T, which doesn’t offer a UMA service.
Anthony Marano also uses AT&T mobile network services, “but most of those users have iPhones. Hopefully, [the Torch] will come out on all mobile networks,” Nowak says.
Adoption of Non-BlackBerry Platforms
In Companies with >75% BlackBerry Penetration