MobileIron brings mobile management into mainstream IT

MobileIron's integration with Microsoft's SCCM highlights the major challenges IT departments will need to confront as mobile devices begin overshadowing PCs

Mobile device management illustration

MobileIron announced on Monday plans to add integration with Microsoft SCCM (System Center Console Manager) as a feature to its EMM (enterprise mobile management) suite. The company notes that it is the first EMM provider to do so and that the new feature, which will likely make the company's mobile management platform much more attractive to large IT organization, will be free to all of its customers.

The move is significant for two major reasons. First, it has the power to significantly streamline several areas of IT workflow related to mobile. Second, it reduces the barriers of training needed for many IT professionals to provide support and administration related to mobile devices.

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The most obvious benefit is the single pane of glass argument that systems and user administration is best done using a single tool that can provide access to all the common management tasks. Having access to everything needed to do your job in one console simplifies processes, increases efficiency, and can even reduce errors because you become an expert in how to use one solution most effectively. With the growing demands related to mobile being placed on IT departments, all of those are critical advantages.

Although SCCM is often associated immediately with systems administration, the tool is typically used in a range of IT job roles -- help desk, desktop support, user account management, PC and software deployment, and patch management to name a few.

While mobility management isn't directly associated with all of those roles, it is becoming directly related to some of them like help desk and support as well as user management. In many organizations, even when individuals in those roles are tasked with taking on mobile-related issues, there is often a completely different set of tools and processes that are used compared to support for more traditional systems like PCs. The result is overlap at best, whereas at worst disjointed processes in which support calls, security issues, and even entire groups of users fall through the cracks.

None of that is good when workers have already integrated mobile devices into their workflows as much as, if not more than, their PCs, particularly when those users can simply support themselves with whatever tools they can find or procure outside of IT.

The biggest issue here, however, often isn't just that of multiple tools. It's effective training or cross-training around mobile. It's easy enough to train a small team dedicated to mobile, but more difficult and time consuming to also train your help desk and administration teams. If the core tasks they need to do can be done in a tool they already use all day, every day, that becomes far less of an issue.

It's worth noting that not all of MobileIron's EMM features will be available in SCCM, but the core ones that people in traditional IT roles might need will be available:

  • Gaining a complete view of devices associated with a particular user from the SCCM console.
  • Displaying and exporting more than 100 fields of device information from MobileIron, including device data, policies, app inventory, app settings, and labels.
  • Taking baseline security actions on devices, such as lock, unlock, wipe, retire, and check-in.

Bringing mobile into mainstream IT

MobileIron's announcement and the benefits it offers speaks to a much broader issue for enterprise IT. Even though mobility has become a key technology staple among most professionals, it remains something of an outlier in many IT departments. That is partly because the influx of mobile devices, BYOD or otherwise, is still a relatively new development and many IT organizations are still grappling with how to handle it from both a process and technical point of view. It's also due to the fact that most organizations handed off mobile management to an individual or small team -- new hire, existing employee(s), or by outsourcing -- that then worked with an emerging set of technologies in relative isolation from other day-to-day IT operations.

The challenge today and in the coming months or years is going to be bringing mobile into mainstream IT operations. That's important because mobile devices are set to become an increasing component of technology in every business or organization. MobileIron's Vice President Strategy Ojas Rege pointed to a Gartner report released in May detailing the significant challenges this presents.

In particular, he noted the benefits to SCCM administrators, saying that they would "now have a seat at the table for the mobile transformation of their organizations."

This also means that the mobile teams and administrators will also have a place at the larger IT table. Both are important because no part of an IT department exists in a vacuum. Integrating the technical, process, problem solving, and planning of these teams -- and truly defining what the new roles in IT will be five or 10 years from now -- will become critical to IT success in the not too distant future. MobileIron's announcement is one step in that direction, but the IT industry as a whole has many more steps to go.

This story, "MobileIron brings mobile management into mainstream IT" was originally published by CITEworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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