Mobile SharePoint to complement your BYOD or COPE mobile strategy

According to a recent poll by Azurati, access to mobile SharePoint is seen to be one of the most critical must-have mobile enterprise applications for organisations who are looking to deploy enterprise applications to mobile users as part of a BYOD or COPE (Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled) mobile strategy.

Social Collaboration, workflow approvals and BI dashboards also scored highly amongst those who responded.

Providing mobile SharePoint access to users securely on multiple mobile devices is a challenge if you are looking to exploit the native templates and functionality in SharePoint.  Here are some of the reasons why you might want to consider licencing a vendor-developed solution, like Azurati’s SharePoint2Go®:

Authentication
Enabling mobile users to authenticate across the corporate firewall to access internal applications, like SharePoint, is often the single biggest challenge that IT teams will face.  Azurati makes authentication and secure access easy, because we have done all of the hard work for you and provide 15 options for enterprise customers to set up secure authentication to their SharePoint environment in a simple Wizard interface.

Azurati also supports multiple methods of authentication, allowing options like federated profiles (so users can use their standard Active Directory credentials, or they can log on using external authentication providers, like their Window Live ID, Google or Yahoo accounts.  This option is often useful if you are thinking about providing mobile SharePoint access to external stakeholders or temporary staff).

Cross-platform and form factor support
Azurati’s SharePoint2Go solution guarantees to support any smartphone or tablet on the market, including devices like Windows Surface RT tablets, Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and the upcoming Blackberry 10 range of devices, as well as standard mobile platforms like IOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices; making Azurati your ideal BYOD partner.

You can customise the standard mobile templates that ship with Microsoft SharePoint, but they require extensive specialist developers to create specific templates for target mobile platforms and form factors, which will need to be updated as new devices emerge on the market.

Branding and UI customisation
Microsoft’s latest guidelines are for SharePoint developers to not customise the SharePoint interface.  For those companies that have invested significant time and money in their corporate identity and brand and who wish to extend that identity to mobile SharePoint users, Azurati’s SharePoint2Go solution will allow full branding and UI customisation to truly make your mobile SharePoint yours.

Support for mobile WebParts
It is rare these days to find a SharePoint implementation that does not include some elements of custom developed components, or WebParts.  WebParts often make SharePoint come to life as a corporate Intranet platform or ECM platform by providing views and access to functionality like Staff contact lists, company news and events, weather, advanced search, recently edited documents, BI/Management reports and dashboard, Sales pipeline data, etc.

You should ask a simple question:  if your users make use of custom developed WebParts in the desktop version of SharePoint, should all or some of those WebParts be made available to mobile users?

There is of course one major challenge here.  All mobile SharePoint solutions on the market (including the native mobile option from Microsoft), with the exception of Azurati, can only display standard SharePoint features (like documents, news, list data, calendars, tasks, etc) to mobile users.

Azurati allows custom developed WebParts to be transformed in to mobile WebParts, or V-Parts®, as Azurati calls them.  V-Parts can allow custom WebParts to be used interactively within the SharePoint2Go solution on any mobile device. V-Parts can also be developed to operate in dynamic offline mode, so you can continue working even if you do not have internet connectivity.

Special offer for SharePoint Conference 2012 delegates
If you are currently attending the SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas, you may qualify for a 30% discount on SharePoint2Go licenses if you purchase SharePoint2Go for your users before 31 December 2012.  All you have to do is send us a photo or scanned image of your conference pass (like the one shown below) to qualify:

If you are thinking about deploying mobile SharePoint, this is a great opportunity for you to do so at a great discount.

For more information about Azurati and SharePoint2Go, the secure cross-platform mobile SharePoint solution, please visit www.azurati.com and request a free 14 day trial.

How inclusive is your BYOD policy?

When companies say that they are going to implement a Bring your own device (BYOD) policy, allowing employees to use their own personal devices (smartphones, tables and even laptops in some cases); what do they actually mean?

What exactly is covered in your BYOD policy, and what is not?  For instance, do you say that you support BYOD, but then exclude certain devices; and what do you expect your staff to be doing on their personal devices when they are using them for work purposes?

Sometimes it can be seen to be an easy and logical decision to declare an all-out Bring Your Own Device policy.  After all, your staff will undoubtedly thank you for allowing them to use their (usually) newer and higher-spec devices and your Finance department will laud your capital expenditure cost-cutting prowess; but if you suspect that your users will want to use their smartphones and tablets for more than checking email and making voice calls (on phones), then there are clearly a raft of additional factors to consider.

Let’s take these points one by one.

