We recently wrote An Introduction to Mobile Device Management (MDM) outlining what it is and what are considered mobile devices. The next question is, does MDM relate to ITAM?
Is this IT Asset Management (ITAM)?
Yes! Mobile devices should certainly be treated as an asset; therefore it falls under the ITAM remit. Mobile devices should be treated like any other asset; it needs constant monitoring and management throughout its lifecycle. The challenge with mobile devices however is the fact that they are mobile. They can be moved from location to location a lot easier than a desktop, and some are small enough to get lost.
Another reason why MDM is part of ITAM is the fact that the main goal of MDM is to secure, monitor, manage and support the organisations mobile devices, whilst providing what is known as ‘over the air’ installation of applications, data and also configuration settings. It’s not just tablets and phones that fall under the MDM category, but also mobile printers, mobile computers (not quite laptops, but bigger than tablets) and also POS (point of sale) devices.
Unless an organisation creates a team purely to manage its mobile assets, then it should fall under the ITAM remit. It ticks all the right boxes:
- Software management
- License management (for the apps, don’t forget Microsoft, Adobe and other vendors allow licenses up to X amount of DEVICES! Tablets included)
- Hardware lifecycle management
- BYOD policies (this should be part of ITAM)
The only part of MDM that may be outside of the ITAM remit is the data management, but that’s something that needs to be managed along with all the other aspects of MDM.
How does this presently affect ITAM?
The whole MDM concept is relatively emerging at this stage, with some enterprise organisations rolling mobile devices out globally, and some smaller organisations only having one or two devices within their estate. Either way, the organisation needs to manage their mobile assets.
IT and ITAM Managers are now faced with new challenges with mobile devices. There are a number of questions that they now need to answer:
- How do I physically manage this device?
- How do I manage the applications being installed?
- I want to monitor data usage, how can I do that?
- Can our existing ITAM tool manage our mobile devices?
- Can you cap the amount of mobile data used?
Thankfully, there are a number of MDM solutions currently on the market that can do certain aspects of the points mentioned. There are some MDM solutions that are primarily used for managing the devices by location, and also used for viewing what applications are installed. Some MDM solutions go that one step further and also allow you to monitor usage of the apps to check that no one is playing Angry Birds during working hours. They also let you monitor the amount of data being used. The amount of data that can be used via tablets and phones is set out when you agree your contract with your mobile provider.
However, along with ‘cracked’ applications (apps that are somehow acquired illegally by the user, i.e. an unlicensed application) the biggest issue with mobile devices, especially tablets and phones, is the cost of data. What MDM solutions allow you to do is look at the data the users are using, when they are using it, and on what applications. If a user goes over their allowed data capacity, then just like with personal contracts the mobile provider charges a fortune.
The ITAM team need to monitor the amount of data being used by devices, as the organisation could end up with a large bill. Furthermore, if a user leaves ‘data roaming’ on in another country whilst on a business trip (or even on holiday if the organisation allows users to take their tablet home), the organisation could be looking at a bill that runs into the thousands for a single user on a single device.
The responsibility of the data, applications and overall device management falls to the ITAM/SAM/IT Manager.
Mobile devices are only going to increase even more in popularity. They are developing into more sophisticated and powerful machines that are now becoming a vital asset to any organisation. Applications on mobile devices are also becoming more sophisticated, smaller in size and also higher in data-usage when not connecting to Wi-Fi.
The issue with MDM is where does it actually fit? If an organisation has a dedicated SAM team, would it fall under their remit? The software used on mobile devices is certainly part of SAM, but then you need to consider the asset and data management side of things. Is that SAM?
You could argue the same case if the organisation has a dedicated Hardware Asset Manager. The asset will be their responsibility, but is the data management and applications installed on it?
As the need for MDM increases, and the number of mobile devices skyrockets, the need for an overall ITAM department becomes clear. Hardware Asset Management and Software Asset Management work hand in hand together anyway – they need each other to be successful – so why not incorporate the two, bring in MDM and call it IT Asset Management? Personally, I think that’s the future. It’ll be more cost effective than having a dedicated SAM, HAM and MDM team or manager.
Mobile device numbers are going to keep increasing over the next few years. Cisco predicts that by 2017 there will be 1.4 mobile devices per person. We may even be talking about a mobile device-only estate in the future, with desktops and laptops being a thing of the past! The ITAM world needs to realise that mobile devices are just as important as any other form of asset, so it needs to be managed throughout its lifecycle.
Larger enterprise organisations should have a dedicated solution in place for managing the device, application, usage and mobile data issues. It’s only a matter of time before all organisations have an army of tablets and a variety of phones within their organisation, so get the processes in place and start managing those mobile assets now!