Cradle to grave – why device management is key to employee success

Originally published in IT Pro Portal.

The important thing to remember here is that it is not enough simply to set devices up for users; IT needs to consider the lifecycle.

Technology exists to make our lives easier. That’s a given. In our personal lives we use our smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs to shop, do our banking, book our holidays, entertain ourselves, and communicate with friends and family. In the business sphere technology is an enabler; it makes us more productive, allows us to collaborate with colleagues all over the world, and it gives us a sense of control over our environment.

The other benefit of technology is that it allows us to work from any location, whether that’s from home, a satellite office, a client site, or while travelling.

Of course there’s a caveat. In fact, there’s more than one. Whichever device we use, smartphone, laptop, tablet, it needs to be quick, offer high performance and include all the functionality we need to reach our goals. While top-of-the range devices are obviously more desirable, particularly for millennials and so-called digital natives who have higher expectations regarding technology, often speed and performance are not enough.

More than about configuration

However, the age and ‘spec’ of a device does not automatically guarantee increased productivity — this all counts for nothing if the device is not set up properly in the first place, or the user is unable to get to grips with how it works. And this leads to the second condition; all devices, regardless of their age, ability and operating systems, need to be set up correctly, managed and maintained throughout their lifecycle.

For the most part the IT team is responsible for device management, from selection of the individual technology and setup, to maintaining it and ensuring it is running as it should. The important thing to remember here is that it is not enough simply to set devices up for users; IT needs to consider the lifecycle.

Safety first

One of the most critical reasons for this is security. Regardless of operating system, security patches and updates are regularly released by manufacturers to address the fast-changing cyber threat landscape. If these patches are not applied, the consequences can be catastrophic. An extreme example of this is the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected 200,000 computers in 150 countries across global businesses in 2017, including the UK’s health care provider NHS. Looking at the NHS specifically, surgical operations and appointments were cancelled across the country, and even after the attack the consequences were felt. In fact, the Department of Health and Social Carerevealed the actual cost of the attack comes close to £92 million.

What does this have to do with device management? WannaCry could have been prevented if the NHS had applied the patches that Microsoft released for Windows 7 (the affected operating system) two months before the attack.

Security is also a key driver in setting the device up correctly. IT teams need to ensure that the device is configured properly, in line with the functions needed and corporate policies. They also need to make sure the end user has access to all the applications and systems required and is restricted from accessing those he or she does not have permissions for. In the onboarding of new staff members, this includes education on training on device usage and security best practice.

The security measures don’t stop there. Once the contract has ended, it’s vital that the data is correctly removed from the device, not only to protect any sensitive company information before the device is recycled, but to ensure the business is compliant in line with GDPR and WEEE guidelines.

Troubleshooting and support

As to be expected, part of ongoing device management also includes troubleshooting; IT teams need to be on hand to sort out any issues that affect the device performance or stop the end user from using the technology entirely, whether that is related to the software or a problem with the hardware.

When it comes to general operation, IT teams can help end users get the most out of their devices, especially when updates are released, or new features added. This is especially important when it comes to collaboration, accessing cloud-based systems and internal workflow management applications.

 

Possible roadblocks ahead

There will be challenges when it comes to device management. For time strapped, budget conscious businesses, they may not have the resources to dedicate to supporting the devices (and the end users) throughout the lifecycle. While many businesses have in-house or outsourced IT providers, this often just covers service desk issues and not managing the devices themselves. As a result, there is a gap that can lead to productivity and efficiency issues, not to mention security concerns.

But there are ways around this issue.

Shifting focus and changing approach

Depending on how these devices are procured – many businesses opt for subscription models as a more favourable alternative to buying them outright and investing in hardware – device management can be offered as a service. This is especially true for those businesses using subscription models. Using these means organisations can ease the burden of capital expenditure. By unshackling an IT department so that it no longer needs to make large one-off payments for the goods it requires means that it can more effectively digitally transform its business to compete within a morphing international market place. This also makes any purchase much easier for the senior decision makers within the business to stomach.

Secondly, a subscription model empowers businesses with an unprecedented level of agility, allowing them to operate and make decisions more proactively than ever before. If a business is using this model to update its digital infrastructure or strengthen its security defences, it doesn’t have to wait for months until it has enough money saved up. Rather, it can make these upgrades instantly without needing to consider the immediate financial implications.

An additional benefit of working with a service provider is that it can take some of the administrative burden associated with dealing with multiple suppliers and deliver it to your business all at once; including device management and simplifying the overall administrative process.

Finally, because it will inevitably be working on a rolling contract, this means that a business can continue to upgrade its systems and infrastructure in-line with the latest trends, therefore future-proofing its operations for years to come.

Conclusion

Device management, from purchase to decommissioning, can have significant benefits for an organisation. From security and cost optimisation, to performance and efficiency. When outsourced or working with a partner, these benefits can expand to include ease of management, cost savings and access to the latest technology. Regardless of approach, for businesses and staff to get the most out of their devices, they need to be managed throughout their lifecycle.

Tim Morgan-Hoole, Managing Director, JTRS