iOS 6 has lots of business potential, but having a plan about rolling it out is critical.
With the release of iOS 6, Apple will offer business users a range of new features. A few of which are VIP email filtering (already in Mountain Lion) with custom notifications, more options when declining a phone call on the iPhone, much-needed privacy options, and Apple’s new Do Not Disturb feature – which should help some mobile professionals to “switch off” after work and maybe even get a good night’s sleep.
iOS updates are generally designed to be user-friendly and easy enough that anyone can manage to install them. As with any major OS or business critical software upgrade, however, there may be unforeseen issues with iOS 6 – particularly when it comes to internal iOS apps and iOS access to enterprise systems.
An iOS 6 upgrade policy and strategy is something that every IT department should have in place before Apple releases iOS 6. For businesses that actively support user devices in the workplace through a BYOD (bring your own device) program, that upgrade strategy is even more critical.
Test Developer Previews and GM Seed When It’s Released
The most important build to test with the GM build.
The easiest way to prepare for iOS 6 is to use it. Check out its new features, see how well various apps run, and connect it to your corporate network. Joining Apple’s iOS developer program provides you with access to the iOS 6 preview builds (along with the preview builds of Apple’s Xcode – the development environment for creating Mac and iOS apps). Enterprise organizations and business that are thinking about developing custom iOS apps for internal use will definitely want to join the $299 enterprise version of Apple’s developer program. Smaller organizations in which a single person handles all the mobile or iOS solutions and will be responsible for pre-release testing can probably manage with a $99 individual membership.
In addition access to iOS preview builds, the iOS developer program provides a wide range of resources for anyone (or any company) that wants to get started with iOS development including hundreds of training videos and WWDC sessions (2010 – 2012). Apple also offers its Safari developer program, which is free and, among other advantages, provides a range of resources for creating HTML 5 web apps for the iPhone and iPad.
Testing with the various preview builds will give you a good sense of how iOS 6 will function and how it will interact with enterprise systems and various apps. If additional preview builds are released, however, you’ll likely see changes to features and compatibility issues. Keeping track of those changes will help you get a clearer idea of how iOS will impact you and your users. Ultimately, the most important build to test with the GM (golden master) build since that’s the final build that Apple will release to the public.
Apple’s iOS developer program for enterprises offers companies a range of benefits.
Make A List Of Common Apps And Test Them
As part of your testing process, you’ll obviously want to test all the apps frequently used by employees in your company. If you use mobile app management (MAM) tools, offer an enterprise app store, or make use of Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP), you’ll probably have a list of commonly used apps and/or required apps already.
If you don’t use such a system, you can use your mobile management solution to query any or all managed iOS devices for a list of installed apps. Your mobile management system may even be able to generate a report of the most used apps. If not, you can put the individual lists of apps into spreadsheet or database tool and use that to determine the most frequently used apps. You may also want to consider investing in a MAM solution as part of your mobile management strategy going forward.
Plan For App Updates
Keep in mind that many developers are already testing their apps and making updates in anticipation of iOS 6. Those updates may fix problems and improve how the apps run under iOS 6 and they will likely add support for new iOS 6 features. You generally won’t be able to test these apps until iOS 6 and the various updates go live. Many developers will have their apps ready to go the day iOS 6 launches. At that point, you should to do a final check with the updated apps.
You may want to consider MAM tools that can help you get those updates out to users more efficiently and ensure users get any critical updates. Alternatively, you could use a system like Apple Configurator to do mass deployment of iOS 6 and various apps (more on this in a bit).
Don’t forget about apps when considering an iOS 6 strategy.
Thoroughly Test Internal And Business-to-Business Apps
In addition to public apps, you’ll need to vet any internal apps that in-house or contract developers have created for your company. If updates needs to be made, you’ll need to determine if can be finished before iOS 6 launches. If not, you may want to postpone your internal roll out of iOS 6 if the apps are mission-critical tools. Likewise, if your company uses business-to-business (B2B) apps created by one or more of your partners, you’ll want to test the version that you have in use and reach out to the companies that created the app so that you know their update and support plans.
Test iPhone/iPad/iPod touch Accessories
If you have wide deployments of accessories that connect to iOS devices, you’ll to check those as well as apps. There are a range of accessories on the market for business use – everything from mass iPad storage and charging carts to Bluetooth headsets and keyboards to AirPrint printers (or print servers) to profession-specific devices. You’ll want to test them (and companion apps if they have them) with iOS 6 and reach out to the manufacturer if you find issues.
Make A List Of All Enterprise Systems iOS Device Users Access And Test Them
Along with testing iOS 6 with apps and accessories, you’ll want to test any enterprise systems that iPhone and iPad users may access. That includes your Wi-Fi network, Exchange server, VPN services, intranet site, cloud solutions, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and any other systems or resources that you allow or support uses accessing from their devices.
