Mobile Communications

iPhone 666 - Will This be Hell for IT Departments?

In case you missed the news, although I’m not sure how, the iPhone 6 launch is fast approaching. While Apple fans around the world are waiting with eager expectation, I have other things on my mind. Specifically, I’m thinking about what this means for the IT department and the disruptions a new iPhone could cause.

I know it’s not the first thing that springs to mind for most people but bear with me. When you consider the challenges that such a ubiquitously popular new device can create from an IT management perspective, it seems entirely trivial to be fretting about the size of the screen or the possibility of enhanced fitness tracking features.

Here’s a quick list of concerns, which I’m sure will strike a chord with many of my fellow IT professionals. If nothing else, it should help inject some healthy and much needed scepticism into proceedings.

Demanding employees

Employee demand will certainly be an issue when it comes to the iPhone 6 launch. I can’t imagine how many employees have already posed the question to their IT team or office administrators ‘So when do we get the new iPhone then?’ nor can I imagine how many will do so on and after 9 September 2014.

If an organisation’s corporate mobile contract is still running, I can’t see admins having much trouble telling these ‘disgruntled’ employees that they’ll simply have to wait. If that’s you, feel free to breathe a quick sigh of relief as the real problems will be incurred by organisations coming to the end of their mobile contract, which brings me to issue #2...

Out with the old (tried and tested) in with new (unknown and scary)

As per the various rumour sites, blog posts and product leaks, expect the iPhone 6 to have new features or changes to existing features. Even if they’re somewhat incremental, new features are, by nature, untested. Indeed, they could even be unfit for enterprise-use. While this is not always the case, early adopters of the iPhone 5S, excited by the prospect of enhanced security through finger-print scanning, probably weren’t best pleased when stories broke about the system being duped by hackers using glue, nor when users started scanning other body parts instead of their fingerprints – hardly the most secure new feature.

New users are, in many ways unwitting test subjects. If a new high profile device launches with a security flaw, chances are it will get patched pretty quick, but that’s not to say you won’t have been affected already. Getting new devices on launch is not only expensive, it’s also a high risk approach and organisations that wait for the inevitable teething issues to be resolved are obviously less likely to find themselves in such a predicament.

The great migration

The usability and intuitive interface of the iPhone is well documented and, indeed, your average technophobe could probably use one no problem. However, mobile users switching to the new iPhone will still need to be set up to work on the device since being able to send a text message is markedly different to knowing how to set up email or back up to iCloud. Unfortunately the mobile migration process is not always the smoothest, especially if we’re talking about an employee used to Android or BlackBerry OS, and that’s before you start to think about rolling out company-specific apps and services of course.

If it’s a sizable rollout, this can become an onerous task indeed. In addition to the initial set up, there will inevitably be follow-up questions/issues too, another drain on resources. Add a network issue or security incident into the mix and this represents a significant outlay of resources.

How to prepare

Given these issues, it’s vital that organisations are able to continue providing mobile support for employees and ensure the raft of new devices cause minimal disruption to day-to-day operations. Implementing effective Enterprise Mobility Management policies should be a top priority and although most organisations will already have this in place, it’s helpful to review EMM practice well ahead of a new mobile rollout such as this.

The first steps towards this are understanding your organisation’s expectations before switching to a new device, identifying your mobile use cases and defining specific guidelines and policies based on what’s right for your organisation. It also means determining what information and applications each department needs access to, outlining security procedures important to each business unit and understanding the regulations governing data usage and data access in the countries you operate in.

While mobile migration is unlikely to be a heavenly experience, follow these steps and you’ll certainly avoid IT service hell. 


Udo Waibel is CTO of FrontRange


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