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Nick Horton, Head of Business Devices, Orange UK

Today's IT managers face a dizzying choice when it comes to mobile devices. Not only are vendors constantly expanding their ranges, but the lines are becoming increasingly blurred between "traditional" handsets, smartphones, and PDA-style devices. At the same time, job roles are also evolving, with increasing mobility and trends like flexible working eroding the traditional hierarchy of many organisations. Where once only senior executives could justifiably claim to warrant a BlackBerry, for example, these devices are now becoming more widespread.

Given these factors, it is hardly surprising that organisations express growing frustration when it comes to selecting and managing the right mobile fleets. However, by appreciating the device options available; gaining a closer understanding of different user needs; and deploying sensible device management policies that balance these requirements with other business priorities such as data security, companies can cut through this hype and find the ideal solution for their business.

It is firstly important to appreciate the sheer range of devices available today. For a certain type of user, simple, "talk and text" handsets will always suffice. Moving upmarket, more sophisticated smart devices - which allow email to be accessed in real time and documents edited on the move via high-speed data connections - offer clear productivity advantages for mobile workers and are increasingly appearing in price bands once occupied by more simplistic phones. Finally, powerful PDA-style devices, originally popularised by RIM's BlackBerry range, are now available from all the major device manufacturers.

Understanding user needs more fully, and segmenting these needs more effectively, remains a fundamental priority for mobile fleet managers. In today's shifting organisational landscape, it is no longer sufficient to classify users purely based on their relative seniority. Instead, companies should establish clear classes of user based on departmental and job responsibilities and use this information as the basis for their procurement decisions.

Lastly, establishing effective device management policies (see previous Mobile Clinic responses) will ensure that companies can enjoy the productivity benefits afforded by truly mobile workforces, while also minimising the attendant data security risks posed by rolling smarter devices out across their organisations.

On this final note, it is important to acknowledge that increasing employee access to the likes of mobile email/PIM and line of business applications offers clear business advantages, which outweigh the perceived risks. It is fair to say that, in the past, deployment of these services within organisations has been less than ideally controlled, leading to these fears being exaggerated. Here, a clear opportunity exists for both device manufacturers and mobile operators to engage more closely with their customers.

To summarise, it can be argued that the issue here does not necessarily lie with the increasingly complex device features and functionality, but with the need for greater understanding of users' contrasting needs. By paying closer attention to classes of user; balancing the resulting requirements with the correct choice of device through communication with their mobile operators; and establishing sensible device management policies; organisations can ensure that mobility remains a benefit rather than a headache for both individual users and device fleet managers. ®

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