Is your IT department ready for the iPhone?

Some Apple aficionados have been queuing since the end of last week to be first to get their hands on the new device.  For those determined few, the wait will soon be over but, for many IT departments around the world, the process of rolling out the new device is only just beginning.

rendering of rumored sizes of new iPhone and iPad

I know it’s not the first thing that springs to mind about the iPhone but, when you consider the challenges that such a ubiquitously popular new device can create from an IT management perspective, the size of the screen or the possibility of enhanced fitness tracking features start to become a bit less important.

I’m sure this will strike a chord with many of my fellow IT professionals and have drawn up a checklist that, if nothing else, should help to get you thinking about whether or not you’re prepared, not just for the new iPhone, but for any new device that will have employees clambering at the IT department’s door.  

Employee demands

Demanding employees will certainly be an issue when it comes to the launch of any popular new device.  Vast numbers of employees have probably already posed the question to their IT admins: ‘So when do we get the new iPhone?’  and, if they haven’t already, come tomorrow, in the wake of all the media coverage, I’d imagine it will be on their mind to do so.

If an organisation’s corporate mobile contract is still running, I can’t see IT departments having much trouble politely informing employees that they’ll simply have to wait. If that’s the situation you’re in, 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 contracts, which brings me to issue number two.

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

According to various rumour sites, blog posts and product leaks, we can expect the new iPhone/iOS to have lots of new features or changes to existing ones.  Even if the changes are somewhat incremental, any new features lack real-world testing.  Indeed, many could 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 impressed to hear stories about the system being duped by hackers using glue, or users unlocking phones by scanning other body parts instead of their fingerprints.

New users can in effect be unwitting test subjects.  If a new high profile device launches with a security flaw, it will likely get patched pretty quickly, but that’s not to say the patches will come soon enough for early adopters.  Rolling out new devices on launch isn’t just expensive; it can also be high risk, while organisations wait for any teething issues to be resolved.

The great migration

The usability and intuitive interface of the iPhone is well documented, benefitting your average technophobe no end.  However, mobile users new to the iPhone operating system will still need some level of training on the device in a corporate environment – sending a text message is markedly different to knowing how to set up email or back up to iCloud.  Unfortunately, mobile migration processes are not always the smoothest, especially if we’re talking about an employee moving from one OS to another, and that’s before you even start to think about rolling out company-specific apps and services.

How to prepare

Given these issues, it’s vital that organisations are able to continue providing mobile support for employees and ensure the new devices cause minimal disruption to daily 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 each and every rollout of new devices.

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 an entirely enjoyable experience, by following these steps it may be less painful.