Navigating the sea of mobile devices

Monday - 8/30/2010, 9:31am EDT

Browlee Thomas, global IT Sourcing & Vendor Management Team, Forrester Research

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By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

With a mind-numbing array of mobile devices on the market, how does an agency go about sourcing them in the best possible way? You've got to balance features, security, and the limits of how many devices can be supported with keeping users happy.

Brownlee Thomas, a member of Forrester Research's global IT Sourcing & Vendor Management Team, joined the Federal Drive with some industry perspective. Thomas specialize in enterprise network and telecoms, and she says the two most important factors to consider when procuring mobile phones are cost and privacy and security concerns.

It's important she says, to manage the security capabilities for any citizen and policy information that might be involved, and also maintaining user security.

Among the cost-cutting measures around the industry, Thomas says, is to have employees purchase their own devices. When it comes down to deciding device-specifications (keypad v. touch screen, screen size, etc), it's better that the employees themselves decide and purchase the device, and the agency pay for service.

Thomas said 17 percent of public sector agencies already require employees to pay 100 percent of device cost, and just over 20 percent of private sector do too. That way, Thomas explained, the agency isn't charged with addition peripheral costs, such as replacing a charger or case for example.

"it really simplifies administration," Thomas said.

More importantly, it's only after the agency installs work applications , which the agency bears the costs for, that the device can be functional for work use. Since the company already absolves that cost, putting limitations on further costs could include limiting the number of operational systems for smart phones the agency supports.

Thomas said 2/3rds of government agencies currently can support BlackBerrys, just over half can support Window's Mobile and and 33 percent can also support Apple's iPhone.

"But what typically you're going to try to do is say 'Ok, we're going to support a couple of operating systems and no more,' and that's exactly to keep the costs down for IT," Thomas said.

But agencies can help themselves the most by outlining a formal mobile device policy, which surprisingly few agencies have, Thomas said.

As per Forrester Research's most recent survey, only 6 percent of public sector agency had a mobile policy in place, and 11 percent of U.S. private sector companies did.

These policies not only monitor and set guidelines for the use of agency-owned and managed devices, but also dictate the use of private devices at work.