IPhone Forges New Relationship Between IT and Users At Kraft Foods

Kraft Foods uses iPhones in part as a peace offering between users and IT by letting some workers use the devices even though they are not optimal for many corporate uses, VoiceCon attendees were told Monday.

Kraft Foods uses iPhones in part as a peace offering between users and IT by letting some workers use the devices even though they are not optimal for many corporate uses, VoiceCon attendees were told Monday.

Motorola Droid vs. Apple iPhone 3GS  

Letting appropriate users choose the wireless device they want -- and including iPhones as an option -- changes the mentality from viewing IT as the department that always says, "No," to viewing it as a business partner, says Thomas Behnke, global network services manager and architect for Kraft Foods.

"We're now a partner to help them accelerate their work," he says. "It makes them feel empowered and think toward how we can partner on the next endeavor."

The iPhones are a consciously chosen symbol of a culture shift within Kraft where IT decisions are made in collaboration with business units. New technology is not pushed on users so much as it is chosen in collaboration with users, Behnke says.In practice, iPhones have very limited utility as a corporate device, he says, mainly e-mail and calendar syncing. If business units decide they need those two functions on a mobile device, iPhones are one of the options they can choose. The company gives them $100 toward buying the phone and offers no support for the hardware, Behnke says. For tax reasons, Kraft has a corporate liability voice plan for its users, making it possible for employees to deduct part of their phone bills because the device is used for work. Kraft doesn't pay for iTunes or applications from the iStore, he says.

The company is weighing other applications for the iPhone such as Avaya's one-X Mobile client that integrates with Avaya phone systems as well as other third-party business applications.

Apple isn't as responsive in its iPhone fixes as a corporate vendor might be. For instance, when a bug that caused errors in calendar syncing cropped up, Kraft had to wait for the next version of the operating system to fix it. There was no patch, he says.

"Users definitely were not happy," he says, "but it didn't come back on the IT group because we didn't force that on them. It was their choice to opt in. They took ownership of the problem."

Workers who need other features on their mobile devices must use devices mandated by IT, Behnke says. So certain members of the sales force get Motorola handhelds that Kraft manages and that support business applications unique to their jobs. The company owns these devices, the phone number and pays for the calling plan. When a salesperson leaves, he relinquishes the device, he says.

Behnke was the lone corporate user on a VoiceCon panel about what mobile device is best for enterprise use. The panel agreed that other devices such as the BlackBerry and Motorola Windows Mobile-based handhelds have management and administrative tools appropriate for corporate use that iPhones lack.

Gerald McNerney, a vice president of Motorola, defended Windows Mobile from comments made recently by Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer about missing the boat on its mobile support. "The comments were about what he thinks about it. From a consumer phone perspective, he missed the mark vs. the iPhone, RIM, etc.," McNerney says. "As devices for the enterprise, he hasn't missed the mark."

McNerney says Windows Mobile supports the gamut of Microsoft applications needed for business use and has the management tools to back them up.

This story, "IPhone Forges New Relationship Between IT and Users At Kraft Foods" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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