Good CEO: don't let MDM ruin your mobile app experience

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright June 9, 2014
Christy Wyatt tells diginomica how to avoid reliving a BlackBerry experience with your mobile device management strategy: apps are the new objects

© Getty Images, provided by Good Technology
Christy Wyatt, Good Technology

The fast-receding presence of BlackBerry still casts a looming shadow over enterprise mobile management. Most mobile device management (MDM) strategies aim to emulate the locked-down environment that was originally responsible for BlackBerry's success.

But starting from there is the wrong choice, believes Christy Wyatt, CEO of Good Technology. She spoke exclusively to diginomica at last Thursday's Good Exchange event in London:

The way that [BlackBerry] ensured bad data didn't get on the devices, they just prevented you from putting anything on the device. So IT managers when they ended up on BlackBerry devices pretty much shut everything off.

If you try to say, 'OK, I'm not going to buy you a BlackBerry device, I'm going to buy you an iPhone or an Android device,' it's very easy to believe that the way you then secure that device is, you try to replicate what BlackBerry did, through device management.

The challenge with that is that you're going to get the same user experience just on a different device, which is you're going to turn off people's Facebook, you're going to turn off their cloud access, you're going to tell them they can't install things — and you're going to get organ rejection by the end user.

By 'organ rejection' Wyatt means that end users will inevitably find a way around restrictions that get in the way of them doing their jobs:

I go into a room and I'll say, how many of you have forwarded an attachment to Gmail so that you could open it because you didn't want to go through your content locker? Or you weren't allowed to do it on your personal device? Almost every hand in the room goes up.

User experience

Good Technology's answer is to provide a platform that manages the data at the application layer rather than the device layer. Called Good Dynamics, this serves as a secure platform both for its own suite of mobile collaboration apps and for third-party apps and services ranging from Salesforce1 and DocuSign to printing, file sharing and biometric authentication.

While other MDM vendors have begun to graft containerization technologies onto their existing device-based MDM solutions, Wyatt said that Good's platform approach enables a richer user experience:

I'm an engineer so I tend to be a bit of a geek. When I think about the definition of platform, it's not simply reuse — it's not reusing the same wrapper across fifteen different applications. This actually is consuming services, actual connectivity and communications happening within the platform, and that is I think quite unique.

I think the space between that and the other things that you see out there starts to become a little bit more apparent when you look at the actual workflows and what users actually do with it ...

What's most critical is, at all times, the user is just using their app. From their perspective, they're just launching their app.

They're not being asked to understand security architecture. We're not telling them, if you want to see things that are attachments, you have to then go log into these other three applicatons and you'll find your attachments over there.

They just want to click on it. And then they want to just say 'open in', and then they want to say 'save as', and then they want to say 'print'. That's their expectation.

Of course she would say that wouldn't she? Good is competing to grab its share of a fast-expanding market. It is up against well-resourced rivals including Citrix-owned XenMobile, SAP's Afaria, recent VMware acquisition AirWatch and IPO-bound MobileIron. Two weeks ago Good filed papers for its own IPO, although it has not yet set a price.

Service-oriented logic

But the logic of Good's service-oriented approach seems irresistible in today's hyperconnected, multi-device IT landscape. She had me at CORBA:

I like to say apps are the new objects. If you think of apps as just objects, then all of this is just another version of CORBA or some other object orientation ...

If I'm just post-fitting security onto these applications through wrapping or one of these other SDKs — you wrap them, which means you've cut off their ability to communicate with other things.

So this whole interoperability and how do you allow them to expose and consume services between them ends up becoming the next level of the challenge.

That's what we addressed with Good Dynamics when we launched that. I think we've evolved that to where not only can these objects communicate on a peer-to-peer basis, but we get this services-driven architecture that applies to cloud based services, to local services.

Wyatt sees the emergence of new generations of devices such as wearables as a further justification for Good's platform approach.

The diversity of things that IT is going to want to support as a computing surface, I just think the days of them walking on one have to be behind us ...

I'm a big believer that I don't think it could be a one-OS world. That CIO would have to believe that Microsoft, [for] example, would have the best platform for PCs, phones, tablets, wearables, refrigerators, cars, thermostats and in the long term everything. Whereas we believe that the diversity is going to drive the need for a flexible architecture like Good.

Advice for the CIO

I rounded off by asking Wyatt what advice she most often finds herself offering enterprise CIOs:

For the customers I meet that say, ActiveSync is enough, or simple MDM is enough, my first piece of advice is, denial is not a strategy.

Sometimes I meet companies and they say, 'We just tell users they can't put our information on their devices. and they just listen to us.' And you go, 'OK' ...

The mistake that a lot of companies make starting out early is that they look at it and they say, 'But I'm not a bank, I don't need what the banks need. My information's not as valuable, my employees don't need the same level of protection.'

It's when they get halfway through their journey that they realize, you know what? Companies all have valuable information and they all need scalability, they all need manageability, they all have the same aspects no matter what their product is."

Her second piece of advice was to avoid getting carried along by the speed of technology change without taking time to think strategically:

Take a moment and define your strategy. This market is moving so fast that it's very easy to jump from the frying pan into the fire: 'I was managing BlackBerrys this way, and I'm jumping over to this, so I just need to manage the same way.'

Oftentimes we find customers that jumped in and then they popped their heads up six months, nine months later and said, 'Oh, the user experience wasn't what I thought it was going to be, because I had to turn off everything my users wanted because I was using MDM. Or I can't get wrapped applications to communicate with one another, or it doesn't scale beyond ten thousand users or ...'

You need to think about where your data is going and how your users are going to be working. Once you figure out that, you can back into how you get them there.

Disclosure: SAP is a diginomica premier partner.

Image credit: Christy Wyatt portrait © Getty Images, provided by Good Technology.

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