Making Hybrid Environments Work: How Enterprises Can Use Device Management

Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

Different hybrid working models: What happens to the devices?

Today’s enterprises are opting for hybrid working models due to their many benefits (such as cost savings) while employees prefer more flexible working solutions. The pluses for both enterprises and their teams aside, hybrid working has its concerns and enablers – one of which is device management.

Think of 3 enterprises with varying approaches to hybrid work. Company 1 is a large multinational with operations in several regions. They have adopted a hybrid model that splits their team’s time between office and remote work, with a set number of mandatory office days per week. The company provides devices to all their employees with strict protocols on device use, has an internal corporate app for communications, and a host of office-wide collaboration tools. Company 2 is a smaller localized business with a remote-first policy. The team uses their own devices for office work, communicates through team collaboration tools, and visits the office twice a month. Company 3 is a public enterprise with a large portion of the team working in the field with corporate-owned devices used for gathering public data and a smaller, fully office-based team in their headquarters. All employees access a corporate intranet for communications and a central database houses all the collected data.

Each of these enterprises deals with many types of devices from different product vendors and heterogeneous operating systems (i.e. iOS, Windows, Android, Linux). Each enterprise is unique; they follow a device management strategy that works for them. Whether the enterprise is large or an SME, public or privately owned, and regardless of the preferred hybrid working model, what powers their device management is a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution. Any hybrid working model deals with device and user onboarding, controlling access to devices, apps and data, integrating the UEM solution with new and existing systems, and maintaining devices and apps over time. They also need to minimize data and device security risks, guarantee endpoint security, set policies in cases of device loss or theft, and gain analytical insights into device usage and performance.

How do these enterprises (or any enterprise for that matter) deal with these issues? 

Address key device management pillars; create secure hybrid workplaces

Understand your device usage patterns; and tackle productivity: Any hybrid working model hinges on trust between the employer and the team. Trust becomes even more important when there is no physical monitoring of productivity. Employee monitoring is often a sensitive topic with legitimate privacy concerns. Device, data, and app usage analytics and transparent communication of the data collection policy function as the foundations for building trust in remote teams. By managing device, app, and data access comprehensively, enterprises are better prepared to ensure that team members use devices for the intended purpose only while keeping track of app and data usage to ensure minimal negative impacts on team productivity.

With real-time visibility into device, app, and data usage you also have an understanding of peak usage times, instances of unauthorized access, misuse of corporate-owned devices and apps, and device functionality. You can replace corporate devices proactively as and when needed so that no team member finds themselves without a device to complete their work tasks.

Control device, app, and data use: Companies 1 and 3 are examples of Company Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) devices in action whereas Company 2 is an example of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the workplace. Both COPE and BYOD need to prioritize device and app access, data usage, and user and data privacy. And this is exactly what enterprises get with UEM. You can control access to corporate-owned devices through user authorization so that only your employees can use the devices. Capabilities such as Conditional Email Access (CEA) also give added benefits such as ensuring only devices enrolled with the UEM solution can access corporate mailboxes, thereby preventing random devices from accessing corporate information.

To manage apps, enterprise device admins can create lists of apps that are allowed (and not allowed) thereby controlling which apps are installed/used in devices with uninstallation of any banned apps. App management becomes easier through the setting up of scheduled processes if needed. Furthermore, enterprises have the capability to closely manage data through data usage limits and network restriction options for apps, and block certain apps from using the network (especially when using metered connections) to conserve bandwidth.

Centralize device and application management, even when remote: UEM solutions function as the single platform for all device management concerns. In decentralized environments such as hybrid workplaces, a centralized device management mechanism along with remote access management capabilities, become all the more relevant. The latter is especially helpful for device maintenance, through functionalities such as remote screen sharing and troubleshooting, configuration/command enforcement, and file sharing between devices for easier collaboration – regardless of the device users’ and admins’ locations. All 3 hybrid working scenarios mentioned in the introduction will need to leverage remote access management for successful operations.

App maintenance is as equally important as device maintenance. App lifecycle management features in UEM solutions help device admins to update apps throughout their lifecycles, and delete apps when no longer needed.

Fast-track device onboarding and task implementation: Enterprises with larger teams (such as Companies 1 and 3), and even smaller ones, need a straightforward device enrollment and onboarding process. UEM solutions give enterprises the option to enroll devices in bulk. Device admins are able to perform many operations simultaneously on groups of devices, from app updates and issue resolution to configurations. This saves time for device admins. Even if your enterprise uses a variety of devices on various operating systems, device onboarding is not a problem as UEM solutions will support all device types.

Integrate with as many external systems as needed: Our hypothetical examples, or your enterprise, require integration with third-party platforms such as identity management systems and collaboration tools. UEM solutions function as the cornerstone of these integrations via APIs.

Secure devices, data, and endpoints: Any discussion about device enrollments and third-party platform integrations in hybrid workplaces inevitably leads to questions about security. Likelihoods of device loss (or even theft) for enterprises with hybrid models such as Company 1 and 3 are especially higher when work-related travel is involved. The financial and reputational ramifications of device and data loss or breaches for enterprises need no explanation – we all know the consequences. UEM solutions give device admins a variety of functionalities including the ability to restore devices to factory settings, wipe all data and lock devices remotely if needed, separate corporate and personal data (particularly useful in BYOD scenarios), geofencing to manage specified device locations and trigger alerts when the device leaves these locations, and data encryption. Device admins can use device location tracking features to gain real-time visibility of a device’s location when needed.

Furthermore, UEM solutions are equipped with Mobile Identity Management (MIM) to help enterprises centralize user access control so that admins have continuous monitoring capabilities over all corporate-owned devices.

How to find the best UEM solution for your enterprise

Any hybrid working model needs a secure device connectivity system to succeed, and this is where a UEM solution will play its part. Your UEM solution becomes a cornerstone of your hybrid working strategy, providing you with the capabilities to understand device usage and productivity gaps, control usage as required, and secure access to your devices. Whichever hybrid working model you prefer (divided between office and remote, remote-first, or office and field based), this solution must support key functionalities while being customized to serve enterprise-specific requirements. Core features for consideration include device enrollment, app management, endpoint security, asset management, integration support, and policy management. Always remember that a UEM solution is for the long term; it must undergo continuous upgrades, be compatible with your growth plans, and offer you extensive integration options. The results of a recent survey concluded that 98% of employees prefer partial remote work, 57% of respondents said they would look for a new job if their current employee does not shift to a hybrid model, and 71% said remote work helps them maintain a work-life balance. While hybrid working models will not entirely replace traditional office-based ones, employee preferences are increasingly shifting towards hybrid work, and enterprises will continue to evolve. Your enterprise, too, will need to respond to changing macroeconomic conditions, workforce availability issues, and employee preferences. Learn more about the core features offered by a UEM solution and how these can be adapted for your own hybrid working model.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *