5 device-management software essentials

5 device-management software essentials

Organisations expect a lot from device-management software – but (features apart) some things are more important than others. Here are five things that we feel are essential.

1: Fits your business now, ready for your business tomorrow

A key concern for organisations adopting any new tool – let alone one that will potentially be used to manage every device across the enterprise – is that the business doesn’t have to change how it works. If your business is organised in one way, you don’t need the hassle of organising it in a different way just to fit in with a new tool. A good device-management suite will let you organise things in a way that makes sense to you. It also fits right into your current infrastructure – you shouldn’t need to start buying specific brands of desktop, laptop, mobile or whatever. Indeed, because most infrastructures today are heterogeneous (that big fancy IT word for ‘we use lots of different stuff’), the need to manage pretty much any brand of device is a must.

Following on from this, you also don’t want to be boxed into making strategic decisions based on your device-management platform. That would definitely be a case of the tail wagging the dog. So, a device-management suite needs to be ready to cope with whatever’s around the corner – new devices or new operating systems, for example. 

Organisations want something that fits in now with what they use today, and won’t stop them using something different tomorrow.

2: Manage everything, using one tool

Technology moves at a rapid pace at the best of times. The increasingly wide range of equipment – desktops, mobiles, tablets, routers, servers and more – needs to be managed, audited, updated and so on. While some equipment comes with its own management tool or browser-based interface, some don’t. In any event, managing different devices with different tools isn’t just a pain: it’s inefficient and ineffective.

Understandably, we’ve seen the rise of device-management suites, aiming to simplify the process. However, there is still often a need for separate tools (or additional licences for the same tools) for mobile devices, desktops and servers.

While using fewer tools makes device management better, it’s still far from ideal. What’s needed is a single tool that can manage pretty much everything, perhaps apart from certain aspects of some specialised or esoteric devices.

And then there’s the question of management tasks. This isn’t just about sending updates to devices, after all. Organisations also need to manage inventory, restrict access to information, applications and e-mails, remote-wipe potentially compromised devices and so on. Whether that’s a Windows, iOS or Android device, all of these things and more should be possible from the same interface.

A key caveat is that moving to a single tool shouldn’t be fraught with compromise. The tool should do everything you’d expect of those tools which are focused on one type of device, but all from one interface. Not only does this make life simpler now, it also provides freedom in the future: as long as a device is running a mainstream OS, then it should be supported.

Organisations want to manage any device, any mainstream operating system, anywhere – using one tool.

3: Unleash mobile, don’t restrain it

The move towards mobile computing has been seismic – and the journey has only just begun. According to a survey in the USA, UK and Australia by Gartner, more than half of employees are still using ‘corporate-issued desktop PCs’ while only 23% are given smartphones by their employers. However, 39% of employees are using a smartphone, tablet or phablet which they own for work – so the real adoption rate is higher. What we’re seeing is an employee preference for mobile devices pulling against a corporate inertia in terms of deployment. In many respects, this is holding business back. Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner, says that, “It comes as something of a surprise that corporate usage of smartphones and tablets is not as high as PCs, even when the use of personally owned devices is taken into account. While it's true that the cost of providing mobile devices can quickly escalate, proper usage of mobile devices can increase productivity, which can easily justify the extra costs.”

The move to mobile devices is inevitable. Organisations need to confidently solve device-management issues such as security, information control and so on. From a device-management perspective, it’s not really true that mobile devices are ‘more complex’ or ‘more difficult’ to accommodate – rather that there are a greater number of considerations, and that the technology is moving more quickly. But the bottom line is that computing is going mobile – and the most successful businesses will exploit this. Device-management software needs to handle both static and mobile devices, preferably within a single product – opening up the possibilities of a mobile workforce, not chaining people unnecessarily to desks.

Organisations need the benefits of having a mobile workforce and moving to more mobile devices – device management should be a key enabler, not a limiter.

4: Your hardware, their hardware

Device-management software needs to accommodate both corporate-owned devices and bring your own device (BYOD) strategies. The ideal endgame for many people is that they only carry one device – and that’s the one which they prefer. Although initially at odds with the way many organisations manage technology, BYOD initiatives have typically been successful, popular and a whole lot less painful than expected. Of course, when you’re mixing personal and corporate data, e-mails and applications, the issues are very real and have to be taken seriously. So, good device management needs to deal with this reality, giving IT teams the confidence that they can manage an employee’s device as easily as they can manage one of their own – imposing restrictions where needed and letting employees do their own thing when they’re at home or not on work time. 

Device-management software should embrace every device, including employees’ own – delivering the same level of control, regardless of ownership.

5: Manageable costs

Perhaps the number one concern for organisations adopting or changing a device-management strategy is that of cost. It isn’t just that device management needs to be affordable (although it does), device-management costs should be understandable, logical and transparent. Organisations really want to know what they are getting into – for example, many software vendors offer only a subscription-based model; this initially seems cheap but can not only grow to become a burden, but also an inescapable treadmill. Plus, there’s the cost of add-ons: a base product, with additional costs for this, that and the other. This initially appears to provide choice, but the reality is that the base product is seldom adequate and customers realistically need the notionally premium products just to get by.

Whether an organisation chooses software as a service or a one-off purchase is down to that organisation’s needs: the important thing is that costs are simple, can be confidently calculated and the device-management platform will remain good value when needs change or the organisation grows.

The shift to mobile devices isn’t a cost-reducer, as tablets and smartphones are typically replaced more frequently than desktops – and at a higher cost. With IT budgets typically stagnant in real terms, organisations are understandably seeking to do more with less. So, the budget to manage these mobile devices (and other devices) is often squeezed from somewhere else, so cost remains an issue – and device management is moving towards being a commodity. 

Another consideration is that many device-management tools are priced for the larger enterprise, so smaller companies (such as SMBs, perhaps up to a thousand employees – which, let’s face it, isn’t that small) feel they are out of reach. Affordability means different things to different organisations, but a decent device-management suite should be affordable to almost all.

Organisations always need to save costs and device management is no exception. They need simple, understandable pricing – they’re building a business, need to budget and need to plan.