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The Twittersphere has been aflutter this week with details of the new iPad Mini and Microsoft Surface tablet; IT anxiety levels can increase with each new device announcement…but it doesn’t have to be that way.

CIOs often ask me how Cisco handles mobility; we’ve taken an innovative approach and I thought I’d share the story with you, too.

Today, Cisco’s network accommodates nearly 60,000 employee-owned smartphones, almost 13,000 of which are tablets—and about 1,000 new mobile devices join the corporate network each month. Mobile apps are added all the time. It is easy to see why most CIOs view the BYOD trend as a cost driver; but here at Cisco, even with a 98 percent increase in devices and 51 percent increase in users, we’re actually experiencing the lowest service cost we’ve ever seen—and our employees get the flexibility and choice they crave, which equals a better work experience.

How does it work?  Here are our six steps:

1. Start with a scaled architecture. The right architecture allows you to turn any device into a trusted device. A scaled architecture takes issues like network operations, compliance, network engineering and security into account.

At Cisco, the more network access the user wants, the more security we apply to the device. Want mobile access to email, calendar and contacts? Expect to use a device PIN and automatic lock feature and give Cisco IT the right to “wipe” the device if it’s lost or stolen. Want to connect to the Cisco network or Intranet? We’ll require additional security through a combination of technologies bolstered by our partner’s Mobile Device Management solution. Cisco ISE allows us to see which devices are on the network and give “trusted devices” access while moving “un-trusted devices” to another network; Cisco AnyConnect allows an employee to connect to internal Cisco resources from any trusted device on any network, anywhere.

2. Set clear policies.  Many companies try to separate business and personal usage of mobile devices; this can be confusing if you allow personal devices in the workplace.

At Cisco, all smartphones are employee-owned, so it just makes sense for us to acknowledge they can (and should) be used for both business and personal needs. Whatever your policy, make sure it is crystal-clear.

3. Keep an eye on cost. As data consumption increases, costs could easily get out of control; according to the Cisco Connected World Technology Report, by 2016 the average smartphone user will consume 17 times the amount of data they consumed in 2011. At Cisco, we know our costs can’t linearly scale at that rate, so we partner closely with our largest service providers to develop cost-optimization strategies. This will allow us to deliver 3G and 4G experiences to our employees—to keep saying “it’s okay to work your way” on multiple devices; the employees get flexibility, Cisco gets extra productivity.

4. Simplify the apps process. Are you making it easy for your employees to find apps and services that can simplify business processes and increase productivity? Consider creating your own app center where you can house a combination of your own and third-party applications. Fear not, Angry Birds fans and MLB score watchers; we don’t intend to micromanage our employees’ apps so the corporate app store will not be the only employee-accessible app repository. Instead, the corporate store will give employees easy access to Cisco-recommended applications–so they can submit business trip expenses from an airport, take a Jabber video call from the sidelines of a soccer game, or continue that WebEx meeting as they shift from one location to another.

5. Socialize your support process. Two years ago, we overhauled Cisco’s IT support approach by launching an internal community platform, powered by WebEx Social. This community made it easy to get self-support with wikis, forums and workflows that simplify device setup and other common issues. Employees can now remotely provision their new device in eight simple steps. With a healthy, responsive community, we get 53 percent fewer IT support cases today and are able to help service those who need some hand-holding at a cost that’s 30 percent lower per user.

6. Get ahead of the hype.  While it is sometimes difficult to anticipate when new devices will truly hit the marketplace, don’t let that lull you into a reactive state. Get ahead of the next gadget rush. For example, it the weeks leading up to the recent iPhone 5 launch, our IT team created a series of communications to share with employees as soon as the official announcement hit. The communication addressed common questions including how to order and provision new iPhone 5s. As a result, we were able to painlessly add 2,500 of them onto the corporate network within three weeks.

We take a similar approach around the holidays. It’s natural to expect that many employees will get shiny new devices as gifts, so we proactively email instructions to ease the device-setup experience. This allows us to avoid overtaxing our global IT support team, which operates with a skeleton crew during the holiday break.

Employees’ desire for added flexibility and to work in a way that adapts to their needs will continue to grow; are you ready? How are you dealing with device freedom in your organization? Any additional tips to share?

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5 Comments.


  1. İ’m looking for information for al ong time

       2 likes

  2. I would love to be able to use some of these tools in day to day operations. The issue is that on many of these you have to be enrolled in ACE, not a ‘normal’ user. ACE membership is limited, so how quickly will many of these features (WebEx video with Jabber on a iPhone,iPad) actually be enabled to the masses?

       6 likes

  3. It is important to be connected anywhere, and not feel it is a fight. So I appreciate the leadership Cisco’s shows in this blog. I for one am willing to trade level of control and accept responsibility for access to corporate resources. It really is a win/win for Cisco and for me.

       1 like

  4. Thanks for sharing this Shelia.
    We’ve certainly come a long way over the past couple of years. As you say its about trust and balance. Believe we’re on the right path and are become a model for others to follow.

       0 likes

  5. Cassandra Salmond

    I love the IT Mobility site. The content is very easy to find and it answers my questions. I have recently added an iPad and it was a painless experience. It was easy to add the Cisco Apps. Thank you!

       0 likes

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