Corporate devices are getting all the love these days, but BYOD challenges remain

Plenty of people still carry two phones, a completely rational act.

Today I want to talk about some enterprise mobility basics: mobile device management, enterprise devices, and BYOD. There’s been a lot of progress for corporate-liable devices, but I think we still need some better options for personal ones.

Corporate-liable devices today

Corporate iOS and Android devices are having their time in the sun. This includes phones and tablets for front-line employees across many industries, as well as embedded, kiosk, and point of sale use cases. Typical office workers are getting plenty of company-issued iOS and Android devices, too—BYOD is common, but it hasn’t taken over.

To go along with this trend, the technology to support it is fairly mature. I’m not just talking basic MDM, I’m talking about the Apple Device Enrollment Program and Supervised Mode; the Samsung Knox Mobile Enrollment, Configure, and Customization programs; and Android device owner mode and zero touch provisioning. These are considered core MDM features. For example, when Faronics announced a brand-new MDM product, they mentioned “leaving out infrequently used features,” but included support for Apple DEP and Android zero touch.

What does this mean?

I think corporate-liable devices are a bigger part of the EMM world than we initially thought they would be. If you look back at our articles from four or five years ago, we concentrated a lot on “how do we support anything that walks in the door?” But now we’re more specific about devices and use cases.

One big issue we still face is that there are gaps when it comes personally-owned devices. Both Android and iOS MDM still only support enrolling a device with one organization at a time. As a result, when dealing with contractors that may work for multiple companies, EMM options are limited. And with an apps-only MAM approach (where all the security and management features are built into the app), companies are limited in the apps they can use. (In other words, MAM SDKs and app wrapping tools still face some of the same inherent issues we were talking about five years ago.)

One of the results of this is that the trend of carrying two phones has never gone away. Of course, this was necessary back when work phones were still all BlackBerrys, but after EMM emerged, our mindset changed to “carrying two phones is crazy—the technology to avoid it is here.”

Nevertheless, people are carrying two phones for completely rational reasons, including ones besides the MDM and MAM issues I mentioned. For one, there are still lingering privacy concerns. Second, something that I can appreciate as I’ve gotten older (or more jaded?), is that having two phones is easier for a lot of people. There are plenty of ways to get two phone numbers on one handset, but this adds complication and cost, or users have to figure it out on their own. (I’ve done this using Google Voice for years.) Then there are the notifications—Android 7.0 added the ability to turn off the work profile, but on iOS, there’s no easy way to turn off the notifications for just your work apps over the weekend.

Wrap up

It’s good news for the industry that all the technologies to support corporate liable use case either mature or getting close to it, but I’m still going to stand on my soapbox and advocate for better options for personal devices.

(For further reading, see my series on mobile app management, or my article on how I think Apple could improve MDM for personal devices.)

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