The Retail CIO’s Guide to Mobile Device Management Strategy

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@nika-vartanovaNika Vartanova

Veronika Vartanova is a Mobility Researcher at Iflexion.

Are you in retail and planning to make mobile part of your strategy? Do you follow a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and need to separate business and personal data on the same devices? If so, mobile device management (MDM) will become an important strategic consideration for your executive team. 
If you're ready to take control of mobile technology in your retail operations, here are some of the things you should know about MDM before you go ahead. 

The Rise of Retail Mobility

MDM provides businesses with a set of tools to manage mobile devices such as phones, tablets, or laptops remotely and en masse. Without the technology, IT teams would need to manage each device individually, which is costly and time-consuming. 
With mobile being a priority now, mobile software matures day by day and now spans device, application, content and information management. According to the global MDM report by Acute Market Reports, the mobile management market is going to grow at a CAGR of 23% during 2019-2027. 
However, retail mobility poses certain challenges as device management extends beyond technological solutions. If you're to manage your employees' mobile devices effectively, MDM should incorporate sound policies, processes, and rules before the technology is applied. 

Essential MDM Capabilities

At the required minimum, your MDM strategy (and the technological solution that supports it) should provide the following capabilities: 
  • Device configuration
  • Device provisioning
  • Security
  • Support
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Device decommissioning
Let's move on to take a look at each of these areas in a little more detail. 

Mobile Device Configuration

The size of your retail organization, the workforce headcount, the number of retail outlets you operate—all of these factors will influence the number of mobile devices to be deployed and managed (or just managed in case of BYOD).

If that number is more than a handful, configuring them all in accordance with your mobile policies will be a time-consuming exercise. Therefore, your MDM solution should enable a centralized configuration for your IT team to manage all relevant tasks remotely. 

Mobile Device Provisioning and Commissioning

Your MDM software should be able to follow your established levels of authority, under which end users and IT managers can provision smartphones and tablets with apps, be it sanctioned consumer-grade apps, custom apps built for your company, or enterprise mobility solutions like mPOS.

For example, you can authorize your employees to select and download certain mobile apps from an internal app store or access self-service support. At the same time, you should be able to make some apps off-limits or subject to provisioning by an authorized manager or administrator. 

Device and App Security

While default configuration capabilities include app and device security, you should be able to program your MDM solution for allowing certain security actions under prescribed circumstances. 
This might include erasing device data when users leave the company or when a device is lost or stolen.

Lost or stolen devices are one of the major reasons for corporate data breaches. That’s why the need for immediacy in this case is particularly acute. The ability to erase data remotely—and quickly—is paramount for the protection of your company, staff, and especially your customers. 
What’s more, an MDM platform should have configuration settings for data privacy and security. With the GDPR-like regulations accepted globally, you need to know that your employees follow the company’s policies regarding passwords, device encryption, etc.

End-user Support

Your mobile technology administrators should be able to provide help desk functions, remote support, and troubleshooting for the staff using mobile devices. Ideally, your MDM solution should enable system-alert responses directly from a centralized dashboard. 

Monitoring and Reporting Capabilities

The ability to keep tabs on your employees' device use is another critical element of an MDM strategy and platform. You should be able to monitor and report on the following: 
  • Device inventory, with visible individual device statuses
  • Device "fleet" and individual usage statistics
  • Device locations
  • Mobile application inventory
Ideally, your platform should deliver alerts and notifications, so administrators can quickly learn about situations requiring their attention. 

Remote Decommissioning

At some point, the lifecycle of every mobile device comes to an end. In case the end of the lifecycle is not managed, the device will just turn into a potential liability for your business.

That's why your MDM solution should allow administrators to audit, cleanse, and decommission devices when their useful life is over. As with all the other capabilities discussed here, you'll want your system administrators to perform these decommissioning tasks remotely, without treating each device individually. 

Keep Your OS Options Open

The MDM capabilities discussed above are a minimum standard for the management of mobile applications and devices in retail. Once you have set out a strategy, you will need to create a detailed list of requirements for your MDM solution.

Among the important things to consider is the operating system you will implement or support in your retail mobility initiative.

Implementing a platform-agnostic MDM system usually pays off, even if you choose to issue corporate mobile devices rather than implement the BYOD regime. After all, you never know when you may want to change the hardware strategy or switch mobile operating systems. 

Beyond MDM: EMM and UEM 

If your IT budget allows, and you're serious about mobilizing the workforce in your retail enterprise, you may want to consider a solution that integrates MDM with other aspects of mobile technology management. 
If so, you can go for an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform to regulate and standardize the use of all types of mobile devices, including non-traditional hardware, such as scanners and terminals (used for POS and inventory control), and even customer self-service stations. Basically, an EMM platform is similar to MDM, but it gives more control over devices and adds one more level of security.
If you already have an EMM platform and there’s little room for scaling, you can take the next step in this evolution and implement a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) strategy. As you have guessed, a UEM platform can do everything MDM and EMM do, but it can also manage other endpoints, including desktop OSs, apps, user data, and IoT devices. The platform is designed to reduce operational costs as well as complexity of mobile device management. 

Is MDM on Your Tech Wish List Yet?

If you don’t plan to implement a mobile device management strategy, think about it this way. Are you sure your staff members aren't using personal mobile devices to access your business information? The truth is, you can never be. 
Mobile devices are here to stay. So, by implementing an MDM strategy and a respective platform, you can take a huge step toward taking control of mobile IT use in your organization while promoting employee engagement and productivity.

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