The limits of control

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24 April 2014 | 0

With so much talk around BYOD and COPE, it’s no wonder that mobile device management is being widely adopted as a way to establish control over mobile devices. But should partners be looking beyond mobile device management (MDM) to applications and beyond?

“Customers are facing tactical challenges,” claims Kevin Bland, director, channel and alliances at Citrix. There’s what he describes as “a pincer movement on businesses” as they look at implementing BYOD (bring your own device) or COPE (corporate owned personally enabled) policies while seeking to lock down and restrict devices. “That’s driving a lot of attitudes towards MDM for customers,” he argues. “Users want to enable more things. Where the two things start to bounce against each other is where organisations are looking at MDM but the opportunities are limited for the channel partner and the problem solved will be limited as well.”

He believes the attitude should be “let’s secure it and enable it” rather than “let’s secure it and restrict it”. The focus should be on enabling employees to use corporate applications and to access them when they want and where they want, because that will lead to “a more productive workforce and, hopefully, a happier one too”.

Bland says that customers can be very receptive to this message. “It’s not a situation of customers knowing the art of possible and wanting it, it’s a question of customers not knowing the art of the possible. Companies know they can deliver mobile apps to mobile devices, it’s not science fiction. But they don’t know you can deliver Windows apps in a secure way using a business platform so they can control it, own it, secure it and enable it.”

In December, Citrix had a meeting with 21 of its top UK and Irish partners which, between them, have a large percentage of engagements in the market. Bland found that they were doing a good job “in responding to customer needs with a solution that fits today and fits tomorrow by solving their data problems and allow them to grow platform to deliver everything”.

Feedback from the partner event found that some customers just wanted MDM in the near term but wanted to know that their investments would not be restricted further down the line. Others wanted “to go a little bit further, to deliver e-mail to devices and control the delivery of mobile apps, others wanted to go whole way, including delivering Windows apps”.

There are lots of vendors in the market seeking to solve the MDM problem, “but the opportunity becomes very short-term for the partner and customer”, Bland argues. Very few businesses are unaware of the challenge presented by a user bringing a device into the workplace and it’s an issue, whether by design or accident, that corporates are having to deal with. MDM is not an expensive solution (“you can buy it with your credit card”) and it can solve the problem quite quickly. “A customer can go to the partner and say ‘I want to buy MDM’. The partner can say ‘Yes, give me your credit card details’ but if that happens the opportunity is lost,” he claims.

Instead, partners need to expand the discussion and ask customers about their short term problems, mid-term challenges and long-term strategy. The 21 partners at the December event were very clear that they needed to deliver a solution “that went way beyond MDM”.

Mid-market opportunities
IT Force has a range of offerings that it provides to clients across a broad spectrum and those offerings depend on the type of client, says managing director John Bergin. With MDM, for example, the conversations are very different if the client is an SMB with less than 100 users and not IT manager or a mid-market business with up to 350 employees and an IT manager.

Bergin describes MDM as “one of the things we need to be cognisant of, it’s not a huge revenue opportunity for a managed service provider but it’s very important in terms of being part of our portfolio of services. The day you miss one element of service offerings when the client is relying on you to provide all of it is the day when your service falls short,” he argues.

Usually, IT Force starts with advice. A lot of SMB clients might be attracted by the ability to access e-mail from a smartphone “but they need to be conscious of the holes that can open up for their organisation, particularly if they are professional services organisations.”

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