The prevalence of the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) concept as an acceptable, if little rushed, approach to empowering employees at work has resulted in many different types of devices being used in the workplace now. Arguably, these are split into two camps, Android & iOS (I don’t believe Windows Mobile has made many inroads into the enterprise… yet… watch this space as their new devices come off the production line).
The prevalence of Exchange Servers in the enterprise is also arguable, but in my own experience it is the number one mail server around, and with it of course comes Outlook. On the whole, I love Outlook; it has a few quirks (especially on the Mac) but by bringing together my email, calendar, contacts and notes into a tightly integrated package, which in turn integrates with my enterprise email/messaging/scheduling platform means it is probably the number one application I use.
Why then has Microsoft not capitalised on these two facts and marketed Outlook for mobile devices with the promise of integration, functionality and security? There are apps on the various app stores that claim to offer Outlook style experiences, but the feedback on these speaks for itself.
I can’t say I would care much for Word, Excel & Powerpoint on my tablet that much, I tend not to edit or annotate these documents on these devices much anyway. But Outlook would change how I interact with work over my iPad, but only if they implement it properly!
Given one of the core tenets of Outlook is to integrate email, contacts, calendar and notes from the enterprise, I strongly believe it should NOT integrate with the same apps on the device. By this I mean its database should be entirely separate, and ideally, encrypted to retain a certain degree of security. Because of this separate installation, the application itself can handle all of the ActiveSync profiling (e.g. encryption, password protection, password retries, remote wipe and the such like) that on existing devices causes an infinite amount of pain. Having had personal experience of rolling out a one size fits all ActiveSync profile to thousands of of BYOD devices with different hardware and firmware because they are by definition “personal” devices, I know too well of the amount of noise, frustration and lost hours this brings to the end user.
Of course, this kind of application, sold on the app stores for £10GBP/$15USD, could also be purchased by the individual owner and expensed (or not, see your expense policy) and is the one, and only, barrier the enterprise puts up to mobile BYOD adoption. Have the latest Outlook for iOS? Then gorge yourself on your work email to your hearts content! The enterprise has full control over the data, including rules of what can be forwarded, printed etc because it does not integrate with the devices native apps, and if the employee leaves or is fired, then ZAP! on the next connection and authentication the data is gone.
This approach may put companies like Good out of business, or may even drive them to greater innovation (where do you think I got the idea for the above anyway?!), but my experience of bolting on third party products onto Exchange has never been “good” anyway.
In my limited experience I know there must be some pretty major road blocks to this, otherwise why haven’t they done it already? If you are more educated in this area than me then please do comment and let me know your perspective. in the meantime, I shall dream of my iPad/Outlook nirvana and the increased amount of sleep I will get overnight not worrying about all that data flying around on peoples personal devices.