January 29, 2019

A collection of tools ActioNet uses to transform mobile device management

By Eric C.

That age-old cliché of Insanity: ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, is nothing new obviously, but destined to repeat itself.  Case in point, your Service Desk continues to escalate incidents to advanced engineering because users cannot access their E-mail or calendar on their mobile device while trying to find that meeting they are supposed to be in.  Your Server Engineer has the arduous duty to package, release, and verify that exhaustive list of vendor patches on aging mobile device management (MDM) servers every month. The IT Business Manager is looking at ways to cut cost while knowing that looming MDM support renewal is coming, but the vendor says the current version is going away.  Sound familiar?

Government IT organizations run into situations like this all the time, but that list of ‘priorities of the day’ just keep stacking up that impede solving these legacy issues once and for all.  Rather than ‘kicking this can down the road’, why not think outside of the box, or better yet, just get rid of the box all together?

ActioNet recognized a similar situation and partnered with Microsoft, Apple and Cisco to ‘transform’ a customer’s MDM services to the cloud, migrating over 6,000 mobile devices from multiple legacy on-premise products onto a tightly integrated Microsoft InTune MDM solution in the Government Azure/O365 cloud. We also tied in Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP) for automating device enrollment and configuration, and Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE) to enable secure mobile access to the intranet information via phone or tablet.

By implementing a comprehensive transformation plan, ActioNet led the way in untangling a complex web of aging legacy technology and delivered a stable modern solution enabling mission end-users to quickly transition onto a cloud platform.  This platform now provides a dependable secure access to Microsoft Office 365 E-mail, calendaring, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and mission critical information from the customer’s intranet anytime and from anywhere. Consolidating multiple MDM solutions to a single cloud platform reduced IT footprint, eliminated complex license support, and eliminated burdensome maintenance through the retirement of 16 legacy Windows servers, resulting in over $580,000 per year cost avoidance.

With any technology transformation project comes risk and the burden of how to minimize impact to current operations.  ActioNet addressed these risks head-on by reframing the transition to ‘user empowerment’.  This amounted to marketing, branding, and messaging of ‘You control your device, and completing this transition yourself is faster and more secure.’ We developed a detailed user guide enabling self-guided transition of clear and easy step-by-step instructions and visual aids guiding devise transition onto this new solution.  We orchestrated iterative transitions across multiple Agencies and hosted online webinars, call-in bridges, and café kiosks (at lunchtime in the cafeteria) providing end users guided transition and troubleshooting if needed. Surveys of mobile device users confirmed very positive user experience during the transition process. Current costs are now almost entirely associated with an Office 365 license bundle, which is projected to result in even further cost savings as the Apple DEP service eliminated manual configuration of new devices thus reducing staff to configure new accounts.

ActioNet also engineered an integrated Mobile Device Remote Access method using Cisco ISE, with Microsoft Active Directory and InTune enabling mobile devices to use a certificate to automatically authenticate against a Virtual Private Network appliance by establishing a session between the device and the network enabling secure access to intranet resources.  By enabling an integrated cloud based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, MDM administration is now enabled through web portal access, thus eliminating all server administration and improving end user mobile access to mission critical information by ‘Getting Rid of the Box’ altogether.

Satisfied ActioNet Customer Responded with, "My low expectations were far exceeded! Outlook is about 1,000,000,000,000x better than now... Thanks for doing it - Onward!" after the upgrade of their MDM