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Desktop admin jobs hit with mobility responsibilities

As application access is changing from desktop to mobile, so are the jobs of traditional desktop admins.

CHICAGO -- As mobile devices enter the enterprise, IT jobs are changing, and desktop administrators need to get on board.

Even if organizations don't have an official bring-your-own-device program, admins still have to deal with employees accessing corporate data from smartphones and tablets. Most users still have their traditional desktop PC in addition to mobile devices, so IT must provide consistent management, support and security across all those endpoints.

They may be called a desktop guy, but they're really an endpoint guy.
Dan ShappirCTO, Ericom Software

"The future of management, even if you only have desktop OSes, is moving toward a mobile model," said John Whaley, the founder and chief technology officer of MokaFive, a workspace software provider based in Redwood City, Calif. "You have app stores, applications in sandboxes. … You have to learn that stuff or you're going to be left behind."

Desktop admin attendees here at BriForum 2013 said they have had to take on more mobility responsibilities recently. Today, many organizations have a separate mobile team from the desktop side, but some are working to bring the two groups together.

"Our desktop team absorbed mobility," said Casey Hawkinson, senior technical analyst at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company in Neenah, Wis. "We see it all as the end-user experience -- for the end user, it all spills over."

Michael Blue, a computer specialist at the Office of the New York State Comptroller, has traditionally been a desktop admin, but he took on BlackBerry management for his team about a year ago. Blue said his department will likely have a clear-cut mobile team that works hand in hand with the desktop people in the future.

It makes sense for desktop and mobility management to intertwine, because desktop delivery is really just application delivery; and on mobile devices admins are doing the same thing -- delivering apps to end users, Blue said.

"There's a lot of synergy between app delivery and mobile devices," he said. "Obviously, there's interaction between the two sides."

Desktop admins hesitant to take on mobile

There are a few challenges standing in the way of that synergy, however.

Many people agree that desktop access has changed toward a more mobile, app-delivery focus, but not everyone sees it that way. Some of the more traditional desktop admins aren't open to managing the new technology.

"They consider mobility a flash in the pan," Blue said. "They don't recognize the trend."

Plus, enterprise mobility management is still a maturing market. Until the technology works out some of its kinks, such as printing, many traditional desktop administrators will stick with that mindset, Blue said.

There's also often a generational divide. Desktop administrators who have been in their positions for a long time may not use the consumer devices in their everyday lives as much as younger admins.

"The older crowd is sometimes the last one in," Hawkinson said.

The complexity of the mobility management tools available may make things seem even more overwhelming -- and desktop admins might think their organizations don't need something so advanced.

Even if companies don't need mobile device management or mobile application management tools, the desktop admin will still have to deal with everyday mobile email needs and ActiveSync, said Dan Shappir, chief technology officer of Closter, N.J.-based Ericom Software.

There's no question that desktop jobs are changing, he said. In fact, all it takes is a little tweaking of the title.

"They may be called a desktop guy, but they're really an endpoint guy," Shappir said.

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