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The Mobile Balancing Act: Finding the Center of Gravity for Enterprises & Mobile Employees

1 Jul, 2013 By: Tom Offutt, EFI

Today’s businesses understand that they must constantly evolve and adapt to technological advances to stay competitive.  However, the onslaught of mobile devices in the workforce have created a new kind of technology balancing act – one that  brings the employees’ need to stay connected via mobile devices into conflict with an enterprise’s need to stay secure. 

Indeed, compact mobile devices like tablets and smartphones have spurred some large debates and conflicted perspectives, particularly surrounding the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. All of the discussion around BYOD has highlighted enterprises’ love-hate relationship with employees' personal devices –while the business may benefit from employees’ increased availability and productivity, they are deeply concerned about systems integration and security issues.

The reality is, though, that no matter how enterprises view personal mobile devices being used within their four walls, they must embrace them as critical to day-to-day business functions. In fact, industry reports are showing an increasing number of employees using personal devices for business use, making them more productive, mobile and accessible - a convenience most businesses can't afford to lose.

The Mobile Employee
As mobile devices pave the way for higher levels of productivity and efficiency, employees are benefiting from being connected anywhere, anytime. Whether they’re responding to emails, accessing documents on the company server, continuing to develop a presentation, finalizing project research while away from the office (or just simply away from their desk), the mobile employee is a prime example of not only the personal dependency on mobile devices, but also the enterprise's dependency on devices to keep business operations running smoothly.  

The productivity benefits of BYOD are many, but there are distinct financial benefits of BYOD, too.  Allowing employees to bring their own device to work, can improve a company’s bottom line, and it’s expected that more companies will follow suit in the coming years. As the number of employees using their personal devices at work increases, enterprises are spending fewer corporate dollars on electronics and technology products for staff. According to a recent Gartner survey, 38 percent of companies will stop providing devices to employees by 2016 and rely solely on their BYOD policy.

Overlooking the Fine Print
While saving money, increasing productivity and efficiency, and maintaining employee accessibility sound like no-brainers for any C-level executive or business operations manager, there are still numerous considerations that must be made as the enterprise adapts to the BYOD mobile era. One of the largest challenges is that employees are expecting the same type of interface and connectivity to the enterprise system with their mobile devices as they would if they were connected to a PC in the office.

Printing, for example, is a often overlooked when transitioning to a mobile enterprise, but the need to print quickly and efficiently becomes one of the most common tasks employees find challenging to perform using their mobile devices. A recent survey by TechNavio found that the most requested feature in mobile devices, such as iPhones® and iPads®, is the print feature. Whether they are proofing a critical document, preparing a sales quote or accessing email, employees need to have a way to easily print regardless of whether they are in the office, at home or in a hotel. Enterprise IT departments should consider implementing a mobile printing solution for employees so they can fully utilize their mobile devices for business purposes.

Clearing Mobile Printing’s IT Hurdles
Enterprise IT departments tend to overlook the fact that mobile devices can’t easily print. The simple function of clicking "print" from a PC isn't as easily transferred to a tablet or smartphone. As such, IT managers must prioritize this function and consider any challenges, including the wide variety of mobile device brands and printers and the configuration of their wireless network.

Many mobile printing solutions only cater to one brand of mobile devices or operating system, but it isn’t realistic to assume everyone uses the same brand or mobile platforms in a BYOD environment. If the business is not providing the devices, IT managers have to assume employees are using iOS and Android operating systems, and they need to be prepared to accommodate both with a seamless mobile printing solution.

In addition, requiring that an enterprise have a homogeneous printer fleet is equally unrealistic. Many companies, especially large enterprises, do not have the same brand of printers throughout the company, and will require a solution that easily prints to all printers on the network regardless of brand or age of the printer.

Wireless subnets and system integration are two more critical IT considerations when choosing a mobile printing solution. Employees don’t understand, or care, about network infrastructure. They expect the ability to print anywhere, from one wireless subnet to the next, without any hassle. IT managers should also evaluate the software integration process when evaluating mobile printing solutions, and choose one that can integrate seamlessly into the existing corporate infrastructure while supporting IT administrative needs, such as central dashboard for configuring and managing the selected printers.

Securing Print Jobs
Sending print jobs through the cloud raises some security concerns for IT managers, especially if their enterprise has never implemented a mobile printing solution. Caution, however, is encouraged.  It is absolutely imperative that enterprises protect their critical data at all times.

Since not all mobile printing solutions provide the same level of security, enterprise IT managers should focus on ones that maintain print jobs within the firewall and also offer a secure way to release sensitive print jobs. A private cloud will enable print jobs to be held in a queue within the firewall, and a robust printing solution will also include control settings that specify how long documents should remain in that secure queue. Additionally, mobile printing software that authenticates mobile users against Active Directory will elevate security to prevent unauthorized users from printing to printers reserved for specific employee groups and to enable an audit trail of what are normally anonymous print jobs from iOS devices.

Case in Point
When the topic of enterprise mobile printing comes up, healthcare facilities may not be the first “enterprise” that comes to mind. However, medical practices are ideal examples of businesses enhancing office technology, printing larger volumes, and having a high-standard for securing data with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

ChenMed, a family-owned, physician-led primary and multi-specialty medical practice, has nearly 150 doctors at 10 facilities using iPads daily.  They also have a real need to print often. Whether it is patient handouts, prescriptions or other patient information, ChenMed understood that if it was going to go mobile, it needed a comprehensive, secure and seamless mobile printing solution.

After trying a few printing solutions that weren’t scalable and proved difficult to deploy and maintain, the ChenMed IT managers implemented EFI® PrintMe™ Mobile® to simplify the printing process from their iPads and other mobile devices, regardless of where the doctors are at the time or which printer brand and model they are using. According to Cas Mollien, ChenMed’s vice president of infrastructure and interim security officer, configuration was quick and easy, and the doctors are satisfied with the convenience of securely printing to any printer within their network.

ChenMed is growing rapidly and extending its medical practice nationwide. The company expects to grow 60 percent and open 12 additional medical facilities within the next three months. The doctors and staff will continue to rely heavily on mobile printing for day-to-day business needs, and they are confident that their current mobile printing solution will sustain those business needs and seamlessly support their expansion.

Finding the Right Balance
As employees continue to rely on mobility for business productivity, they will expect their companies to quickly adapt and adhere to the new trends. At the same time, they will also expect their mobile devices to provide similar features as their desktop PC, including the ability to easily print.

Enterprises don't have to view printing as an obstacle. Instead, they can bridge the gap between mobile devices and enterprise printers to provide a cohesive mobile environment with a printing solution that integrates seamlessly into its technological infrastructure, and one that provides employees with the productivity tools they need to deliver positive business results – anytime, anywhere.

Tom Offutt is the Director of Business Development for EFI’s Fiery business unit, where he focuses on enterprise print solutions.

About the Author: Tom Offutt

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