Device Management within the enterprise is ready to evolve and disrupt current models. Changes over the last several years in the demand and usage of technology has changed the way we need to manage and deploy technology to users in the enterprise. Long gone are the days in which technology is provided to the users based on how the business dictates. The model has reversed and we are expected to meet the demand of our users and provide the latest and most current technology. If we do not setup a model that supports the users’ needs, they will find alternative pathways leading to higher security risks. In addition to this shift, we also need to concentrate on providing the user an experience that allows them to focus on what they do best, their job. The technology needs to work and be reliable or we have failed as technical leaders and professionals.

Looking Back

Over the past 20 years, the model has been fairly consistent as it relates to purchasing a device, imaging it with a pre-defined image then deploying it to the users. In addition to this image, we have layered on hundreds of configurations via methods like Group Policy and scripting which creates a very complex environment that requires a lot of time and specific skills to manage. Although this has proven to be a successful and mature process in the enterprise today, opportunities are unraveling to change the model and become more aligned with what is expected from the users.

Over the last several years, I have been highly involved and engaged with mobile device management within the enterprise. This area has evolved substantially over the last few years from a function that was once a shared responsibility for teams managing other technologies. Today, we now have dedicated roles managing mobile environments in addition to dedicated enterprise mobility teams. The initial demand for mobile device management was around the introduction and increase in usage of iOS and Android devices within the enterprise. This was a shift from the business driving the devices and standards to the users driving and demanding the use of consumer technology within the enterprise. Enterprises reacted quickly to managing these devices within the company to gain more visibility and provide the expected security.

The initial scope of mobile device management has primarily been around phone and tablet style devices, more specifically iOS and Android with support for Windows Mobile, Blackberry and other mobile platforms. Today, with the release of Windows 10 and the added functionality to use MDM capabilities, the landscape of device management has changed. What was once a clear distinction between device deployment with PCs/laptops and device management with phones/tablets has merged into one function. This provides an opportunity to change the way we manage and deploy devices.

The All-in-one Management Model

Now that the phone/tablet and PC/laptop space can be managed within one function and potentially one tool-set, we can start changing the dynamics of device deployment and management. We have an opportunity to move away from the legacy method of device imaging and provide a more efficient consumer driven deployment. Instead of dropping a highly configured and locked down image onto a device, we can now look at using a layered management approach by leveraging the Operating System (OS) pre-installed on the device. With the pre-installed OS on the device, we can push a Mobile Device Management (MDM) agent to the device which will in turn allow us to deploy applications, configurations and security requirements to the devices. The beauty of this model is that it is already a proven configuration within the phone and tablet space today, and more importantly, the consumer space. This model is allowing us to shift away from the traditional model of IT pushing the technology to the users to a model that supports and meets the needs of the users.

Unfortunately, this shift is not going to occur overnight and it will come with many challenges. We are still early in the development of a unified device management adoption and there will be new hurdles to overcome. A lot of time and money has been spent on the deployment models used today and  change in IT, within the enterprise, is not easy. Today, you have two complete different skill-sets managing your mobile devices and PC/laptops. Also, these teams are most likely under completely different management structures. In order to begin this transformation, it will require the buy-in and support of Leadership. Without their support, this will be unsuccessful. Once you have Leadership support, you are also going to need innovative and out-of-the-box thinkers to help drive the solution to the end. You are going to need technical staff who are comfortable outside of their boundaries and are continuously looking for change and opportunity. You will not be successful without them on your team.  In addition, the biggest technical challenge will be with application management and deployment. There is still a lot of legacy requirements on applications within the enterprise.

Looking Forward

The next several years is going to be exciting within the device management space. The ability to shift from a legacy device imaging model to a device management model for all end points is now possible. There will be challenges and discussions around use cases and whether this can be 100% adopted to all devices. At first, it may only make sense to target some smaller groups with more mobile specific requirements, then build beyond. It will also become easier to implement and deploy as we shift our data centers to a cloud model and our applications to a mobile, cloud and web-based model. This will allow us to provide a more consumer focused deployment and one that the users are already familiar with when it comes to technology usage.

As we grow with this new model, it is critical that we don’t look at what has been implemented in the past. We need to simplify the new model by eliminating and moving away from a micro-managed device deployment model to a more natural experience the user is already familiar with. We need to think about the deployment as more of a service. This allows the users to support themselves and customize their experience. This is what the users do today and will continue to do on their own personal devices within the workplace if we do not provide the same experience at an enterprise level.

Moving beyond the unification of mobile and PC/laptop management is the Internet of Things (IoT). Currently, there is an explosion of these devices in the market and there is no standards around management or security to date. Be prepared for the next generation of devices that will fall under the scope of device management, it’s only a matter of time.

Mark Dunkerley
Mark is an IT Manager for Coca-Cola. He has written many articles on device management and is the author of Learning AirWatch. He currently resides in the Orlando, Florida area.

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