It’s vital to test apps, business accessories, and enterprise systems with iOS 6.
Check With Your Mobile Management Vendor
Mobile management suites will almost certainly receive updates to iOS 6. They will be needed to support any changes Apple makes to its mobile management framework as part of iOS 6. You’ll want to check with your mobile management vendor(s) to see when they expect to release an update along with the changes that will be part of the update. Keep in mind that some changes may be things that Apple requires these companies to keep under wraps until iOS 6 ships, but your vendor should still be able to offer some details and help you plan an upgrade.
Consider An iOS 6 Pilot Group
A pilot project helps you plan support procedures and training documents.
One useful testing option is to do a short iOS 6 pilot project. Select a handful of tech-savvy users and update their iOS devices to iOS 6 once the GM build is released (you’ll need to have an enterprise developer membership to do this). Have them use it for a few days or a couple of weeks and report feedback about issues and feature changes. Not only does help you vet iOS 6, it also helps you plan support procedures and training documents.
You should use corporate-owned devices for a pilot. Once devices are upgraded to iOS 6 or the iOS 6 preview builds, they cannot be downgraded to iOS 5. As such, the process is making a permanent change to a device – you don’t really want to do that to something your business doesn’t own. If you do choose to use BYOD devices in the pilot, you should ensure that their owners understand this issue and have a record that shows they have chosen to accept any risks.
Decide Whether To Do Managed Upgrades Or Let Users Upgrade On Their Own
The big decision about a major upgrade like iOS 6 is whether you’ll let employees manage the upgrade on their own or whether you’ll have IT staff perform the upgrade for them. As I noted earlier, iOS updates are easy to perform and most users can manage that process on their own.
You can, however, use a managed upgrade process to deliver more than just iOS 6. You can include app updates (internal, B2B, or public) as part of the upgrade. You can introduce any new mobility policies as part of the process and use it as an education opportunity to explain those policies and the importance of mobile and data security. Given that many workers deliberately bypass IT policies and mechanisms, this opportunity has the potential to pay dividends of better compliance and understanding. Along the same concept, such upgrades can be mini-training sessions for users and can also be a good chance to get feedback about how IT is doing in supporting users.
You can also use a managed upgrade to do some spring cleaning of company-owned iOS devices. Rather than simply backing up a device and then updating it, you could use a tool like Apple Configurator to backup the device, wipe it, update it to iOS 6, and install a fresh set of apps (including new iOS 6 versions of them). Configurator, despite the fact that it requires some hands-on action, is a good choice because it allows you to install apps without associating them with a user’s Apple ID. As such, it can reclaim volume purchased app licenses if the user leaves the company.
Apple Configurator can handle device backup, spring cleaning, iOS 6 installation, and loading of apps in a few easy steps.
On the other hand, a managed upgrade is resource intensive. The advantages may be worth it or the sheer staff and time requirements may simply be too much. In that case, you may want to let users upgrade devices on their own. If you go that route, you should develop a training/support document that tells people how to perform the upgrade – including backup the device (ideally to a work computer rather than a personal one or iCloud). You can also tell them to delay upgrading if you’ve discovered any issues with iOS 6.
Challenges With BYOD Devices
BYOD devices represent a unique challenge. They are a user’s personal device, so the decision to upgrade to iOS 6, when to do it, and how to do it are user prerogatives. That said, your BYOD policies may state that they should not do so without checking with IT staff first. Ultimately, the big concerns with BYOD users managing the upgrade on their own are whether or not they back the devices to a personal computer (or iCloud) and whether they will do it before you’ve ensured iOS 6 functions properly in your environment (or corrected any issues you find). You also don’t want to do any spring cleaning as you might with company-owned devices.
BYOD offers advantages, but it puts IT in a tough spot when it comes to iOS upgrades.
Policies, Training, and Support
Several iOS 6 features may require updates to existing IT policies governing iOS devices. Acceptable use policies, employee availability requirements, liability issues associated with upgrading employee-owned devices, and overall BYOD policies may all need changes. In the process of determining what, if any, changes need to be made, you may want to review the existing policies and make updates that aren’t directly related to iOS 6.
You’ll also want to develop training resources that introduce users to the new features of iOS, how those features impact their devices at work, and note any issues or potential issues you’ve discovered (and possibly work around solutions for them). It’s also a good idea to provide some general iOS 6 support documents for common problems and how to handle them.
Finally, you’ll want to ensure there’s plenty of support available around the iOS 6 launch to handle questions from users as well as problems they come across. This could mean having upgrade events, doing managed upgrades, offering a walk-in support clinic modeled after the Genius Bar in Apple retail stores, and ensuring help desk agents are on hand to meet the demand and are prepped to handle iOS issues.
iOS 6 “clinics” modeled after the Apple’s Genius Bar can be a great support option.