The surge in remote work and the growing trend of using the same mobile devices for work and leisure have challenged traditional on-premise IT management. When work is no longer tied to a certain place or time, there’s a clear need for more flexible cloud-based device management.
Work-life has been in the middle of change for a long time and the current pandemic has further accelerated the transition. We are constantly switching between the office and remote work, processing large loads of data, and collaborating over the internet, using the same laptops, tablets, and smartphones for both business and leisure.
When talking about this change, specialists, especially in the field of IT, are using the term Modern Workplace. But what is a “modern workplace”? In short, it’s a workplace that supports everyone’s individual ways of working by utilizing different digital solutions that are flexible enough to adapt to constantly changing employee and enterprise needs.
In a modern workplace, employees can work productively and securely, no matter where, when, and with which devices they work.
The shift from on-premise to cloud
I have been working in various roles in IT for more than 20 years, and from the perspective of IT management, the change in the pace and mobility of work has been massive. The pandemic has further boosted this transition and ultimately proven that remote work can be as productive as office work – and in most cases, even more productive.
When it comes to device management, IT environments have been traditionally managed with on-premise solutions that are tied to a certain location and require maintenance. However, as remote work has increased, these on-premise solutions no longer respond to the needs of modern work, and companies have started to look for more flexible, cloud-based device management options.
As remote work has increased, these on-premise solutions no longer respond to the needs of modern work, and companies have started to look for more flexible, cloud-based device management options.
During the past few years, we’ve seen many companies implementing Mobile Device Management (MDM) for the first time. And the sudden remote work boom has forced many more to quickly solve the problem: How to keep track of our devices and manage them outside the corporate network?
MDM at the core of the modern workplace
Cloud-based MDM tools play a key role in modern workplaces. They increase mobility and help both employees and IT teams to work more efficiently and securely. But what does it mean in practice?
One example is application management. With MDM, companies can install, update, and remove applications on all company-owned devices at the same time, making it easier for device users to access all necessary data and tools anywhere, anytime.
When employees are using the same devices for both work and leisure, companies might find it difficult to control how devices are used outside work. This can put company data at risk. MDM solutions help companies keep track of their devices and secure devices according to a unified company policy.
However, managing devices with MDM can raise questions, like:
“What kind of data does my employer collect?”
“Why does my employer need that data?”
“When is the data collected and how?”
MDM solutions never collect device users’ personal data, like messages and photos, and your solution provider should always provide you with documentation on collected data.
When it comes to data security, MDM does not only help protect company data, but it also protects device users’ personal data in case their device gets into the wrong hands.
Building blocks of a modern workplace
A modern workplace consists of multiple different elements that help employees to stay productive no matter where they work and which devices they use. Here are three central aspects from IT’s point of view:
Automated device setups
Apple, Google, and Microsoft have their own device management frameworks (Windows Autopilot, Apple Business/School Manager, Android Enterprise, and Samsung Knox) that ease device management. Together with MDM, these frameworks enable zero-touch enrollment and remote management of company-owned devices.
In practice, this means that devices can be set up remotely and shipped directly to employees. The employee only needs to connect to the internet, sign in to their device, and everything else in the device’s setup process is automated.
Since we’re not necessarily working in the same office anymore, we need digital tools to collaborate remotely. Solutions, like Teams, Zoom, and Slack, ensure smooth collaboration even when team members are working in separate locations. Microsoft has, for example, put a lot of effort into constantly improving Teams so that it responds to the needs of a growing number of remote workers. And MDM, on the other hand, makes it easy to install and update these applications on employees’ devices.
Support for different use cases
Mobile devices are often used for multiple different purposes, and in the future, there will probably be many more use cases. MDM makes it easy to ensure that these devices and the sensitive data processed with them stay secure, no matter how devices are used.
Some companies allow employees to use their own devices for work with so-called BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) policies. However, many have chosen a CYOD (Choose-Your-Own-Device) approach which enables employees to pick any device they prefer to work with. This helps support productivity and employee satisfaction while making it easier to manage a variety of devices.
Using the same device for work and personal use also poses a challenge: How to separate work usage, data, and applications from personal usage?
With Android Work Profile, for example, it is possible to secure work data and work apps by creating a separate container for those. This allows employees to feel reassured that their own mobile usage stays private while company data is being protected. Employees can switch between their work profile and personal profile any time they want to.
In addition to protecting devices in BYOD and CYOD scenarios, MDM makes it possible to support a variety of different use cases, including Kiosk devices and POS devices.
All of these are developed to make IT teams' and employees’ lives easier. The key is to give users freedom while making sure that your company data is adequately secured.
I believe that MDM solutions should have a key role in simplifying cross-platform device management in modern workplaces. And IT teams should think of themselves as enablers – helping employees to be creative and productive, no matter which device models or operating systems they’re using.