An enterprise playbook for managing the mobile workplace

This article is sponsored by StarHub.

The modern workplace is no longer characterised by a singular physical space. From office cubicles and bulky telephony and computer equipment, the paradigm has now shifted into working from anywhere, enabled by the convenience brought by mobile devices, and enterprises’ positive response to the hybrid working setup.

What started out as a business continuity measure during the height of the pandemic is now an agile way of doing business for many organisations. However, the adoption of the mobile workplace is not without its set of challenges.

This was the centre of discussion during the recent fireside chat entitled “The Mobile Workplace,” organised by Jicara Media and hosted by StarHub.

Among the top challenges of business organisations as far as the hybrid working arrangement is concerned, is how they can support their workforce in terms of technology and security, noted Alex Low, Head of Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Business Group at StarHub.

“Enterprises are also speeding up their digital transformation with the adoption of 5G, business applications, and IoT (Internet of Things). With all these adoptions coming in, they (enterprises) are having some concerns about the cost required to roll out these technologies into their working environment. What are the right tools and devices? How are they going to deploy the devices to the end user? Who are they going to work with? And how many partner vendors are they going to talk to?,” he said.

Security on top

Studies have found that the shift to the mobile workplace has increased employee productivity. Working remotely from home — or anywhere — can be as productive as working in the office.

However, as the number of mobile devices increases, the attack surface for cybercriminals likewise expands.

“People had not one device, but three devices. They had a phone, they had something in their cars, and they had a tablet. They would go to the computer once (or) twice a day to do some important database work. Coming out of the pandemic, you are seeing people carrying only mobile devices. The modern workplace is based around where your work partners are — it could be here in this cafe, in your office, downtown with you, (or) an airport lounge somewhere. So, people are now connecting from anywhere and everywhere. And work is happening from everywhere,” said Vic Mankotia, Vice President of Sales at mobile security firm Zimperium.

Mankotia stressed that it is high time that collective efforts be taken towards device security, because the business landscape now operates within this framework.

“It (data breaches) is (from) people not securing the device, people not knowing how to secure the device, people who don’t have the ability or don’t even know what to secure, and what to share and what not to share. This is the problem, which is not going to stop now. It’s only going to increase unless the community, the partnerships, and corporations like us form partnerships to secure the connected world. Because the connected world is getting (even) more connected. As you get more connected, good things connect, but so do bad things,” he said.

For Zimperium, the goal is to instil a culture of security awareness among the public, and the strategy to do that is through partnerships with telcos like StarHub.

“We do partner with 11 telcos in the 17 countries that we operate in, across Asia-Pacific and Japan — leading players, because that’s the way you reach the masses. You also go to corporations, the large banks, the large police forces, immigration, domestic home affairs, we cover all that,” Mankotia shared.

“But the masses or the people you want to cover are the citizens A, B, and C,” he continued. “And devices are not protected enough, unless you have some form of security, which is non-invasive, easy to use, and can help you with not just the attacks we know about, but the zero-day attacks which may come.”

Total cost of ownership concerns

Apart from security, one of the top concerns among enterprises when it comes to mobile devices is the total cost of ownership, especially if they have to provide multiple devices per employee.

According to StarHub, its vision is to improve the lives of its customers every day, and its mission is to enable customers to benefit from digital transformation. With these core principles in mind, StarHub collaborated with one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers to optimise the cost of ownership for enterprise customers.

“Most of our customers are using iOS devices, and we worked to understand how we can bring down the total cost of ownership for our customers,” said Low.

“With that, we introduced our mobile leasing services that we offer to our customers. Instead of you trading in your device two years later and collecting your money, you enjoy that trade-in value upfront, rather than two years later. You just return that device when the lease ends. That is the model of our leasing services to bring down the cost,” he explained.

Meanwhile, businesses need not fret over piling costs associated with managing a mobile workforce, noted Mankotia.

“At Zimperium, you can use any device you want, as long as we know what it is, we know the asset, and we make sure that you’re not using 16 devices. You can only access corporate information from a company-authorised device, but we give you a partition, or we give you the freedom to put (in) your own ID and use your own personal space. But yes, the refresh could be once in 24 months. All the repairs can be once a year. I think devices are getting stronger, and there are people I know who want to buy a new device every year. But the business need is still in the 24-month cycle, and people have to understand that,” he said.

Expenses, such as smartphones, can also be lodged under OPEX (operating expense) instead of CAPEX (capital expenditures), Mankotia added.

“For the company, instead of buying it (the mobile devices) upfront, it’s people like them (StarHub), who helped me charge it over 24 months or 12 months— it’s my choice. That makes it more affordable, and more convenient” he said.

Mobile device management strategy

Managing mobile devices can already be quite a task for a small enterprise, more so for an organisation with over a thousand employees, for example.

How then can IT teams enforce effective MDM, especially when people have different devices? For Low, managing devices seems easier than managing people.

“I think IT needs to understand what environment they are creating internally. How many users are there? How many devices are they managing? What operating system do they want to grow in their environment? Because different organisations have different deployments, and from an IT point of view, if one is using different mobile operating systems, it is a headache,” he said.

MDM is a process and type of software that enables IT administrators to oversee, secure, and implement policies on devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

“When it comes to hundreds (or) thousands of devices, I believe that the one and only solution is using MDM. If you are managing a thousand devices without an MDM, I am very curious to understand how you’re going to do it,” Low remarked.

Meanwhile, Mankotia emphasised security as an integral component of MDM.

“Security is going to become the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. Because it is not just the information, it is the intellectual property, the speed of doing business, the trust, which is the foundation of today,” he said.

“We talk about the mobile workplace, collaboration, and mobility— but the basis of this whole foundation, of this whole new workplace is trust. If the information we share is not verified, correct, or accurate, or you erode that trust out of the system, and if devices are not secure, you will not be able to have that trust between companies, devices, machines, and people,” Mankotia emphasised.

“My whole world is controlled electronically, digitally. And it has now transformed everything coming into this (mobile) device here. If this is not something I can secure or trust, then I cannot operate my business or my vocation,” he concluded.

Discover how your business can gain an edge with the latest mobile devices. Find out more about StarHub’s 5G-enabled device lifecycle management service here.