The rate of change in technology is perhaps at its most frantic pace in the area of mobile communications, which is great for consumers but can be tough for those charged with making decisions relating to their organisation’s policies. I was reflecting on how things are shifting as I contemplated the next phase of development here at haysmacintyre, where we have to provide nearly 100 people with mobile phones.
The traditional enterprise model (seems strange talking about “traditional” when it was only a few years back) was that Blackberry was the only choice – it was particularly good for managing email and allowed limited Internet browsing. However, historically the set up and ongoing operational costs were an issue as you were required to have a separate server and to pay licensing costs.
Then in 2004, Microsoft – as it so often does – started to change the predominant market model when it built ActiveSync software into Exchange so that a separate server was no longer required – thus reducing the infrastructure costs significantly. We adopted this approach at the time. However, the available devices were not very user friendly and it was rather hard to manage changes across the network, lacking some of the push technology that Blackberry had. But whilst there were mutterings about the security not being as good as Blackberry, our view was that it was more than good enough. Blackberry, bruised by this assault on its turf, responded by releasing a free version of the middle tier server and reducing its costs.
Then Symbian (now owned by Nokia) came along with an additional option to the Microsoft platform – and the phones were good quality albeit not very exciting. The Nokia E71 is a device that is widely deployed here at haysmacintyre and it has served us well.
The shockwave came when Apple entered the market – building in the Activesync platform and with its well known and admired user interface improvements. In addition to be liked by users for its email management because the screen is so large and the calendar and contact managers being so intuitive, it offered the hugely appealing Apple iPhone app store – where all manner of applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on the social media side, GPS navigation and nearby facilities finders and even Tesco Clubcard account access tempted busy on-the-move professionals. The fact that Microsoft, Nokia and Blackberry have now launched their own app stores shows how important this aspect of mobile phone added value has become. We have a number of enthusiastic iPhone users here at haysmacintyre – even at Board level - and I believe that we will move to this platform entirely at some point.
So the issue is no longer the choice of the underlying technology but a more challenging one relating to human resources and other company policies – if people have one device that serves them at work and at play, how are the costs and benefits allocated from a taxation point of view? And how do you develop effective policies to guard against inappropriate use of what is effectively firm owned equipment both in business hours and in personal time? These are some of the issues that we are discussing with clients on a daily basis and would appreciate your thoughts and experiences on the issue.
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