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The Costco Approach To Enterprise Mobility

Hello from not so beautiful and not so sunny Orlando…the land of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and way too many other theme parks…and conventions.  OK, enough with the crankiness.  I’m here (for the second time this month) attending SAP’s big SAPPHIRENOW event…and when I mean big, I mean real big.  I lost count at 10,000 people.

I wanted to share with you a quick recap of a session I moderated yesterday around BYOD and COPE.  If you’re not familiar with COPE, then you should check out the following missive.  Big surprise, everyone who attended the microforum was concerned with the security implications of allowing employees to bring their own devices into the workplace.  We spent the next 30 minutes debating the pros and cons of various strategies, including forcing employees to use only one platform (because that’s going to be popular), to using containers for email and/or applications, to using virtualization techniques…and of course, the ever popular “mobile device management” solution.

Interestingly, there were also a couple of organizations in the discussion that had NO mobile policy in place.  No as in NONE, nill, nada, zilch….we’re talking bubkis.  Now mind you, it’s not that the person representing the company didn’t see the need for a mobile policy, but rather that their organization was “slightly” disorganized in terms of prioritizing around mobility (yikes).

In any case, attendees of the microforum liked the concept of COPE because it was a win/win situation.  The IT department doesn’t feel like it’s losing control and the employees get to pick whatever device they want.  And here’s where it got interesting.  One attendee made a comment that was so smart that I had to ask him if I could quote him.  Harsh Kalra, a gentleman who works at a company called The Chamber Sunbelt Group in Maryland made one heck of a comment.

“You have to look at it like Costco. You’re not going to necessarily have all the options available to you, but usually, it’s going to be great quality.”

I thought that was an absolutely fabulous way to put it.  Many organizations, regardless of whether they adopt a BYOD and/or COPE model are going to have to decide whether or not they are going to allow employees to use whatever device they want.  This is more of an issue around Android, given the very wide variety of options, but still a real issue.  Some organizations will find that it’s in their best interest to have an approved set of devices (i.e., you can pick 1 of 6).  The counterpoint is that you will then have to have someone sift through all the device options to figure out which one is “best.”

I guess this discussion was a healthy reminder of what makes enterprise mobility so interesting.  Just when you think you’ve got it “figured out,” there are new options that come up that make you want to think some more.  I guess it goes back to what I have said more than once.  There aren’t a lot of things that organizations MUST do when it comes to enterprise mobility, but there are certainly things they must NOT do…including not having a mobility policy.


  1. Posted May 16, 2012 at 07:47 | Permalink

    Philippe… (great post by the way)

    One of the burning issues with COPE or most BYOD programs that never seems to get much traction is – APPS; not any APP but business enabled APPS. SAP for instance has 200+ apps ready and geared for IOS devices. So we if just allow “any” device like a Nokia Lumina, Blackberry 10 or some off-the-wall Android, good luck, SAP apps won’t work.

    So until we get to HTML5 nirvana where any app will run in any HTML5 enabled browser we all need to be a little careful here.

    If IOS is your corporate preferred platform then indeed, you can allow employee owned or enabled IOS devices but not any device or smartphone. If all you do (mobile) is email/calendar then of course COPE is a great concept. But my guess is that many large enterprises that have partnerships with the likes of SAP have to ensure that corporate sponsored business applications do indeed run on the device provided or enabled. Small nuance but an important one.

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  2. Posted May 16, 2012 at 09:44 | Permalink

    Rather than figure out which devices are “best”, it would be helpful if enterprise software companies kept a matrix of hardware and OS versions supported. That way, customers could simply download the matrices, figure out which devices would be best supported, and settle on those either in a BYOD or COPE setting.

    But the only real carrots and sticks that companies have to enforce these policies are network access and reimbursement. I’m surprised how often these are NOT actively enforced through policies or how easy it can be to work around the mobile policy’s guidelines. Now that mobile is a layer, it has to be treated as a grown-up enterprise technology rather simply allowing it to be treated as a herd of cats dragged off the street.

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  3. Posted May 18, 2012 at 09:50 | Permalink

    Great post – This was my first introduction to the COPE strategy and provided good insight. It still amazes me to see the large number of companies that have not invested in mobility strategies…it will be interesting to see how these organizations fair over the next yr.

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