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Herding cats: mobile device management for sales teams

Using every device and always looking for shortcuts

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Desktop Connectivity and security are the keys to maintaining an efficient mobile sales force - while managing an explosion in the diversity of devices in use.

The biggest productivity killer is when the sales person needs access - only to find that the link is broken somewhere along the line. Yet connectivity is not entirely in the hands of corporate IT departments and cannot be guaranteed.

Admittedly, mobile broadband availability and affordability are improving, but networks remain unreliable, especially at times when corporate users are competing with others making humungous downloads or streaming videos on the train home.

Feeling insecure

There's not a huge amount that IT can do about this beyond keeping a beady eye on the cellco service levels and switch where appropriate, although that can prove just as disruptive as the broken connections.

Device envy is a complicating factor. Josie Sephton, analyst at Freeform Dynamics, says: "Mobile technology is so pervasive that people increasingly want to incorporate more of their personal applications and services into their work life."

As the numbers and combinations of devices available multiply the permutations, it becomes harder to guarantee security. When users bring their own devices to work and expect IT to support them, chasing the chimera of absolute security guarantees only that huge resources will be expended, while the desired outcome is unlikely to be achieved.

Banish the bling

IT shouldn't aim to support all the latest and snazziest devices that sales people might like to impress others with. A lid needs to be kept on that boiling pot of combinations by ensuring that while a choice of device is available to users, they remain within IT's control.

A balance has to be struck between expectations and what is achievable – an unenviable task, preferably undertaken with the help of users' input.

Some companies charge users to connect their own devices to the company network

The end result should be an approved list of devices that IT can support, helping users to keep personal data separate while allowing IT to impose reasonable procedures and rules that safeguard corporate data.

Some companies find that those rules can be enforced by charging users to connect their own devices to the company network.

It is all a delicate compromise between keeping the team happy while making sure no one gets too far ahead of the rest in the technology arms race.

It is also important to maintain access to email, along with secure access to customer relationship management data and updates, including accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, analytics and so on.

Miracle cure

On top of that, IT may also need to provide access to the company's unified communications system, something that the vagaries of mobile broadband probably make easiest when team members are holed up in a hotel room rather than beetling up the M4.

Given that none of the problems is particularly easy to resolve and will take up a lot of time, it might be simplest in the long run to outsource the whole connectivity jigsaw and let your mobile provider deal with it. ®

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