What do you mean by BYOD?
If BYOD means for you that an employee can bring any personal device in to the workplace and use it for business purposes, then great.  However, that is not the interpretation that many companies actually have.  What they really mean is you can bring your iPhone/iPad, and Android device, and possibly a Blackberry device; but probably not devices like Microsoft Surface RT tablets, Windows Phone devices, Google Chromebooks, Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets, Apple MacBooks, etc.?  The truth is that many BYOD regimes are not all-inclusive and companies are compelled to exclude certain devices because enterprise mobile strategies are not always aligned with BYOD policies, meaning that mobile apps and management infrastructures are often not able to cope with BYOD.

Why should you not be able to allow any device in the workplace?  I hear you say.  These devices all use operating systems that support internet browsing and local applications and if you are embracing the concept of Consumerisation of IT, then it would be entirely logical to allow an employee to use their latest Christmas present gadget in the workplace.   A true BYOD policy should be all inclusive and IT should allow users to bring any connected device in to the workplace and expect to be able to work securely on it for work purposes.

For those of you who do want to embrace the principle of BYOD, but who are struggling with being able to execute an effective an non-restrictive policy, perhaps you should look more widely at your company’s goals and strategies for embracing mobile devices and solutions; which brings us on to the next point.

What will employees be expected to do with their personal device in a work context?
If you expect your staff to do more than use smartphones for voice calls and to pick up corporate email, then you will almost certainly want them to be able to work productively when working on a smartphone or tablet.  One of the on-going debates about mobile applications for enterprise users is whether BYOD also goes as far as Bring your own Apps.

There will undoubtedly be some apps, like Office productivity tools or web conferencing that make little impact on corporate IT security policies, but if mobile users need to have mobile access to secure enterprise systems, that is another issue.

Authentication and security are major issues to get a handle on if mobile users are expected to access corporate systems across the firewall.  So too is the state of readiness of corporate applications for mobile use.  Enterprise applications like Microsoft SharePoint, for instance, have woefully poor mobile user interfaces as standard.

Corporate IT departments need to think about how mobile users can gain secure access to enterprise systems, content and data

Should you consider a native application or HTML5 mobile app strategy?
This is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions and the answer will depend on the type of mobile enterprise application, who the intended users are likely to be and what devices they are likely to use.

As the table below shows, the best way to guarantee that your enterprise mobile applications will be compatible with your BYOD policy will be to implement mobile web applications; but in reality, native mobile applications will continue to be used for certain types of applications and target user groups:

Pros Cons
Native mobile Apps
  • Rich functionality
  • Offline access (for some apps)
  • Good for apps designed for individual users or work-groups
  • Difficult to deploy across the enterprise
  • Ensuring apps are correctly updated can cause governance issues
  • App developer may not support all mobile platforms, which may limit your ability to implement BYOD
  • Some apps may cache or save content and data on the mobile device, which should be reviewed alongside your mobile security policy
HTML5 Mobile Web Apps
  • True cross-platform mobile device compatibility
  • Feature-parity of app functionality across mobile platforms
  • Instant deployment of mobile apps and solutions to users
  • Updates for cloud-based services are applied instantly to all users
  • Potential for zero-footprint (no content or data left on the device)
  • New generation of HTML5 apps can support offline working
  • Good for mobile apps that will be used by large numbers of users
  • Users generally require an internet connection to use apps
  • Apps are accessed via the mobile device’s browser
  • Apps may not be able to take advantage of device functionality, although newer generation mobile web apps are able to do so
  • Speed and response times may be slower if accessing app over a poor connection

The newest generation of mobile web applications can behave just like native apps.  They are accessed via home screen application badges/icons and, although they are accessed via the mobile’s browser, they look and behave almost exactly like their native mobile app cousins, but with all of the advantages of being a web based application, like cross-platform compatibility, strong security, and the central purchasing, deployment and updating of licences; without having to necessitate an investment in costly Mobile Device Management (MDM) infrastructures.

How does Azurati support all-inclusive BYOD?
Being a leading HTML5 mobile enterprise application and mobile development platform vendor, Azurati fully supports and endorses all-inclusive BYOD programmes through its mobile enterprise applications and solutions:

1. SharePoint2Go® Secure cross-platform mobile Microsoft SharePoint, allowing mobile users to access SharePoint content, data and custom web parts on any mobile device
2. Azurati Mobile Portal™ Secure mobile container that acts as an application launch-pad for HTML5 apps that require authentication and enterprise-class security.
3. Azurati ASAP® HTML5 mobile enterprise application development platform for developing secure cross-platform mobile web applications.

For further information about Azurati, visit: www.azurati.com