The business case for mobile devices has become compelling for Treasury CIO Peter Alexander, who is now eyeing off Samsung and Android devices thanks to developments in mobile device management.
Following a presentation he gave at a CommVault seminar in Canberra, Alexander told ITnews the return on investment on portable devices given to senior Treasury executives was high.
He estimated the full cost of a typical smartphone was $1100/year including all costs such as data and security oversight.
“That’s way cheaper than a desktop,” he said.
With iPads, he said, the cost is less than $800 a year because there are no phone calls involved. Discounts from carriers made it especially compelling especially when a staffer did half an hour’s work on their own time out of work hours, he said.
“We have people that sit on their iPads in front of the TV every night doing hours of work.”
While Alexander sought to discourage this as a routine, he agreed portable devices offered a capability for staff to be productive outside of the office.
“Even within the building we are looking at having a wireless network for Treasury, so people can get up and walk away from their desk and work where ever they want to work,” he said.
Advances in mobile device management
Alexander said he was impressed with rapid advances in the usability of those devices supported with new device management and handset offerings.
In the past, BlackBerry handsets offered some security and were approved for protective classifications by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD, formerly DSD).
Since then Apple iPhones have also received approval for similar classified use, ushering a boom in broader security solutions such as Good Technology, AirWatch and more recently BlackBerry’s Security Workspace Solutions.
Earlier this year, Treasury opted for Apple iPhones, fuelled by the broader range of options that made portable devices more usable and attractive to its staff.
While BlackBerry’s current range of handsets (Z10 and Q10) attracted interest, their use for classified situations is subject to approval by the ASD, due by the end of the year.
“The biggest lesson from the original BlackBerry position is that it was the one product in the market,” Alexander said.
“We picked it and adopted it for five years. Nothing changed in five years.”
More recently, Treasury trialled Good Technology's mobile security solution but was disappointed with its lack of support for ActiveSync.
AirWatch did offer this facility and Treasury adopted it as its mobile device management solution.
Alexander identified a gap in supporting secure approaches to productivity applications beyond email and calendar uses such as Word and Excel.
He said a Tasmanian developed product, ASDEQ DOCS, ticked all the boxes.
In June, BlackBerry launched its Security Work Space allowing government agencies and corporate clients to secure and manage devices powered by Google's Android platform and Apple's iOS operating system.
Alexander said the timing of the BlackBerry launch was out of sync with Treasury's mobile cycle but he did not want to close any doors.
He also did not rule out moving to other mobile platforms, in particular new Windows phones.
“We had a demo with Microsoft in Sydney. The latest Nokia version actually ran the full bit-locker encryption on the phone.
“It means you can run the phones the way we run our laptop fleets – ie SCCM Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to push updates to them on the phones."
Alexander said Treasury was also interested in Samsung options down the track with versions of its enterprise partition Knox to its Safe (Samsung For Enterprise) brand.