GCN: App-level approach to mobile management
The growth of the bring your own device (BYOD) movement among government and contract workers continues to skyrocket. A report this year by the Mobile Work Exchange – a public and private partnership – revealed that 40 percent of employees at the 150 state and local government agencies it surveyed are using mobile devices for work-related activities. It’s not surprising. The potential productivity and cost savings for government agencies that adopt mobile apps are enormous. In training alone, the use of enterprise mobile apps can dramatically reduce costs by providing electronic, role-specific and self-paced training that employees can use whenever and wherever it’s most convenient.
These apps can also help agencies more easily keep training materials current and provide employees with real-time updates that reflect changing regulations and requirements. Mobile apps might also help agencies stretch their shrinking training budgets by eliminating the need for printed materials or requirements for training-related travel. It’s already happening. Using the Army Training Network 2 Go mobile app, Army soldiers today receive training on electronic health records to track patient care, manage medical supplies and conduct health surveillance in combat zones. And GAO reported that social workers staff using mobile devices and apps could provide 50 million hours of additional services annually.
Securing the mobile agency
Developing apps that save time and money is one thing. But managing them in a secure enterprise on employees’ personal devices is a different matter. Some federal agencies, including the Army Marketplace enterprise app store, have been early leaders in distributing mobile apps to government workers. Nevertheless, some government agencies that are new to mobile struggle with how best to deploy apps that meet stringent government security requirements. For years, mobile device management (MDM) – which maintains control over an employee's device to ensure security – has been the common approach for mobile management. However a major drawback to MDM is that it can create barriers to adoption, as many end users don't want to allow their IT departments to wipe their work and personal data. Plus, there are costs to enroll employees with MDM licenses and costs to integrate MDM with existing IT infrastructures. Even at a few dollars per connected device, an MDM service for an agency with hundreds or thousands of workers could be cost prohibitive.
A more effective approach is mobile application management (MAM), where agencies can secure data and apps at the app level. MAM is also cost-efficient because it doesn’t require infrastructure investment. MAM has a number of performance advantages over MDM. For instance, MAM enables organizations to instantly scale to manage and distribute mobile apps. Security is also is centered on the true endpoint – the apps and data being used by employees, not the devices. MAM also offers a reduced application maintenance burden for IT staff. For organizations that use enterprise mobile app stores, upgrades are sent to employees continuously and do not require the IT department to oversee upgrades or scheduled maintenance. An app-level approach to mobile management can also help agencies avoid the legal concerns and adoption challenges associated with controlling employees’ personal devices.
MAM allows government agencies to secure apps and data without interfering with employees’ personal data, putting employees at ease and helping to foster mobile app adoption. This post originally appeared on GCN on December 11, 2014.