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New Wave? Big hair? Synthesizer music?  Thankfully no. 

But there is a new wave hitting corporations whether in retail, wholesale, or any business that has people out in the field.  It’s the wild proliferation of mobile devices, and what are we supposed to do about it ?

Technology Boom

If you are old enough to remember life in the 80’s, music changed because of new technology and pioneer bands like The Ramones.  Teenagers danced to punk and synthesized electro-pop. Technology went boom. And both awkward teenagers and savvy business people got on board with the new micro-computers right away.  Okay, so I admit to being one of those awkward teenagers. But the Apple II, Commodore PET and IBM PC unleashed something new. I could write programs to solve problems or have fun.

Business people figured out that they didn’t have to go to Data Processing (remember that ?) to get a green bar report. They didn’t need to timeshare on the mainframe. They bought a cute little IBM PC or XT and put it on somebody’s desk.  It cost under $5000 and nobody in MIS would ever know about it. It was cheap enough to be on the departmental budget, and they didn’t need to deal with guys in the white lab coats and hiking boots. SAP was into its second decade. (You knew SAP stands for – Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung (“Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing”), right?).

In the late 80’s I spent my time architecting LANs and WANs, deploying PCs, and helping companies deal with a hodge-podge collection of equipment that really needed to be standardized and controlled. Mostly for supportability and to achieve business results.  We struggled with the mix of corporate information technology (IT) standards and equipment that people emotionally bonded with.

We’re there again 

This time, the awkward teenagers have phones with apps. Their parents are buying iPADs, PlayBooks and smartphones.  The teenagers are working in retail stores after school and on weekends.  The parents are taking the toys tools to work, their sales job, and wherever they go.  And they all know how easy and powerful access to information is.  Discretionary dollars in the household are buying these toys tools, and they are arriving on-premise or being used in the field.

Store managers are buying these things and sharing them in the store.  I recently took a call asking how they could get their iPAD to run an SAP app.  Foolishly I asked if IT was supporting them. Well they just decided to dive in on their own, without IT behind them.  Further, I’ve helped deploy thousands of handhelds running Windows CE for Mobile Point of Sale (POS) and in-store inventory.

But as IT folks, we’ve gotten behind again, just like we did in the 80’s.  We need to control the devices, secure them, attach them to the corporate network, enable access to applications and business intelligence, and support our end users.

Sybase Afaria to the rescue

It got a whole lot easier for me, once I understood what the Sybase Afaria solution can do.  For a lot of retailers that did store polling, data transfer, and updates to thousand of devices, this is a new take on a old problem.  We used to use file transfer tools like Xcellenet. That evolved into Sybase RemoteWare, and Afaria grew from that legacy, but with a focus on mobility.

Afaria gives the IT folks a console and tools to:

  • lock down the device, to make your data safe
  • monitor health, to ensure its still working
  • send a “kill” message, in case the phone gets stolen, and do data fading
  • do updates, to make sure corporate apps and data are current

Basically you tell Afaria about the smartphone, and then you can install a component on the device.  SMS messages, WiFi, and carrier networks all come into play.  You can manage virtually any device.  And you can prevent sensitive data from getting into the wrong hands.

Secure your mobile world

Just like the 80’s when we used PC network operating systems like Novell to manage, secure and standardize, Afaria lets us secure our mobile world.  It’s worth investing in, just like SAP retail customers are doing.  Worst case, it will save you pulling out what’s left of your Big Hair. Best case, it will bring security, control, and speed deployment to enable business applications and productivty.

To borrow a line from that terrible 80’s band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, I’d rather say Relax (don’t do it) without Afaria.  Put on your headphones, plug in your MP3 player, and listen to some 80’s music while you check out that Afaria site.


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  1. Mohamed Amer
    Hey Colin –  I’ll take the fifth on the 80s theme for now, but the notion of device management strategy and solutions are imperative in the midst of proliferating critical enterprise data on mobile devices everywhere.  I don’t think it gets easier from here.
    1. Former Member Post author
      Agree that its an imperative. It will get easier once companies start adopting best practices and move from the risk-averse stage to one of risk management.

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