iPad in the Enterprise: IT Must Stay Ahead of the Curve

In a wide-ranging interview, an Apple expert shares real-world experiences about iPads in the enterprise, mobile device management and BYOD. Key takeaways for IT: Don't improvise when it comes to iPad adoption and don't get bypassed by rogue users.

When the district sales managers of a luxury retailer logged into their corporate email accounts on shiny, new iPads for the first time, at the same time—cheers went up.

But something else went down: the Lotus Notes server.

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Imagine all those iPads simultaneously downloading the full dump of Lotus Notes. Don't point the finger at IT for this technical gridlock, not this time. The IT department didn't even know about the iPad rollout until it was too late, and still had to deal with the fallout.

Blame a rogue sales group for all the trouble. The sales group wanted to hand out iPads to district sales managers. So the group contracted Tekserve, a services firm helping Fortune 1000 companies adopt the iPad.

The sales group had one condition: Don't tell the IT department.

"We made it clear that we would much prefer to engage the IT department," recalls Tekserve CTO Aaron Freimark. "We want to support Apple for the IT department."

After all, iPads in the enterprise require some serious IT planning beyond mobile device management (MDM) and iOS app development. Wi-Fi networks need to be shored up to handle the extra load. Passwords need to be collected in advance. Logins need to be spaced out so that systems don't crash. The infrastructure needs to be beefed up.

"With iPhones and iPads, we're still seeing guerilla" tactics by end-user groups, Freimark says. He doesn't know why the sales group wanted to keep high-flying iPads a secret. Maybe IT had already shot down the idea. Many IT departments are infamous for saying no, and so bypassing IT isn't anything new.

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The IT department at the luxury retailer eventually caught wind of the iPad rollout, and responded in kind. "They said, 'You guys are on your own,'" Freimark says. "They didn't have time to evaluate this. They didn't have any resources to support this."

Now the IT department is running behind the iPad, which isn't a good place to be considering that the number of iPads and other mobile devices at a company can spike into the thousands very quickly.

In an interview with CIO.com, Freimark talked about the importance of being out in front of the iPad in the enterprise and also gave his take on the fast-evolving MDM space and the white-hot bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

During Apple's latest earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said Apple will be bringing more resources and salespeople to bear on driving iPads deeper into the enterprise. How is your relationship with Apple direct sales?

Freimark: We are really happy to work alongside Apple direct sales guys. They deliver the actual [iPad] units, and we set up the iPads and deploy them.

It's going to cost a company so much more money if they have to figure it out on their own. Usually after this point, they realize they should have enrolled the iPads in MDM. It gets a lot harder when iPads are already deployed.

So Apple does a great job providing iPads to companies and coming to us to provide the other parts, including critical iOS app development services.

One of the best ways for an enterprise to be committed to the iOS platform is to develop apps, even if it's a small project app with a time limit that gets thrown away. Developing apps internally or using a partner means that the core assets of a company—the data, the knowledge—now have a multi-touch, modern, sleek platform to ride on.

We have a fantastic relationship with Apple, both in their engineering and sales sides. We work alongside Apple pretty frequently. It's good that we don't compete with our supplier.

The MDM vendors been evolving at a rapid clip, and you've been following this space closely on Tekserve's blog site for iOS admins, enterpriseiOS.com. What are the latest trends?

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Tekserve CTO Aaron Freimark

Freimark: It's expanding horizontally. All the MDM vendors do some sort of app management now. Many are getting into document and file management. AirWatch has a secure content blocker, for example. Some have email gateways. It's a lot broader scope than where they started from.

There are two ways this can go: One is, it's great you have a single vendor for all your device management needs. The other way is, once you make a choice there are no substitutions. You're stuck with it.

I'm hoping not every vendor chooses to go the route of checking boxes and trying to cover everything. I'd rather see them focus on being really good at what they do. I'd also like to see MDM vendors allow for a lot of substitutions, so that your over-the-air policy management doesn't have to be the same as your document and file management or applications management or deployment environment.

We're kind of past the era of monolithic software.

It's hard to talk about iPads and iPhones in the enterprise without mentioning BYOD, which blurs the line between work and personal lives. What are the key difference between BYOD and company-owned devices?

Freimark: You can look at BYOD different ways. The way that we promote is that the user effectively owns and manages the device even if the company paid for the device.

So the luxury retailer was buying iPads and giving them as presents to district managers across the country. They initially wanted the devices very much locked down. But the technology isn't really there to lock it down as much as they want to. The iPad and iOS are set up for a single user—and that user is not the company but the employee.

But mostly the user mindset is very different. You're giving them or possibly loaning them the device, but it becomes their device for that period. (For more on Freimark's take on the iPad's uniqueness, check out iPad Culture Shock for IT.)

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No matter who pays for the device, the most successful way to set up iPads is for the user to effectively own it, in terms of putting on and taking off what they want. Management has to get their heads wrapped around that.

This doesn't mean that there is no security or management on it. But it's the carrot and the stick. The carrot is that you'll let them have the email address but only through the MDM. Or you'll let them have access to apps paid for through Apple's volume purchase program, but only if they have these other restrictions on the device.

This is the same scenario if users actually bought their own device.

With iPads, it's easier because everybody is running the latest iOS. You're just treating it as if the user owns the device, and the business carves out a portion of the device. That's really the successful method.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

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