How to manage mobile devices: Tech investments and a feature wish list

A CIO gives his take on the tech he needs to manage mobile devices and which MDM capabilities he believes are still half-baked.

Barry Porozni, CIO of The Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia, recently spoke with SearchCIO-Midmarket Editorial Director Christina Torode about TRF's bring your own device (BYOD) program, including the investments he's made to manage mobile devices and the features he hopes will become part of mobile device management (MDM) and virtualization vendors' repertoires sooner rather than later. In the first part of this two-part podcast, Porozni shared the BYOD surprises he encountered and how he prepared the infrastructure for mobile devices. TRF is a community development financial institution that manages more than $700 million in capital and has made more than $1.2 billion in community investments, financing more than 2,750 projects since it was founded in 1985.

What technologies have you invested in to support and manage mobile devices?

Barry Porozni: The key investment we made was just a mobile device management platform. We had a couple of groups who wanted to use it and be able to self-enroll, which worked out well [with regard to] what I said earlier about users going through multiple devices in a short period of time. It's nice that they don't have to come to us or leave their smartphone with the help desk and come back at the end of the day and pick it up. They download the client, they go to a URL, they self-enroll and then all we do is approve them.

And we could even auto-approve them, but we choose not to because that eliminates the risk that maybe someone stole your smartphone and figured out how to enroll. So we will contact you and say, 'Christina did you just get a new Motorola?' And if you say yes, we'll approve it and if not, then we'll investigate. And then just managing the account before the device was tied to a particular carrier account -- now we no longer necessarily have that relationship, so there's some logistics, but in terms of technology, the mobile device management was probably the key one.

We should be able to go to one place and turn off absolutely everything. That doesn't exist today, and that would be a compelling reason to adopt [mobile device virtualization] technology.

Did you consider mobile device virtualization to manage mobile devices?

Porozni: Yes, we did. We don't use it, but I think the day is coming when we'll have to consider it more seriously for the exact same reason that you would do desktop virtualization: You have the ability to lock down or partition the device so that you can download your favorite music app and video apps and all the other things, and you're not going to impact the email client or any customized clients that TRF installs for you to help you do your job -- an approvals app or a job-costing app. At this point, we haven't run into issues where a TRF app doesn't work because you went and downloaded something from one of the stores. That day is going to come, so before that happens we will do something along the lines of virtualization or partitioning.

Is virtualization technology ready yet for managing mobile devices?

Porozni: I don't think it is, and I don't mean to offend vendors out there, but one of the things it's lacking is a true unified portal. So, a simple example would be [when] an employee leaves, we should be able to go to one place and turn off absolutely everything. Disable your Active Directory account, wipe the TRF data from your phone and turn off everything associated with any applications and devices you touched. That doesn't exist today, and that would be a compelling reason to adopt that technology even if it would be slightly immature.

In terms of mobile device management, are there any advances that you would like to see happen?

Porozni: Definitely the portal that I mentioned, that would be important. Improved autoprovisioning -- so again, along the same lines, the users who frequently get new devices, the ability to point them and create our own store. While that's possible, it's not easy, so they go and download the three or four apps that we do have as part of our portfolio of mobile apps, and that's only going to grow. I think that's going to be a key feature to have besides the self-provisioning -- the ability to go and pick up all the applications and permissions and things we need to get up and running in a hurry.

Let us know what you think of this podcast; email Christina Torode, Editorial Director.

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